Category Archives: Reprints

Read Widely, or Becoming a Better Writer by Reading

book collageAnd reading for pleasure. This piece first appeared, in different form, on TheSocietyPages.org‘s Editors’ Desk.

Read Widely

In case it’s hard to tell, that’s an imperative, not a descriptor.

See, many authors ask me for examples of how to incorporate a lot of information into something that’s thorough, academically sound, and engaging. It’s a tough balance, to be sure, but over the years, I’ve collected a number of books (and this is by no means a list of all of them) I can hand off as representations of that ideal. They likely have nothing to do with your area of study, but watching the authors’ deft hands at work (and knowing there are surely unsung editor elves in there, too) can be a truly enjoyable homework assignment. Think of it as “authorial excellence by osmosis.” Absorb and emulate these ten fine examples. Continue reading Read Widely, or Becoming a Better Writer by Reading

The Ass Realization

SNL Screencap
SNL Screencap

One of my most popular pieces of writing yet, this first appeared on the SixDegreesUptown.com website.

Bodies are different. We all get that, and we all try very hard to remember that different appearance doesn’t equate to different ability. And yet, I got a very happy, “Ah-hah!” moment lesson that truly impressed that slogan onto my heart and mind: Don’t Judge. You Don’t Know. Everyone Will Surprise You. Do Your Own Workout. Run Your Own Run.

Here’s what happened. It was maybe three or four years ago, and I’d just started running. I think I cheered the first time I ran around Lake Calhoun—about three miles—without stopping to walk. As I should! That’s an accomplishment on its own. I did a 5K and I wasn’t fast, but I felt good at the finish, so I went ahead and signed right up for the Women Run the Twin Cities 10 miler. Whoops! Fear set in almost immediately. Continue reading The Ass Realization

Use Twitter to Refine Your Writing

Twitter_logoAs a prematurely old person (that is, I’m technically 34, but I make a suspicious number of references to “those damn kids” and know the difference between e.g. and i.e.), I can be wary of social media. Still, I’ve found one way Twitter is really useful for the writers I advise: forced brevity.

Off the top of my head, I have two approaches to using Twitter to guide writing, and I’d be happy to hear others’ ideas. Continue reading Use Twitter to Refine Your Writing

Essays from Inside Prison

Inside-Out letter from JamesThis article first appeared in Contexts magazine’s Winter ’10 issue.

This issue, Contexts is changing the format of our usual student essay. We received four extremely thoughtful—and handwritten!—essays from “Inside” students in response to our student piece in the last issue, and so we’re sharing their insights to give another perspective on this ground-breaking program.

In the fall 2009 issue of Contexts, Tasha Galardi, an Oregon State University student, wrote about her experience as one of the “Outside” students participating in the Inside-Out prison exchange course in Crime, Justice, and Social Policy. The course brought together students from OSU and students who are currently incarcerated for a 10-week, college-level sociology course. Galardi wrote that one of her reasons for taking the course was to challenge her own preconceived notions of prisoners. Learning sociological theories in dialogue and collaboration with the “Inside” students she got to know over the semester transformed Galardi’s ideas about crime (and criminals). Continue reading Essays from Inside Prison

Laughs Last

brody writ largeThis piece was written for Laughs Last author and Stand Up! Records humorist Dylan Brody for inclusion as back-cover copy and on various retailer websites, press releases, and whatnot. I adore whatnot.

There may not be boxes strong enough for the weight of memory, but some books can do the trick. Laughs Last is a rumination on family, legacy, talent, and the fluidity of time, a poignant dream of adulthood coming in fits and starts to our protagonist Damon Blazer. Continue reading Laughs Last

The Art of Being Edited*

Art once on display @commonroots
Art  @commonroots

This post originally appeared on TheSocietyPages.org.

A primer on getting the most out of the editing process, this short article assumes that you’re working on a journal submission, but is generally applicable to an op-ed you might be pitching, sample chapters for a book proposal, etc. I am also assuming you’ve already found an editor, but I’ll talk about that a little bit. As always, I take questions and additional recommendations—I’m positive I’ve overlooked, oh, about a hundred things. A hundred seems about right. Continue reading The Art of Being Edited*

A Remembrance of Mike DeStefano

Mike-DeStefano-190x306This piece was originally written for Stand Up! Records, for whom I am a copy writer and loyal laugher. Written, unbidden, just after hearing Mike had died, it’s still one of my favorite pieces. Hasty, but heartfelt.

Mike DeStefano, a light of compassion in a dark world, passed away on March 6, 2011. And just like he predicted in an interview on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast last December, it wasn’t drugs, disease, or his own hand. He had a heart attack and, just like that, we lost a friend. Continue reading A Remembrance of Mike DeStefano

The Care and Feeding of Co-authors

10803691685_4404b76801_nThis post originally appeared on TheSocietyPages.org.

As Chris Uggen pointed out on the Twitters, it’s easy to disappoint your coworkers. Whether it’s producing actual Swedish Fish when a candy-mergency arises in a late-night writing session or dropping the ball when it’s your turn to write the lit review, there are just so many opportunities to co-write badly. Here’s my very quick editorial advice should you decide to undertake a co-authored project: Continue reading The Care and Feeding of Co-authors