If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they’d live a lot differently. When you look into infinity, you realize there are more important things than what people do all day.” – Bill Watterson
Hello lovelies! Last week was a whirlwind of deadlines, work, and travel, and I didn’t get around to compiling a weekly roundup, so here it is, albeit a few days late. Better late than never, right?
Hope you all are having a great week. As always, please comment on the post if you have thoughts; I love hearing from you!
1. FOR FREELANCERS/The Freelancers Union site recently featured a post titled “What to do when your client is slow to respond”…The post is mostly common sense, but it’s a nice reminder and affirmation of the proper and professional course to take. We’ve all dealt with it, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day! Read it here.
4. MAGAZINE/Click here to be linked to one of my personal favorite digital magazines, Matchbook Mag. The link will send you to the March issue of the ‘zine, which features tidbits of knowledge about photographer and influencer Lee Miller. I’m looking for a good biography on Miller to add to my reading list currently, let me know if you’ve got one in mind.
5. ARTICLE/The New York Times TMagazine blog provides us with yet another awesome story – this time a look at a father/son world-traveler duo. The article features a short documentary made by the father, Casey Neistat.
I can’t think of a job in Fort Payne, my hometown, nor a boy, who would make this even a remote possibility, but it stayed on my mind throughout the week as I browsed the numerous websites and job boards for journalism and media-related openings.
I have really good friends who cannot wait to marry, quit their day job, and start a family. Becoming the perfect housewife is the goal.
Let me be clear: I have nothing against that.
Sometimes I think I have a part missing, though. I have never longed to be the perfect wife. I have longed for lots of things, but never really that.
Don’t get me wrong—if I found the right person, I’d be perfectly happy to settle down. I’m not sure that will happen, though.
You see, I long for different things. I long to run my hands through desert sands, crystal-clear mountain stream water, and poppies in faraway opium fields. I want to hear all different languages, spoken in their native countries—whether I can understand them or not. I want to see my name in magazine and newspaper bylines that thousands read. I want my words bound and published for a larger audience.
To be fair, I’m only 21, and this could quite possibly change…but for now, I just need a dog, a good book, and something to write with—a Le Pen preferably.
We writers are a lonely bunch.
Photo from heritage.org, data from the U.S. Census Bureau
“When my family and I moved to Tuscaloosa from Germany, everyone was so giving and welcoming—I guess this is just my way of giving back to a place and people that allowed me to call Tuscaloosa home,”
Nothing quite so refreshing as talking to Sabine Nad, the warehouse manager at the West Alabama Food Bank. I mentioned her in an earlier post as being my “jolt back to reality.” This past Tuesday, I spent the afternoon driving the “Mini Food Pantry” with Sabine. The pantry delivers 3000-5000 pounds of food a week to the six housing authorities in Tuscaloosa.
On Tuesday, we made seven stops at Hay Court, a housing complex on the west end of Tuscaloosa, near Stillman College. Just like her words, my spirit and enthusiasm for the project was renewed after spending five hours in Hayes Court handing out bags of food.
You can read statistics all day long, and they help, surely, but there is nothing like getting out on the ground and actually meeting people who are living with food insecurity.
Wednesday I served at the Tuscaloosa Community Soup Bowl, which runs five days a week, sponsored by First Presbyterian Church Tuscaloosa. Amy Grinstead is the director of the soup kitchen, and set me up with volunteer times. Amy was also very careful to point out individuals at the kitchen who would be amicable about discussing food insecurity on a personal level.
Again, nothing like seeing it.
I see the frustration some taxpayers have with government-funded welfare programs. Some individuals come in with their hair done and nice clothes on, but cannot afford to feed their families. If we were being really thorough, studies on food insecurity need to be accompanied by studies on coping mechanisms in rural west Alabama—Tuscaloosa included. Alabama Possible offers some clear data on the status of food insecurity and poverty in the state.
The more research I do on the topic, and the further embedded I get into the community and the Tuscaloosa chunk of food insecurity, the more I realize how many different “sides” there are to the problem. Creating a website about food insecurity could potentially involve years of work, loads of different components, and so many more people involved than what will be mentioned in my small site.
While I am glad I’m starting work on it, it also frustrates me that the sites that my classmates and I create will quite possibly become stagnant after we leave, simply because we aren’t in the area nor do we have the time or resources to keep up the sites.
I guess I started out mildly caring about what I was creating, and it since has become my baby—and my first fully-manifested creation. It’s also made me care ten-thousand fold more about the people of Tuscaloosa, especially those who don’t have a voice.
