Can it be deep but not somber?

Today I read this installment of the “Why’s this so good?” series on the Nieman Storyboard site.  This post, written by Joanna Kaskissis, discussed Michael Paterniti’s account of the 2010 Haitian earthquake and how the author’s use of language made the story compelling.  It was a sad story, written with the depth born of insightful reporting.  But I’ve been thinking lately – must a moving story always be sad?  Paterniti wrote: The wandering survivors, too, were caked and stunned. To pass one was to see your own reflection, some strange mix of horror and elation. Two houses in a row might have been leveled while a third might have remained untouched, the line between life and death a couple of feet. Sad, horrifying, and brilliantly written.  Is there a parallel in writing about a day of joy?  This is a corollary of the thought I had about crime writing – crime is compelling.  So are natural disasters.  Is finding a happy story and telling it well a greater challenge than writing about something inherently sad or shocking? Now that I’ve FINALLY gotten all the “commercial” articles done that I have had hanging over my head for two months or more, I can fully turn my attention to school.  And now I’m not sure quite where to start.  When I sat down and just let my fingers fly, I slid right into that somber tone.  It’s so easy.  But if I […]

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“Selling out,” trust and respect

I read Alexis Paige’s essay On Didion and the “Selling Out” Mantra today on Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog. In summary, she discusses Didion’s statement that “writers are always selling somebody out.”  Paige describes how she instructed a group of students to create their own writing mantra, sharing Didion’s quote, presumably by way of example.  Her students didn’t get it – or […]

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Writing without judgment

I’m catching up on reading Thomas French’s work.  Yesterday I printed out (using much paper and ink) his series “The Exorcist in Love” and most of “Angels & Demons” (I didn’t print the whole thing because I was using much paper and ink).  I read The Exorcist in Love yesterday and the whole time my inner voice was saying yes! yes! yes!  His approach is so similar to what I want to do with the street preacher story.  I don’t want to judge the preachers for what they do, even though many people would.  Their stories are what they are and they are who they are and they have something to offer our understanding of the world even if you don’t agree with their viewpoint or their methods.  That’s part of what gets me so excited about this kind of reporting.  Like my masters project, profiles of drug court offenders.  They weren’t necessarily pillars of society, but their stories are instructive nevertheless.  Same with the witches I’ve been trying to hang out with. I’ve been thinking about crime as a topic lately, especially because it’s a subject I come across fairly frequently in the nonfiction I’ve been reading.  I am obsessed with crime and especially psychopathology.  My friend who is a social psychologist and knows about my obsession told me a couple years ago she came across a paper about a study of people like me.  The conclusion was that […]

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