All Things Writing

The Craft of Writing

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Narrative Nonfiction – What is it?

Narrative Nonfiction is a type of nonfiction in which narrative techniques are used to tell a story with the facts. This type of nonfiction differs from a straight report or news story because it does more than relay the facts; it creates the full context around those facts by using facts.

Sounds like a lot of facts. In fact, it may even sound deadly boring. It’s anything but. Continue reading

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Making a Change

I’ve been doing small business consulting and freelance writing for several years. During that time, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to run and manage a freelance business. It occurred to me that I could have a link to this site from my other site. Why? There is info on this site that’s geared to writers – and other creative types – and info on the other site that is more general in nature yet still applies to creative types.

You don’t need to do a thing. You will notice that you can now click onto a site with more detailed information on QuickBooks Online, Creating an Online Presence/Platform, Creating a WordPress Blog and/or Web site, Managing Social Media, Business Plan, Plans & Goals … This way I’ll post once and related content will show up where it’s supposed to show up, and we’ll all get the benefit of my MBA and QuickBooks certification!

I’m excited about this and can only attribute my glacial pace in reaching this realization to my constant state of sleep deprivation. I know you can relate!


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The Changing Nature of News Coverage

Unknown-5I’m glued to my video stream – as are many of you, I’m sure – as events in Boston unfold. I can’t help but remember back to 9/11, when the source of ongoing news was the television.

I’m not one to watch the same coverage over and over and over. I also tend not to watch most unfolding news coverage because frankly, I don’t think most of what is shared is information that should be shared. My concern is that it provides “tips and tricks” for those who are intent on causing harm while giving me information I simply don’t need.

Maybe it’s because Boston is in a part of the country I know well. Maybe it’s because it is such a horrific story. Maybe it’s because it is all unfolding in real time. Whatever the reason, it’s a story I want to follow. It’s also a story that has made extraordinary use of social and digital media. From smart phone footage to Twitter tweets, streaming video, and text message alerts, the events of this week have unfolded in a way that can be followed independent of a conventional television set. Continue reading

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Nike Steps in It


“Winning Takes Care of Everything”. Thanks, Nike. Good to know.

I can now stop telling my kids that personal integrity, character, making things good, and not getting into a mess in the first place are all essential parts of being a person with integrity.

They’ll be delighted to hear that all they have to do is win. The other stuff is so much more work. Continue reading


Buying Your Way to the Top

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece about business authors who have bought their way to a top spot on various best seller lists. The idea is that the books are purchased in bulk in such a way that they are not recorded as bulk sales. The author pays for the books that are purchased as pre-sales, either as a reduction in speaking fees or by collecting the check from clients and friends. Alternately, a significant number of books are sold as pre-sales on that first day. The following week, more copies of the book are returned than are purchased.

How does this get a book to the business book best seller lists? When the book comes out, there are immediate sales that number in the thousands. This is enough for a business book to capture the number one spot for oh, say 15 minutes. Those fifteen minutes are enough, however, to earn the author the bragging rights to earn higher speaking fees and to be asked to speak by organizations that might otherwise never have heard of them or the book.

There is one company at the heart of this lying cheating questionable business practice — ResultSource. Interestingly enough, ResultSource principal, Kevin Small, declined requests for an interview. The WSJ states that ResultSource states on its Web site that, “We create campaigns that reach a specific goal, like: “On the bestsellers list,” or “100,000 copies sold.” Several ResultSource clients filled in some of the details. One author – who shall not be named (why add more fuel to this joke?) – said he was able to purchase about 2,500 books by collecting the funds for pre-sale orders from his clients. All it took above that was a fee in the range of $20,000 to $30,000. What did he get for his money? His book hit number 3 on the Wall Street Journal hardcover business best-seller list in the first week. It hit number 1 on the list soon after. Sales since then — about 1,000 print copies total.

So, you may ask, what difference does it make if the author sells all the books he’s going to sell in week one? My question in return would be to ask why there is such a hefty fee and why it’s necessary for ResultSource to skirt the safeguard against bulk sales that are in place by the companies that calculate sales for the purposes of the best seller lists.

Whatever happened to writing a book and promoting it through hard work?

Wall Street Journal, How are Some Authors Landing On Best-Seller Lists?

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Press Release!

The press release is out today! It’s listed on EurekAlert! This is amazing.

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My book came out in October and it’s been a scramble ever since. I’ve never promoted a book. Even though I’ve read what others have done to promote their books, I still wasn’t sure where to begin. I started doing anything that would attract my attention and – voila – I’m getting a mention here and there. My press release goes out tomorrow. My website is ready. My general science blog, Synthesis, is ready. My fluid dynamics blog, Fluid Dynamics in Action, is all set. I’ve tried to create a meaningful Facebook presence – sorry to everyone who has been pestered with unintended emails today!!!!!

Now all I can do is see what happens next!

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Journalistic Integrity

I am appalled. Absolutely appalled. I’ve just listened to the retraction issued by  This American Life in relation to the Mike Daisey story about Apple in China. Entitled, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” Daisey’s stage show recounts his visit to Apple’s Foxconn factory.

This retraction (Episode 460: Retraction) to the story run on This American Life (Episode 454: Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory) includes conversations with the interpreter, Cathy Lee, that Daisey told This American Life reporter Ira Glass, he had no way to contact. Her reaction to the discrepancies is that Daisey “is a writer. So I know what he say is only maybe half of them or less actual But he is allowed to do that, right? Because he’s not a journalist.”

