Category Archives: Writing

beamanthefilm.com

“Be a Man”

My write-up on Ray Harrington’s award-winning documentary, “Be a Man,” from long-time client Stand Up! Records:

American universities are increasingly offering courses in masculinity—the ways it’s culturally and socially constructed, the ways its boundaries are policed, and the ways its constraints and contradictions put basically everyone on edge. But studying masculinity is different from trying, at an individual level, to define and achieve manhood. What does it mean to be a man? Who is that man? Ray Harrington has charmingly, brilliantly, and with utter vulnerability chronicled his journey to find out.

As he seeks his signature manly cocktail, discovers his dream car isn’t a half-million dollar phallic symbol, and maniacally gets into a boxing ring with a professional fighter, Harrington gathers his collaborators for a film that’s part love letter, part personal journey, part support group, and part road trip movie. Like any movie worth the popcorn, there are fast cars and fashion montages, dreamy landscapes and a lewd joke or two. Mostly, though, there’s an earnest rumination on modern manhood and how we all get by with a little help from our friends.

Featuring fellow stand-up comedians Kyle Kinane, Tom Wilson, April Macie, Doug Stanhope, Steve Rannazzisi, Robert Kelly, and Kurt Metzger, “Be a Man” boasts Grammy-winning Dan Schlissel as co-executive producer alongside Ray Harrington, who, despite a little razor burn and wrinkled linen, is, without a doubt, both a man and a “ten.”

TROT! Your Enriched Outline

Art once on display @commonroots
Art once on display @commonroots

To jumpstart any writing project, I can find no better prompt than the Teaching TSP exercise posted by Evan Stewart on TheSocietyPages.org today. In it, Stewart, the co-graduate-editor of TSP, explains the process behind writing a “There’s Research on That!” post for the site, framing it as a classroom exercise.

I wish all my academic clients would approach writing their journal articles this way.

As a sort of “enriched outline,” writing a TROT! post for TSP means:

  1. Identifying your main point or angle on a topic and capturing it succinctly
  2. Writing down the main arguments you need to make to establish that point
  3. Gathering the key sources that will back up those individual arguments
  4. Summing it all up

This is to say, writing a TROT! post gets you about 50% of the way toward a solid paper, forcing you to briefly and intriguingly state your case, support it with the best possible research, and sum up, all in a page or less. Build on that scaffolding, and you’re nearly assured success. Just don’t forget to clean up that bibliography!

Jeri Christianson: A Eulogy

Geraldine Mary ChristiansonáÂ0;Recently, I was honored to spend time with my paternal grandmother as she died and with my father’s sister and brother as they provided care. Relatively speaking, she passed away quickly, after a short kidney illness, and peacefully, having had an incredibly sound health care directive in place. I was surprised to be tasked with giving Jeri Christianson’s eulogy: it was overwhelming to absorb the enormity of standing in for my father, of crystallizing a life, of leading my family through a life course transition in a way that would recognize the process of grief and change is both individual and social. Here’s what I wrote: Continue reading Jeri Christianson: A Eulogy

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

Abandon Ye Latin

Lindisfarne Gospels

I started taking Latin in the 6th grade, when we were offered one quarter each of Latin, French, Spanish, and German. I continued through high school, college, and graduate school, for a grand total of, I believe, 11 years of Latin. I am not very good at Latin. Hell, I’m still working on conversational English.

What I have learned well, though, is what all of those nice little Latin abbreviations that pepper our readings actually mean: Continue reading Abandon Ye Latin

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*