About the Lives of Writers, Book Titles, and Journalism Awards

By Jack Limpert

Screen shot 2014-09-15 at 5.19.34 PMLiza Mundy has a wonderful book review in Sunday’s Washington Post on Gail Sheehy’s just published memoir, Daring: My Passages. Here’s how it starts:

“For a professional writer, there are few truly good reasons to write a memoir. Most writers lead boring lives, spending swaths of time sitting at their desks or in coffee shops, rifling through notes, gazing about, looking with despair at the sentence or two they have eked out, wondering if it’s lunchtime yet, and finding other ways to procrastinate.

Don’t Put Something Like That in an Email—Come Talk to Me

By Jack Limpert

Two stories this week highlighted the dangers of saying too much in emails.

Barry Levenson, a reporter for the Washington Star who went on to become rich enough to own a sports team, now is selling his controlling interest in the Atlanta Hawks NBA franchise after a 2012 email he wrote became public. In the email he complained about too many black fans at Hawks’ games and he suggested ways to get more whites to come to the games. The email went viral and quickly was judged racist.

Four Washington Journalists Remember 9/11

By Ron Cohen

I was national editor for Gannett News Service. I got off the Metro at DC’s Metro Center, up the elevator just in time to see and hear dozens of emergency vehicles screaming south on 13th Street. It took me 15 minutes to make it to the office in the old Greyhound terminal building on New York Avenue and I still had no idea what was going on. When I entered the lobby, Kathy Kiely of USA Today was dashing past me in the other direction. “Where are you running?”

Getting People to Talk: “He Then Stared at Them Expectantly”

By Jack Limpert

From the Washington Post obituary of author Joseph Persico:

He served as a Navy officer during the Korean War and worked in state government in New York before joining the USIA in the late 1950s. He was assigned to Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Washington, where he once shared an elevator ride in 1961 with [Edward R.] Murrow, the renowned radio and television journalist who was USIA director at the time.

In his widely lauded 1988 biography of Murrow, Mr. Persico recalled the encounter.

Once Upon a Time: The Joys of Chronology

A longer version of this column was first posted in March 2013.

By Mike Feinsilber

“Once upon a time…” we say when telling a story to a child.

“So a bear walks into a tavern and orders a beer…” we say when telling a joke to a friend.

“I was walking down L Street yesterday and this car comes racing along, going the wrong way, and suddenly…” we begin when relating what we saw yesterday.

About Not Preaching….And Letting the Reader Think

By Jack Limpert

9780812993806_custom-f9472c743ae546a0b19bf6a1c8ce3a89971d1a83-s2-c85Tenth of December, a collection of short stories by George Saunders, has a bonus at the end of the book: A conversation about writing between Saunders and fellow author David Sedaris.

Here is some of what Saunders says about writing:

Just as a scientist would get the true measure of his materials by putting them under stress, my model of fiction is that we need to see human beings at or near their breaking points. So I think this can sometimes make the stories feel harsh, dark, or misanthropic. But it seems to me that if we want to look at, say, “love,” using fiction as the lens, then we’d want to really challenge love: give it something to push back against; construct a situation in which it could show its true colors, so to speak.

Sins of Editors: Not Getting Out of the Bubble

By Jack Limpert

Dick Babcock left the practice of law to become a newspaper reporter, a key editor at New York magazine, and then for 20 years the editor of Chicago magazine. We’ve kicked around ideas over the years—here’s something on the dangers of listening too much to other journalists.
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Dick

I’m tempted to write about the seven deadly sins of editors—though seven may not work. One I sometimes saw was editors treating writers differently depending on whether they liked or disliked them. Is that something you sometimes had to deal with? The number one sin, of course, is not preserving the wall between church and state—that will have to be explained to the youngsters as a quaint 20th century idea.

Writers at Work: What Elmore Leonard Learned from George V. Higgins

By Jack Limpert

Screen shot 2014-08-29 at 11.00.33 AMToday’s Washington Post has a wonderful piece by Neely Tucker about novelist Elmore Leonard—the hook is a new Library of America volume of four Leonard novels from the 1970s.

Tucker says that Leonard had solid, if not spectacular, success in the first two decades of writing. “Then, in the winter of 1972, his agent told him to get George V. Higgins’s new book, The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Higgins’s characters were lowlifes and working-class cops, none of whom were the brightest guys you ever met.

ICYMI: Remembering the Noise and Fun of the Old Newsrooms

By Jack Limpert

The London Times this week is having the sound of typewriters piped into its newsroom in an attempt to boost the energy of its reporters. The noise starts out slow and then builds to a crescendo of typing. Here’s a post from a year ago about the life and energy of the pre-digital newsroom—and the importance of face-to-face conversation.
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First posted on July 14, 2013

When Longtime Editors Talk About Their Sins

By Jack Limpert

One of the editors I’ve long admired is Dick Babcock, who left the practice of law to become a newspaper reporter, a key editor at New York magazine, and then for 20 years the editor of Chicago magazine. We’ve kicked around a lot of ideas over the years—here’s an exchange from today.
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Dick

I’m tempted to write about the seven deadly sins of editors—though seven may not work. One I sometimes saw was editors treating writers differently depending on whether they liked or disliked them. Is that something you sometimes had to deal with? The number one sin, of course, is not preserving the wall between church and state—that will have to be explained to the youngsters as a quaint 20th century idea.