That would be fine if Daisey had portrayed what he wrote as a work of fiction but he did not. In fact, Daisey knew that his story was going to be used on This American Life, and he was told that whatever was aired on that show had to be factually accurate. This is what Daisey told Ira Glass in the interview about fact checking with This American Life producer Brian Reed that followed the Schmitz interview in the retraction:

  • Glass reads from email from Reed to Daisey: …Being that news stations are obviously a different kind of form than theater, we wanted to make sure that this thing is totally, utterly unassailable by anyone who might hear it.
  • Glass reads from Daisey’s return email: I totally get that. I want you to know that makes sense to me. A show built orally for the theater is different than what typically happens in a news station. I appreciate that you’re taking the time to go over this.
  • Glass: And so you understood that we wanted this to be accurate in the most traditional sense.
  • Daisey: Yes. I did.

Rob Schmitz, China correspondent for the public radio program Marketplace first noted the discrepancies in Daisey’s show. It was he who interviewed Daisey in the first part of the retraction show. Even simple things were suspect and Daisey admitted he had visited fewer factories than he’d said. He also said he didn’t actually have a girl say she was twelve; he used that age to cover the spread of the age of the girls that he suspected they were. And, he did not actually meet hexane-damaged workers — shaking uncontrollably or otherwise — as he said he had in his monologue.

  • Schmitz: Let’s talk about the hexane poisoned workers. Cathy says that you did not talk to workers who were poisoned by hexane and were shaking uncontrollably.
  • Daisey: That’s correct. I met workers in Hong Kong going to Apple protests who had not been poisoned by hexane but had known people who had been, and it was like a constant conversation we were having about these workers. So no, they were not at that meeting.
  • Schmitz: So you lied about that. That wasn’t what you saw?
  • Daisey: I wouldn’t express it that way.
  • Schmitz: How would you express it?
  • Daisey: I wanted to tell a story that captured the totality of my trip and so when I was building the scene of that meeting I wanted to have the voice of this thing that had been happening that had been talking about.
  • Glass: So you didn’t meet any worker who’d been poisoned by hexane?
  • Daisey: That’s correct.

Why does it matter? It matters because those of us who write narrative nonfiction take what we do very seriously. Everything must be true. It must happen the way it happened; not the way we wish it had happened. The dialogue, the details, the characters — they need to be true. Composite characters are out. Moving events in time or space is out. Guesstimating is out.

To portray something as true when it is not true is the ultimate betrayal of public trust.

As for Daisey? This excerpt is from his website as of today, regrettably, says it all:

What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic ­- not a theatrical ­- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China.

This American Life Episode 460: Retraction

This American Life Episode 454: Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory

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“An honest mistake”

Okay. That’s it. I’m interrupting my writing blog to comment on an act of racism. The ESPN writer, Anthony Federico, the one who wrote the culturally insensitive and frankly racist headline, “Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin’s 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets” has been fired.

Where do I begin?

First – According to CNN, Mr. Federico wants us all to know that he’d like to tell Jeremy Lin what happened and explain that this was an “honest mistake.”

Second – Who cares that it was an honest mistake? Would it be better if it were somehow dishonest? Does it matter less because this guy actually thinks of Chinese people as “Chinks.” Would it be someone better if he were someone who didn’t think of Chinese people in this way and was led astray by someone else?

Third – Where were the copyeditors? Did it not ring a bell anywhere that this was highly offensive. Does ESPN not have a STYLE GUIDE?

Fourth – Mr. Federico is sorry “if” he offended people and “if” he offended Jeremy Lin. Be real. Who likes to be referred to by an ethnic slur that is older than the people involved in this event?

Archie Bunker had his time upon the national stage. He opened an age of dialogue about racial terms that I thought had ushered in a new era of thoughtfulness that was more than skin deep. Evidently, not so much. At least not for Anthony Federico and ESPN.

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Free Kindle App – Gutsiest Move of the Decade?

Remember back when Jeff Bezos said he was going to make a gateway – or maybe a portal – to the web and the world said, “What’s that?” Bezos’ point was that in the future, all anyone would need to know — from a hot chick in LA to a grandma where ever grandmas hang out these days — to do any sort of shopping on the web would be —

Since we purchase pretty much everything from diapers to lawn mowers and computers at Amazon these days, you’ve got to hand it to the guy. He’s a visionary. Seems he never was worried all that much about making money selling books. And he’s done it again with the Kindle.

It’s the sort of device every book-addicted early -adopter had to have the second it came out. The thought of carrying around hundreds of books, with more for the asking at the speed of bandwidth and the price of jelly beans was just too much to resist. Did they do right by those customers as they upgraded and improved the Kindle? Of course not. No one ever does. It’s the bane of the early adopter.

What Amazon did do is create an incredible inventory of ebooks on Amazon – currently outselling physical books – as well as in the accounts of every Kindle owner. Enter Apple and the iPad or Barnes & Noble and the Nook. Talk about non-starters. If my books are already on Amazon, for my Kindle, why am I going to diddle with those?

To close the deal, Bezos and Amazon gave away the Kindle App for free, thus allowing their avid reader customers to read their Amazon-purchased Kindle books on any device!

Analysts predict there will soon come a time when 90% of the ebooks read on any device will be read through the Kindle app.

What can I say except …

Bezos calls it again!