Runner, Interrupted

Posted in Africa, America, Clips, Culture, Words to live by on January 15, 2014 by frankbures

Runers's WorldA story I’ve been working on for two years, Runner, Interrupted, just hit news stands in the February issue of Runner’s World:

The sounds of the city grow faint. The air smells of pine, and the wind whispers through the branches. The Alaska Pacific University Trail is rough with rocks, and Marko Cheseto struggles for balance as he runs. Looking for even patches in the dirt, he chooses his steps carefully. Each one is a decision. Once, when he had feet, he flew through these woods. He flew through them faster than anyone ever had.

Cheseto, 30, remembers how things once felt beneath those feet: the light touch of the track, the roll of the trails, the give of the red earth he grew up running on. He remembers how far those feet carried him—from a tiny village in the Kenyan Highlands across the world to Alaska and a new life as a star runner. He remembers how they propelled him to victory. Sometimes, he forgets he doesn’t have those feet anymore.

markochesetotrack300x200But not today. Today he remembers. Today he’s wearing metal feet inside his running shoes, and they are no match for real feet that slide over rocks and roots like water.

Cheseto has run this trail countless times since arriving at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2008. It was through these woods that he pushed himself and his teammates and helped forge the Seawolves into a national force. And it was here that he took that last run, the one that transformed him from the greatest runner the school had ever known into… someone else.

Read the full story here.

“Italian Ways” (Review)

Posted in Books, Clips, Travel Writers on December 30, 2013 by frankbures

urlFrom The Rotarian:

Some of my most enduring memories from my time as a student in Italy are of being on trains. Many of those memories involve me giving the conductor my ticket, only to have him inform me that I had the wrong type of ticket, the wrong seat, or the wrong time. It’s a feeling Tim Parks channels brilliantly in Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013), which is as much about the Italian railroads as it is about Italy itself.

Like his other books, Italian Ways is the perfect corrective to the sun-dappled travelogues that have colonized our idea of the country. Parks has lived in Italy for 30 years, and his deep knowledge, keen observational powers, and masterful writing make him possibly the best writer on the country working today.

Read the rest here.

So Long 2013, and Thanks for all the Editing

Posted in Writing on December 27, 2013 by frankbures

bae13As every editor knows, writers are thin-skinned, ungrateful, egomaniacs. Much as I hate to admit it, I’m not the exception. So in a small effort to redeem myself, I’d like to thank the editors who helped me out in the past year, which was a rewarding one. The editors who kept me from embarrassing myself in print don’t get awards, but I was lucky to get a few in 2013, and those awards belong to my editors as well. So let me just thank them here publicly.

0324CoverAt the top of the list is David Rowell at the Washington Post Magazine, one of my favorite editors in the world. Of the three stories I’ve done with him, all have gotten some sort of recognition, including two this fall:  The Fallout, about nuclear tourism, which got the Bronze Lowell Thomas Award, and The Reunion, about going back to Tanzania after 15 years, which was selected as “Notable Travel Writing” in the Best American Travel Writing 2013. Both are the kind of human stories I love to tell and that David knows how to work with so well.

318272_258636767576603_2091973615_nAlso mentioned as a notable story in the Best American Essays 2013 was The Fall of the Creative Class. For that story’s very existence, I have Katie Eggers to thank. In Thirty Two Magazine she has almost single-handedly created an amazing cultural space for that piece and many others to exist. By this point in my career, I’m fully aware of just how rare such spaces are and of how lucky we are to have Katie here doing what she does. (No, Europe, you can’t have her back.)

batw13Porter Fox is the brains (and brawn) behind the new tablet magazine Nowhere, which is beautiful and has become one of the bastions of narrative travel writing since World Hum’s metabolism slowed. Porter is a veteran in the magazine business (I remember pitching him a story at Powder circa 2000) and I was lucky he was willing to work over my rough-hewn, orphaned story on Djibouti, The Crossing, into something palatable. It subsequently won a Silver Lowell Thomas Award and was on the list of list of “Notable Travel Writing” in the Best American Travel Writing 2013.

