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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A score for a book?

It occurred to me – is there a way in writing to reproduce the effect of a movie score?  For instance, the harmonica tune that floats through “Midnight Cowboy”; the movie wouldn’t be the same without that.  It doesn’t really impact the plot.  It enhances the viewer’s experience of the story.  So is there a way to achieve the same […]

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I never read what I wrote

My first article for the Houston Chronicle – paid article, that is, versus the blogging I’ve done for them for six years – appeared online today and will be in tomorrow’s print version.  I was excited for it to be published but then I read it and hated it.  Well, right away I wasn’t happy with the edits to the […]

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Why do I talk so much?

I interviewed six people yesterday – such a long day!  In the morning I met with the LDS missionaries I’m writing about and I recorded that interview.  Then I went to Sugar Land and interviewed the Houston South LDS mission president and recorded that interview.  Came home and interviewed a source for the “family Toastmasters” article, but since that was […]

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Home…run?

The new issue of Islamic Horizons magazine is out.  My article on Houston Muslims is on page 38.  I’m happy it’s published but I’m having perhaps even more anxiety than I did while I was writing it; I’m sure I will hear from more than a few people that I should have included this or mentioned that…why didn’t you write […]

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I am a journalist and I have lots of work

A month or so after I finished my masters degree in journalism and moved to Houston, Azizah magazine’s editor accepted a pitch for my second professional article ever.  I was thrilled.  After that I wrote one or two more, and then things dried up.  I got a job as an at-home medical transcriptionist (a skill that I’m glad I acquired 20 years ago, as it pays pretty well and is usually available), which paid my bills and my daughter’s rent, and then proceeded to apply for job after job with no success. In 2008 I opened an educational center/bookstore and for three years did something I never imagined I would, the demise of which I won’t analyze here.  As soon as I closed the bookstore I pitched an article to Azizah and it was accepted.  I made a pitch to Toastmaster magazine.  It was accepted.  I made a pitch to Islamic Horizons magazine and it was accepted.  In less than a year I’ve been assigned four articles by Toastmaster, three by Islamic Horizons and two for Azizah (with possibly a third in the wings).  These are feature articles, most of them 1800-2000 words, and one was a cover story. My point: I am a success.  I’m not writing for nationally prestigious magazines, but editors have consistently shown confidence in me and my skills, and that counts for more than anything.  One day God willing my byline will appear above 5000-word […]

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T-3 days

Yup, I’ll be on the Goucher campus, God willing, this Sunday.  I have spent a lot of time worrying about logistics, especially since I plan to fast.  The fast will begin at 4:40 a.m. and although by my last day there the time will have moved all the way up to 4:53, I am still going to be stumbling around […]

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