Archive for the Writers Category

New Nonfiction Class

Posted in Art, Events, Writers, Writing on October 4, 2016 by frankbures

imagesThis winter, I’ll be teaching a small online class through The Loft Literary Center. In the past I’ve taught classes on narrative nonfiction, freelancing, profile writing, travel writing and other subjects. This course is designed both for people starting out and for those who want to shift career directions. We will focus on any genre students want to work on and cover practical skills of reporting, structuring your stories and selling your work. The ultimate goal of of the class is to finish with at least two polished, professional clips to use and sell. Please contact me if you want more info: Nonfiction Intensive: Building Your Portfolio


On Rimbaud’s Trail

Posted in Africa, Books, Geography of Madness, Travel, Uncategorized, Writers on July 19, 2016 by frankbures

From Longitude Books:

One of the places I remember most clearly (and fondly) is Obock, Djibouti, a town on the edge of the Red Sea where I traveled several years ago for a story for Nowhere Magazine. Obock is hot and miserable and there is nothing to do. At night thousands of migrants stream through the area on their way from Ethiopia and Somalia to the Middle East where they hope to find work. When I got there I found that the hotel the tourism office in the capital recommended had closed long ago. On my first day I was harassed by the local police for being there.

What I remember best, though, was how refreshing it was to be so uncatered to, so far from everything. It didn’t matter to anyone (except a few curious folks) whether I was there or not. This must have been something like was the French poet Arthur Rimbaud felt when he first arrived there in the mid-1880s to escape his former life and become an arms dealer: It was like the whole world could slip away.

Read the rest hereIMGP3480.JPG.

Empty Tombs: A Q&A with Tom Bissell

Posted in Books, Clips, Travel, Travel Writers, Writers on March 29, 2016 by frankbures

apostle-cover_250From MinnPost:

For five years, writer Tom Bissell worked on a novel about the Apostle John, before he resigned himself to the fact that his “half historical, half contemporary” account was not going to work.

He set it aside, but one fact stuck in his mind: John’s tomb was located in Turkey and was supposedly empty — the only remains of the Twelve Apostles unaccounted for. Later while he was serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan he heard rumors that Matthew’s remains were in nearby Kyrgyzstan. Where were the others?

From this question grew the idea for a travel book on the Apostolic tombs, and for the next few years Bissell traveled through Jerusalem, Greece, Italy, Turkey, France, Spain India, Turkey and Kyrgyzstan as a sort of doubting pilgrim who wanted to “explore the legendary encrustation upon twelve lives about which little else is known and even less can be historically verified.”

Read the rest here.

Theme Parks, Milk Wars and Bold Ideas

Posted in America, Clips, Writers on January 25, 2013 by frankbures

Winter_Spring-2013The latest issue of Thirty Two Magazine is on stands and in mailboxes and I’m happy to report that it’s the best issue yet, packed from front to back with great stories and better writing. The two flagship pieces are Emily Sohn’s brilliant exploration fo the raw milk underground, the food freedom movement, and the war on milk; and Jason Albert’s hilarious attempt to write a stunt memoir about the Wisconsin Dells.

But there is much more, including a revealing interview with Laurie Hertzel about the Twin Cities literary scene, Ben Obler’s diatribe against author readings, Regan Smith’s lovely profile of Current DJ Barb Abney, a look at Minneapolis’ ill-fated food swaps, a piece I did on the Midwest inferiority complex, and a fantastic collection of 22 Bold Ideas for how to improve the Twin Cities (mine was get rid of the Skyways; others were more constructive). In other words, there’s more than enough to get you through a long winter’s day of reading, so stop by your local bookstore and pick up a copy, or order it here!

Is the Internet Making You Less Creative?

Posted in Clips, Science, Writers, Writing on February 1, 2012 by frankbures

In the current issue of Poets & Writers is a story that was long in coming, on an issue my friends are tired of hearing me harp on: information overload. Obviously, I’m not the first person to write about this, but my concern is not only about the annoyance of dealing with too many data streams. Rather, it’s about the cumulative effect that the constant intake is having on the deeper, more mysterious processes in the mind.  Namely, I am concerned about creativity.

Two recent pieces in the New York Times have gotten at this same point.  In Pico Iyer’s The Joy of Quiet, he writes that, “Nothing makes me feel better — calmer, clearer and happier — than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music.”  In Susan Cain’s piece on the New Groupthink and the cult of collaboration, she writes that “solitude is a catalyst to innovation,” and that “Culturally, we’re often so dazzled by charisma that we overlook the quiet part of the creative process.”

This concern is something in the air, but it’s not a new phenomenon.  Recently, a friend posted Henry Miller’s Commandments from 1933, the first of which is,  “Work on one thing at a time until finished.” And D.T. Suzuki wrote in his 1953 introduction to Zen in the Art of Archery, “Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking.”

For those of us who value solitude it’s a concern that has taken on a new urgency. I don’t pretend to have any answers, but this new piece explores the issue in what I hope is a new way. For example, while there is much talk of “attention” these days, and a growing awareness of its importance, there has been very little discussion of the fact there are different kinds of attention. We have two neurologically distinct attentional systems which work at cross purposes:  Focused attention and distracted attention. Which one are you using right now?

The following are my thoughts, along which those of a handful of other writers, on how to keep your inner space alive when the outer one keeps pressing in. As Zadie Smith recently advised,”Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.”

The story can be found here:

Inner Space: Clearing Some Room for Inspiration

Long Live Long Form

Posted in Books, Writers, Writing on January 2, 2012 by frankbures

Flying in the face of the ever-shrinking attention span, two new publishers are hard at work pushing long-form narrative nonfiction into new territory.  If you’re a writer you’ve probably heard about these. If you haven’t, please check out both Byliner and The Atavist.  For a place to start, here are some great stories:

Bill Donahue’s just-released piece The Secret World of Saints, about the world’s first Native American saint.
Matt Power’s Island of Secrets, about one man’s search for an undiscovered kind of tree kangaroo on the island of New Britain.
Dave Wolman’s The Instigators, about the digital activists who started the Arab Spring.
And of course, Jon Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit, about the Greg Mortenson fiasco.

These are perfect for the bus or plane if you have some sort of e-reader.  It’s well-worth the $2 or $3 for a great, meaty read.  After all, how much did you pay for your last coffee?

David Quammen on the Inevitable

Posted in Words to live by, Writers on July 1, 2011 by frankbures

“Saying no to the inevitable is one of the few precious ways our own species redeems itself from oblivion—or at least tries to.  For mortal creatures, on a slow-dying planet, in this ocean of space, there’s really no other option.”