There are many other editors I worked with this year who I should thank as well, namely the wonderful Jenny Llakmani at The Rotarian who lets me range over wider territory than I have any right to. And Christine Fennessy, who hung in there for two grueling years working on a monster of a story that will appear in Runner’s World in February of 2014. And lastly, but not leastly, Kevin Larimer at Poets & Writers, who has been hammering my stories into shape for more than a decade now.

Thanks to you all for the hard work. It’s appreciated far more than you know.

On Gandhi, a Girl and the Good Enough Life

Posted in America, Clips on December 21, 2013 by frankbures

Cutler_EthicsFrom The Rotarian

The first class I took in college was a history of India structured around the life of Gandhi. I wasn’t all that interested in India, but I was concerned about my role in the world. I wanted to be a good person – or at least a better one. I wanted to leave the world a better place. I wanted to do no harm. I wanted to live a good life, an ethical life, one that I could be proud of when it was all over.

But what is the right thing to do? Ever since Aristotle, people have been trying to create ethical systems that would tell you. John Stuart Mill thought the right thing was whatever contributed to the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people. More recently, ethical thinkers have parsed evolutionary research for understanding and instruction.

Gandhi, I thought at the time, must have something to offer along these lines. After all, using a nonviolent approach, he defeated British colonialism. He developed a philosophy that revolved around satyagraha, or soul force, and ahimsa, or doing no harm. Things, for him, seemed clear: He knew what was right and wrong and what to fight for and how to do it. He lived according to his principles. I wanted to live like that too. Gandhi was known as “Mahatma,” or the Great Soul. I wanted my soul to be great too.

Read the rest here.

RIP Tabu Ley

Posted in Africa, Arts in Africa, Music, Video on December 4, 2013 by frankbures

Very sad to say goodbye to one of the greatest musicians in one of the greatest musical traditions.  Tabu Ley Rochereau, 73, passed away November 30, 2013. Here’s some old footage of him with another of my favorites, his partner Mbilia Bel. (Via Africa is a Country)

Boundary Waters Bound

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2013 by frankbures

BWCAWIt may be a little late in the season for this, but it’s not too soon for planning for next year. In either case you can use this short piece I did for Men’s Journal as a jumping off point for your next trip into the singing wilderness:

The Boundary Waters region in Minnesota is a 150-mile maze of connected lakes and rivers surrounded by thick pine and cedar forests and speckled with small, rocky islands. The area has some 1,200 miles of paddleable routes, making canoeing the most practical way to experience it all. By August, most of the visitors (and bugs) have gone – you’re more likely to see black bears and moose than like-minded paddlers – but you’ll still need to get a permit ahead of time. Also bring a tent and a cooler with food (and a clutch of beers). “It’s just you and nature,” says longtime local guide John Schiefelbein. “You own that lake at night.”

Day 1
Start at Lake One, about 25 miles east of Ely, Minnesota, where you can rent a canoe, if you didn’t bring one yourself. Pass through Lakes Two, Three, and Four, and into the 3,000-acre Lake Insula. In this deep, clear lake (with 11-foot visibility), camp on one of the dozens of little wooded islands.

Read the rest here.

Blue Earth Writers Workshop

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2013 by frankbures

If you Writers-Workshophappen to be in southern Minnesota next week, I’ll be teaching about travel writing here:  The Blue Earth River Writers  are holding a Writers Workshop, Saturday, September 28th at Hope United Methodist Church, 12080 380th Ave, Blue Earth. Doors open at 8 am, with a meet and greet at 8:30 am and sessions starting at 9 am. Cost is $25, students through grade 12 are $15 and  lunch is included in the price.  For more information about the sessions or to register, stop by the Blue Earth Community Library, 124 West 7th St in Blue Earth or call Eva at 507-526-5012.


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