Some random thoughts from last Saturday’s Sharpen Your Skills workshop sponsored by Cleveland SPJ:
• People who are no longer in the business of journalism are able to tell the truth about the business of journalism.
• Writers will procrastinate until the fear of not making a deadline eclipses the fear of not being good enough. (paraphrased from Joe Mackall, author of the memoir, “The Last Street Before Cleveland” and associate professor of English at Ashland University)
• When writing narrative nonfiction, fill your notebook but then choose wisely to find the essence of your story. Choosing the right details to include is an art form.
• Narrative nonfiction does not have to be long. Despite current newsroom beliefs, it can be accomplished in a six-inch police short just as it can in a 26-inch feature.
• Narrative nonfiction is more about writing from your heart and less about writing from your head. (paraphrased from Tom Hallman, Pulitzer Prize-winning feature writer from The Oregonian and leader of SPJ’s Narrative Writing Workshop)
• Good narrative journalism has a sense of urgency or immediacy to the story.
• When we leave who we are out of our work, the piece suffers. (Joe Mackall)
• Narrative nonfiction has a voice and that voice is you. It’s how you see the world and tells a bit about who you are.
• Mackall recommended Walt Harrington’s book “Intimate Journalism”. “The introduction is worth the price of the book,” says Mackall.
Check out River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative edited by Mackall and Dan Lehman, also a professor of English at Ashland. It doesn't pay but the exposure could have a long-term payoff.
An inspiring morning and all the more reason to give narrative a try. Go ahead, fight for it!