It’s been a busy week, but as of five o’clock tomorrow I’m off to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and I couldn’t be more excited. As soon as I get to NOLA, I’m hightailing it to Camellia Grill for a burger and a chocolate freeze, and then rolling myself to the nearest bar for the stiffest drink the bartender can pour me. Enough of my whining, though…here’s this week’s article-heavy roundup, because journalism!
1, 2. Juan Pablo and Bill O’Reilly are bringing sexism to a whole new level this week. Huffington Post released an article highlighting the dark side of hit television show The Bachelor, and why it’s not all warm and fuzzy behind the scenes. Bill O’Reilly argued that there is at least one specific downside to a woman as POTUS on air with a USA Today columnist and Republican analyst. The women reacted as any normal, well-rounded and open-minded human being would.
3. I’m a bit biased, but I love trucking journalism. The New York Times recently released an article by Rachel Kushner titled “In the Company of Truckers”, detailing her experience with some big rig drivers that cast them in a refreshingly rosy light.
4. An article in The Atlantic delves into what ages at which individuals in different careers hit their peak.
“There’s evidence from the humanities, though, that genius doesn’t decline with age at all. Over 40 percent of both Robert Frost’s and William Carlos Williams’ best poems were written after the poets turned 50.” The article argues that scientists become successful later, mainly because their field requires more education.
5. The Global Pov project put out a video discussing the real issues with global poverty, and what incoming generations can do about it. UC Berkley professor Ananya Roy voices the beautifully animated video.
I went into this program bright-eyed and busy-tailed.
I was ready to tackle anything that came my way with more enthusiasm than one could ever ask. I did the same thing with my job at Overdrive magazine, a trucking trade journal. It was the same at my very first job—as an office assistant and “mail girl” at my beloved summer camp, Riverview Camp for Girls. I’m sure I did it with my first journalism classes at the university, although I don’t remember those with such clarity.
Such is the way I work…with intense passion and speed and a lust to get things done…for a while. Then the mid-project apathy sets in. I go through a period where I wonder why I ever undertook the current challenge, and why I care about it at all. After some length of time, something jolts me out of the slump…and I’m usually off and running again. It happens with every freelance story I write. It happens when I start a new creative endeavor and lose steam after a bit. It happens with the continuous and varied workout plans I draw up and plan to follow strictly with the utmost dedication.
Right now, it’s happening with my master’s project. As I noted in the About Me section of my blog, I’m in a one-year professional journalism track titled “Community Journalism.” The object of the program is to provide journalists with added skills who are looking to get out in the real world, rather than stay in academia for an extended period. Instead of a thesis, we create a website that works to solve a community issue. I’m working on shedding light on food insecurity in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The site will contain a customizable map that shows users food insecure areas. Out of the map, storytelling components can be pulled up…everything from interviews to videos to photos. The multimedia storytelling will chronicle individuals in the city who are involved in some capacity with food insecurity…whether it’s the soup bowl director or a resident of a low-income area that deals with food insecurity on a day-to-day basis.
This morning, I interviewed Sabine Nad, the warehouse manager at the West Alabama Food Bank. Sabine was my jolt back to reality. She reminded me of why I became interested in the project in the first place, and why I continue on this path. After several weeks of apathy, I care again. Sabine runs the Mini Food Pantry for the food bank, and delivers bags of food to the six housing authorities in Tuscaloosa five days a week. Next week I’m going out with her to help, and I couldn’t be more excited to get to work.
This is why we become journalists in the first place, right? I want to be involved with a community—wherever that specific community is located—and become acquainted with the people in it.
I’m just collecting stories.
One of my favorite features on the numerous blogs I follow is a weekly or monthly post with interesting articles from the web. Often, my method of getting interested news comes from other bloggers. That’s the way it should be, though. In grad school, the phrase “third place” comes up a lot. In communities, these are the outer areas where discussion and socialization happen. Third places range from the bar down the street where the locals stop in for a drink to the hair salon where the best gossip in town is passed around.
The internet, in its best state, is just another third place. Though the discussion is not always intellectually driven, the innumerable forums and discussions that sprout up across the web wouldn’t happen if we didn’t all have a place to commune and chat. I can drum up quite a few complaints about the Internet, and even blogging. Blogging as a third place, though, and one that provides me with constant food for thought (hey, see what I did there?), continually keeps me coming back for more.
Without further ado, this week’s “Weekly Roundup.”
1. BLOG POST: One of my professors, Dr. George Daniels, discusses the struggle of claiming the title “journalist” on his blog this week. Find the post here.
