I’m totally cheating and doing some shameless self-promotion for this week’s recommended reading. In my defense, I’m currently on vacation and spent the 48 hours before I left furiously churning out copy, so I didn’t get much chance to peruse the Internets.
But also, this feature on rock musicals for M Music & Musicians was so damn much fun to report and write that I feel compelled to share it. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a theater critic — I even wrote Frank Rich, who very kindly invited me to have a cup of coffee sometime — and I got to live that dream just a little bit with this story.
Jezebel points out today that Pulitzer winner Gene Weingarten’s Twitter feed is less than brilliant. I didn’t want to undercut my praise of his award-winning piece earlier this week, but I will say now that I can’t think of another writer I’m generally more conflicted about. I find his humor writing a real turn-off, and I almost think of the person who writes the Pulitzer-winning stuff (including 2007’s Pearls Before Breakfast) as someone entirely different. Gene did a chat yesterday on WashingtonPost.com and I found this exchange with a reader interesting:
Q: Is there a part of you that is reconsidering your creative focus right now? I’m looking forward to your comic strip project, but two Pulitzers in three years might be a sign that you have a gift for feature writing. Selfishly, I hope you return to them even if only occasionally.
A: …. I do know that some readers don’t love my humor columns. I know others really do. It’s a pretty lonely and scary place to be, in the middle of this. I can only follow my gut. I know I still try; I believe I still succeed; I hope I’ll known when to stop before someone else has to tell me. But in a larger sense, I really like writing humor and drama, at the same time. I proud of the versatility, but I also think they keep me nimble. I think one informs the other. I think I’d be less happy if I was doing only one.
I do think the audacity it takes to write such polarizing humor is part of what makes his feature writing so startlingly good. Still, I think it’s fair to say I’ll avoid his Twitter feed as I always have his columns and chats.
So, Glee is on the cover of Rolling Stone this month, and there’s all sorts of feedback on the Mark Seliger photo, ranging from disappointment in the flash of panties to debate over the inclusion or exclusion of various actors. None of that bothers me much. Cover selection is a complicated equation, designed more to pique random grocery shoppers’ interest than please devoted fans of either the magazine or whatever star is featured. Not to mention that objectifying Lolita-type figures is pretty standard for RS.
I got some nice feedback on last week’s secret weapon post. I had worried it might be too “insider” so I’m glad people are interested in more in-depth writing advice. I’m going to try to make this a regular feature, and I’m naming it after an expression my sister, a lawyer, uses when she’s explaining a case or law and fears she’s getting too technical. So, onto the first “Wednesday In the Weeds.”
I’m not at all organized in my normal life (just ask my long-suffering husband), but I pride myself on writing well-organized stories. And I owe it all to the nut graf.
“Nut graf” is one of those pretentious journalism school terms, but the concept really revolutionized the way I write. It refers to the early paragraph that gives the crux of your story “in a nutshell.” My cranky Intro to News Writing teacher referred to it as the “So What?”: It’s when you answer questions like, “Why am I reading this? Why do I care?” for the reader.
Inspired by Twitter’s “Follow Friday,” I’m going to make an effort every Friday to post a recommended read. I’ll try to make it something that has run that week, but since things sometimes take longer to make the rounds on the Internets, that will be a pretty loose requirement.
Three years ago I wrote a 50,000-word novel during National Novel Writing Month. Since then, I’d picked at it, knowing it needed a lot of revising before it would be ready to pitch to publishers. But I could never get the motivation to do the hard work — maybe because while I knew generally what I needed to fix, I didn’t know why or how.
Then, I stumbled on a blog post about some fiction writing classes taught by Lani Diane Rich. I knew the name because she’s the first amateur writer to have her NaNo novel published. (She’s since published quite a few others.) I was inspired, and intrigued by her method of teaching — via webcast and a private forum where she’d answer her students’ questions in some detail.