I’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!
From The Rotarian:
When I was in high school, public speaking was not considered glamorous. It was a required course relished only by people who also approached debate as a sport or who were thrilled by the prospect of student government.
The rest of us dutifully stood at the front of the class, reading rushed words off index cards, trying to picture our classmates in their underwear, but feeling naked instead. When it was over, we were glad we would never have to do that again.
Life, however, has a funny way of making you regret much of what you did – and didn’t do – in high school. Some years later, as a writer, I found myself giving readings and talks. I realized I would actually have to know how to stand up in front of (fully clothed) people and give a speech.
Being a decent writer doesn’t make you a decent speaker, and I quickly discovered that public speaking wasn’t something I could wing. As my high school teacher tried to tell us, it’s a skill that must be acquired.
I started looking around for help and found an organization formed by people in my shoes. We met weekly. Everybody stood up and spoke. We had to give a succession of speeches, which was hard at first. I gave a speech introducing myself, then went on to give others about things like Googling myself and the Dunning-Kruger effect. (Look it up.) People laughed and seemed to enjoy them, so I relaxed and gradually improved.
The Tuareg remake of Purple Rain. More here.
In the December issue of Outside Magazine is a short piece I did on Eric Orton’s ideas for helping you run without injury. Orton was the coach featured in Chris McDougall’s book Born to Run (and the upcoming movie) but most readers missed his point, which is that strong feet make strong form. I say this as a chronically injured runner who’s had minimal issues since I using Orton’s foot strengthening exercises. In the past year, I’ve run more miles with less pain than ever before, including a 25k trail race. In the end, whether you’re a minimalist or maximalist, it’s what’s in the shoes that matters most. The piece is online here.
“Pour your rage into the rage of the sea. Maybe there’s a beach behind the next page.”
In the 1980s there was a panic in America, a moral panic. Satanists and deviants, it was feared, were everywhere, operating secretive sects that targeted children for ritual sexual abuse. The panic spread across the country, to small towns. It destroyed communities in New Jersey, Florida, Texas, and many other places, including Minnesota where in Jordan, just southeast of the Twin Cities, some 23 innocent people were charged by prosecutors for these crimes, charges which were ultimately dismissed. The charges were false. The wild accounts of orgiastic abuse were elicited with leading questions from prosecutors and therapists. In the end, more than 190 people across the country were formally charged in these cases, and 80 were convicted. People like former Attorney General Janet Reno launched their careers off them.
In his new book, “We Believe the Children: A Moral Panic in the 1980s,” Richard Beck, an editor at n+1 magazine, looks at the causes of the panic, the evidence, the trials themselves and their effects.
The girls were alone. Their families were dead, or gone, or lost in the broken landscape of southern Sudan. They had nowhere to turn, and no one to turn to. Some lived in the market, others in the cemetery.
When Cathy Groenendijk saw them, she couldn’t help herself. She offered them tea, then some food, then a place to sleep in her guesthouse.
“In the morning, we would sit together and talk about what had happened the night before,” Groenendijk remembers. “And what I heard I could not believe. I could not believe it.”
Recommended: Think you know Africa? Take our geography quiz.
One girl’s father had died, and after the funeral, she never saw her mother again. She was living on the streets with some other kids when four men started chasing them. The other girls were faster. She fell behind and was caught and raped by all four men. Groenendijk knew a doctor who repaired the physical damage, saving her life.
Another three girls, ages eight, six, and one, lived with their mother, but they all slept in the open. Groenendijk helped them build a tarped shelter, but the hot sun ate it away. One night, a man snuck in and tried to assault one of the girls. After that, Groenendijk let them sleep on her veranda.