Archive for the Writing Category

Q&A with David Grann

Posted in America, Books, Clips, Uncategorized, 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 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.