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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Thank you, Connie

Being a writer is a very bipolar experience. I've been on the downward slide of late and I'm desperately digging in my heels hoping to prevent a freefall. As most experienced writers know, when you feel desperate as a writer, NOTHING seems to work.

I keep coming back to Pulitzer Prize-winning writer (hereafter known as PPWW) Buzz Bissinger's remark at ASJA conference that he is "uneven" as a writer. Lately, that's how I feel.

Maybe I'm getting bored with the stuff I've always done. Maybe it's time to stretch again. And that's why I'm thanking PPWW Connie Schultz today. She said these six words at the City Club of Cleveland yesterday:

I found my courage in essays.

An always encouraging colleague poked me in the back and said, "She's talking to you." And I was listening. More than 230 people packed the room yesterday to hear what the 2005 PPWW for commentary had to say, many of them were her colleagues at The Plain Dealer and her colleagues at other news organizations. But she directed her remarks at the writers in the audience in general and the freelance writers in particular.

She recognized how self-defensive we independents can be and how we view writing as a mission, not simply a job. And that's a view she carries from her freelance days to her position as columnist at the PD.

Her advice?

• Revise, revise, revise.
• Every good writer needs a good editor.
• Tell a story and get out of its way.
• Read your writing aloud to hear where words aren't working.
• Tell yourself you're writing for the New York Times, even if it's the community paper.
• Sit with an editor through the editing process to learn where things aren't working in your story.
• It's easy to feel beaten down: how you handle it will determine who you will be.
• Don't make apologies for who you are: woman, man, parent, married, single, gay, straight, right, left.

And here are a few more tips offered by her editor and writing coach, Stuart Warner:

• Read everything.
• Seek out advice of writers whom you admire and find out how they are succeeding.
• Seek and accept criticism.
• Don't rest on your laurels.

And finally, Connie left us with this gem from poet Lucille Clifton:

What they call you is one thing. What you answer to is another.

Hey Connie, have time for coffee?

A little fun
Check out this piece from Guardian's Tim Dowling. It's a delightful little spoof on Arianna Huffington's forthcoming group blog. Hah!

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