Archive for the Writing 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 Frankenwords or The Love Song of David Shing

Posted in America, Books, Clips, Culture, Language, Writing on January 8, 2016 by frankbures

rotarian_jan16These days, we’re all becoming Humpty Dumpty:

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean— neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – – that’s all.”

–Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)

In The Rotarian this month, I have a column about the growing distance between words and their meanings, something that often fills me with despair. It’s not a new phenomenon: Orwell wrote about it in his 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language.” But it is, I fear, a problem that has ballooned with the Internet and the surplus of words in our lives. Today we live in a world where “shredding papers” is “document management,” where “failure” is “deferred success,” and where “surveillance” is  “data collection.” Maybe that’s just the invisible hand at work, but for what it’s worth, read on here.

On The Pitfalls of Self-Promotion

Posted in America, Art, Books, Clips, Culture, Uncategorized, Writing on December 17, 2015 by frankbures

jf16_coverI’m not sure that I should be considered any sort of “branding expert,” but I do have an essay in the current Poets & Writers on my ambivalence about self-promotion, and the struggle to balance promoting your work with promoting yourself. See the print edition if you can get it!

Interview with Nowhere

Posted in Books, Travel, Writing on October 2, 2014 by frankbures

NowhereHad a nice chat with Porter Fox over at Nowhere Magazine on, among other things:

What’s the difference between travel writing and journalism?

I guess it depends what kind of travel writing and what kind of journalism you’re talking about. Destination travel writing tells people how they can have a certain kind of experience for themselves. Narrative travel writing tells a story. Journalism tells you what is happening in a certain part of the world, but its time frame is usually very short. I feel like the very best travel writing not only tells you a story, but it brings you to a place and helps you understand how it got to be the way it is, what it’s like to be there. It gives you a deeper understanding of not only what it happening there, but why. James Fenton’s “The Snap Election” is a great example, as is Michael Herr’s Dispatches.

Read the rest here.

Branding Guyana: The Rise and Fall of Travel Writing

Posted in Clips, Travel, Travel Writers, Writing on August 28, 2014 by frankbures

Guyana Cover copyFrom Nowhere Magazine:

It was winter in Minnesota, and I was leaving the ice and snow behind. Everyone on our plane was giddy about this. In front of me, several women in sweatpants were heading south for weeklong cruises. They sang Beach Boys songs at the top of their lungs: “ARUBA, JAMAICA, OOOH I WANNA TAKE YA!!!

But I wasn’t going to Kokomo. I was flying to Guyana, a small, poor country on the northeast coast of South America. As I settled into my seat, the woman next to me turned to chat.

“So,” she said, “have you cruised before?” She was middle-aged, with a family of five in tow.

“No.” I said. “You?”

“We have,” she said. “We love it, and it’s super cheap! Hang on…” She turned to the window and snapped a picture of a baggage car. “Gotta put the vacation on Facebook! So what do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“That’s neat. What do you write?”

“Some travel writing…and other things.”

“Oh, cool!” she gushed. “We love House Hunters International!”

10411991_10152666085686796_8321901077672506435_nI reached for the SkyMall. The engines roared and the white world fell away. Soon my seatmate and almost everyone else on the plane would get off in Florida to be whisked away for weeks of pampered drifting on the Caribbean. I would continue south. Guyana is a place, unlike Aruba or Jamaica, not on anyone’s list of dream destinations. A few months earlier, I’d gotten an email asking if I wanted to visit. The note was from a company contracting development work from USAID. One of its projects was to rebrand the tiny, corrupt nation and promote ecotourism. I knew the catch.

Read the rest here.

Women, Words and the Future of Magazines

Posted in America, Writing on July 11, 2014 by frankbures

TheRiveterMagazine.CoverSMFrom MinnPost:

In March of 2013, Joanna Demkiewicz and Kaylen Ralph were sitting in a classroom at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, listening to a panel discussion, when they got a strong sense of déjà vu. The panel was for a new book being published called Next Wave, which featured “America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.” There were 19 stories in all, but only three were by women. On stage in front of them were five writers, all men. Finally someone asked, “Why are there only three women in your anthology?” The publisher, Mike Sager said they had their criteria — the writers had to be born between certain dates, and that it had proved really hard to find women who fit for the collection.

Demkiewicz and Ralph both thought back to the previous year, when not a single woman was nominated for a National Magazine Award in writing. They immediately started texting each other and later that day launched The Riveter online, which they imagined as a female version of Esquire: A magazine full of smart, compelling stories by women that appealed to all readers. The first print issue came out last summer. The second — bigger and better yet — was just released.

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.