Archive for the Writers Category

Q&A with David Grann

Posted in America, Books, Clips, Writers, Writing on April 21, 2017 by frankbures

grann-bookFrom Nieman Storyboard:

David Grann had never heard of the “Osage Murders” until a historian he was talking to mentioned the series of mysterious deaths among members of the wealthy Osage tribe in early 20th century Oklahoma.

When I learned about these crimes several years ago, I was shocked that, like so many Americans, I had never learned about them in school or read about them in books.
Grann, a staff writer at The New Yorker and something of a history writer himself, couldn’t believe that the sinister campaign targeting the oil beneath the Osage reservation land was so little known.  So he started looking into the killings.

There wasn’t much online. No one seemed to have told the victims’ story in a comprehensive way, even though, as Grann puts it, the campaign was “one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.

Read the rest here.

Brand You: Questioning Self-Promotion

Posted in America, Art, Books, Clips, Culture, Writers, Writing on April 4, 2017 by frankbures

jf16_coverFrom last year in Poets & Writers, now online:

It should be said that writers have always been keen self-promoters, as Tony Perrottet pointed out in a New York Times article: In 440 BCE, Herodotus shilled his Histories to wealthy patrons at the Olympics. In 1887, Guy de Maupassant flew a hot-air balloon featuring the name of his latest short story. Walt Whitman wrote anonymous reviews of his work, declaring, “An American bard at last!”

But at the end of the twentieth century something changed, something deep. In an influential article titled “The Brand Called You,” published by Fast Company in 1997, Tom Peters admonished not just corporations, not just celebrities, but everyone to think of themselves as a brand, to promote themselves as a brand, and to see life and work as an endless branding opportunity.

This has come to pass. Today, it’s accepted that anyone with a pulse and a keyboard can and should promote anything that comes to mind. As a result, most of us are drowning in a promotional tsunami. It can feel like a crushing weight, like social media has become a giant pyramid scheme in which we are all selling some idea of ourselves, even as we struggle to believe our own marketing.

Read the rest here.

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