2. BLOG POST: Veterinarian and blogger “dogtorbill” talks compassion and the bond between human and animal on his blog. This post doesn’t have much to do with journalism or food, but it made me feel…and that’s why you should read it, too.
3. ARTICLE: “All told, enough wealth and power was concentrated in the St. Regis that night that if you had dropped a bomb on the roof, global finance as we know it might have ceased to exist.” — Kevin Roose crashes a secret society for Wall Street bigwigs over at New York magazine in News and Politics.
4. ARTICLE: Caitlin Flanagan goes in-depth on a phenomenal piece of investigative journalism titled “The Dark Power of Fraternities” for The Atlantic.
5. TIP/HOW-TO: Over at one of my favorite sites, theeverygirl.com, Meg Galligan gives us “Five Tips to Using Google Analytics to Better Understand Your Business or Blog.”
Writers end up writing about their obsessions. Things that haunt them; things they cannot forget; stories they carry in their bodies waiting to be released.”
Photo from Allison Cuddy’s page
Ira Glass, the king of storytelling, voiced an animated video discussing the one thing all young writers should know. German designer Daniel Sax took some of the storyteller’s best quotes from his popular storytelling series and spun them into a typography and food masterpiece. Glass is the voice of “This American Life” podcast, available on iTunes.
The video, designed by Sax, is shown below.
“There’s a gap—for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good,” Glass says.
We have all experienced this, right? The writer I work for often says to me: “Elizabeth, the majority of everything you write is going to be shit. It will look like shit; it will sound like shit. The reason to keep going is that once in a blue moon you’ll write something you are so damn proud of, you forget about all the rest.”
“But your taste—the thing that got you into the game—your taste is still killer.” Glass says.
Taste is relative…you know? We’ve all got different opinions. Taste changes over time. One thing good writers possess, though, is an ear for a beautifully written sentence.
“Do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work.” Glass says.
So we keep writing. We keep reading. We keep collecting words, and churning them out. Writing is a bit like self-harm—or for me it is, anyway. I am constantly tearing myself down over what I’ve written…working through it again, hoping it will magically get better. On the other hand, there is no euphoria like having written. Releasing that inner bull and pounding words out until you produce something that really means something…even if it’s just you reading it.
So we beat on;
“Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser.” – Elizabeth Gilbert discusses writing in her blog post.
I know I lay it on a little heavy in the realm of emotions with my writing. Looking back at my posts, the majority of them have focused on writing and how it’s connected to emotion. But, hey, it’s the day after Valentine’s Day, and feelings are wonderful.
On Valentine’s Day, I taught a seminar on feature writing with my classmates, Laura and Elizabeth. High school students from around the state attended the session as a part of ASPA, and we taught a basic introduction to the more creative form of writing. Going back to the basics reminded me yet again that a writer cannot divorce journalism from feeling.
Good writing makes you feel. Good writing makes you stop and breathe. Good writing is the stuff you save in random places…held under a magnet on the fridge, tacked by the light switch in the bathroom, saved in a hundred different word files, and written down on every type of paper imaginable. Or…maybe that’s just me.
I read the following recently: “Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.”
This is good advice for speaking, not so much for writing. The words I care the most about…the phrases I’ve come up with and the stories I’ve written…are the ones that I simply let flow out of me. For the flow to happen, I’m constantly keeping an eye out for beautiful writing I can learn from and build on. Some of my favorites are about the craft itself.
I’ve included just a couple below.
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.”
— Lord Byron (1788-1824)
“When I was excited about life, I didn’t want to write at all. I’ve never written when I was happy. I didn’t want to. But I’ve never had a long period of being happy. Do you think anyone has? I think you can be peaceful for a long time. When I think about it, if I had to choose, I’d rather be happy than write. You see, there’s very little invention in my books. What came first with most of them was this wish to get rid of this awful sadness that weighed me down. I found when I was a child that if I could put hurt into words, it would go. It leaves a sort of melancholy behind and then it goes. I think it was Somerset Maugham who said if you write out a thing it doesn’t trouble you so much. You may be left with a vague melancholy, but at least it’s not misery, I suppose. It’s like a Catholic going to confession, or psychoanalysis.”
- Jean Rhys, in The Paris Review No. 76
“Because isn’t storytelling as fundamental as walking? One day when I’m clearing yet another thorny mess out of my path, I’ll see something attractive in the distance and I’ll walk right over it without even realizing that there was an opening in the underbrush, allowing me to see it. Until that moment, I’ll be writing my sentences, one by one, hoping they add up to something as graceful as a body in movement.”
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”