Joan Didion on Writing: “I’m not telling you to make the world better. I’m just telling you to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To make your own work and take pride in it.”

From a New York Times story by Parul Sehgal headlined “Joan Didion Chronicled American Disorder With Her Own Unmistakable Style”:

Joan Didion was 5 years old when she wrote her first story, upon the instruction of her mother, who had told her to stop whining and to write down her thoughts. She amused herself by describing a woman who imagines she is about to freeze to death, only to die burning instead.

“I have no idea what turn of a 5-year-old’s mind could have prompted so insistently ‘ironic’ and exotic a story,” she later wrote. “It does reveal a certain predilection for the extreme which has dogged me into adult life.”

Ann Patchett: “Whatever the subject matter her voice, equal parts, warm, wry and insightful, reels you in.”

From a Wall Street Journal review by Joanne Kaufman of the book by Ann Patchett titled “These Precious Days”:

Ann Patchett was 26 when, for the first time, she began thinking about her demise. She was working on her first novel—seven have since followed, including “Bel Canto,” “Commonwealth” and “The Dutch House”—and she hadn’t made an outline, hadn’t jotted down any notes, hadn’t considered exigencies. What if, during a swim in the chilly Atlantic (a favorite activity), she got cramps (a frequent affliction) and couldn’t make it back to shore (a constant nightmare). What then?

Big Media Strikes Back at Substack: “Newsrooms are creating programs that give writers more pay, autonomy and flexibility.”

From a post on by Sara Fischer and Nicholas Johnston headlined “Big media strikes back at Substack”:

Pressure from new publishing platforms has finally pushed newsrooms to create programs that give writers more pay, autonomy and flexibility. Those changes are attracting some independent writers back to traditional news companies.

Why it matters: The Substack threat to newsrooms was overblown. Newsrooms have been quick to react to the idea of the independent-operator model while journalists have been sharing its challenges or detailing why they decided to return to newsrooms.

Being a Cop in LA: “Michael Connelly’s The Dark Hour raises questions about the future of policing”

From a story on the Alta Monday Book Review by Paula L. Woods headlined “Watching the Detectives: Michael Connelly’s The Dark Hour is a new kind of police procedural”:

Over the last year and a half, many novelists have pondered how to reckon with events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests over George Floyd’s murder in their work. This dilemma may be most profound for writers of crime fiction, especially police procedurals, because the legitimacy of norms established by early masters like Ed McBain and Joseph Wambaugh has now been cast into doubt. Do cops desire to protect and serve all citizens equally? Can order be restored to a community through the resolution of a crime? Is a police department capable of policing itself?…All of this raises deep and systemic questions about the future of policing.

The NYTimes By the Book Interview: “John Banville, the Contemporary Novelist Who Avoids Contemporary Novels”

From a By the Book interview in the New York Times Book Review headlined “John Banville, the Contemporary Novelist Who Avoids Contemporary Novels”:

What books are on your night stand?

I’m rereading the Everyman’s Library edition of Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain” in the magnificent translation by John E. Woods. Also “The Empress of Ireland,” an inexplicably neglected memoir by Christopher Robbins of the inexplicably forgotten Irish film director Brian Desmond Hurst, first published in 2004. The book is extremely engaging, sad and funny, and a sort of masterpiece in its way….

What’s the last great book you read?

Stories That Are Like Trick Plays in Football

By Jack Limpert

One of my mentors was an admirer of Vince Lombardi, the tough coach who had made the Green Bay Packers the best team in football. He said the mistake a lot of publications make when trying to get better is to keep trying to think up the equivalent of trick plays.

“You win by doing great blocking and tackling,” he’d say. “That’s how Lombardi did it. He didn’t try to get cute. He focused on blocking and tackling better than anyone else. That’s how he built winners.”

How Does a Writer Choose a Path in Our Polarized World?

From an essay on by Shoba Narayan headlined “50 shades of nuance in a polarized world”:

As a columnist and a memoir writer, a fundamental question I confront when I begin a piece is this: Do I view and portray this topic as black-and-white, or do I allow for 50 shades of gray?

The fact that I need to ask myself this question reflects three things:

  1. The polarized times we live in
  2. Who I am as a writer
  3. How journalism uses data to predict audience

Consider this example: