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Archive for March, 2012

This one’s been in the works for awhile. My four-part essay series on traveling Southeast Alaska by state ferry is being published on World Hum throughout this week. Part one, The Roughest Place in the World, went live today.

Check it out, and stay tuned for the rest!

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I leave tomorrow morning, and will be working at the Up Here office there for at least a couple of months before I make it back to Whitehorse. I’m really excited to get to know a second northern city.

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Awhile back I added Esquire’s Chris Jones to my collection of writers and their origin stories. I got the story of Jones’ big break from his blog, which turns out to be kind of a gold mine for people – like me – who like to geek out on other writers talking about their writing.

Are you one of those people, too? Check these posts out:

How It Begins includes the actual email exchange that led to Jones landing the assignment for The Things That Carried Him, a 2009 National Magazine Award winner for feature writing.

Losing’s Reward is a brutally honest post about Jones’ Roger Ebert profile missing out on the National Magazine Award nominations, and Fear is about, well, the fear and doubt that infect the writing process.

NO lists 20 things that “should rarely if ever appear anywhere near your copy.”

Bonus link: Jones’ Esquire colleague Scott Raab also posted some writing advice on his site awhile back. This is the meat of it:

Writers love to write — and not because it’s easy. Getting it right isn’t easy at all, and that challenge is a big part of why writers love to write. It’s a high, working on your game, a way of being in the world that feels absolutely honest and true.

Anyone, especially in his or her twenties, saying ‘I have no time to write’ because of a job or anything else is full of crap. Writers write. If you can’t find time to write, don’t worry about becoming a writer. You’re not a writer. You’ll never be a writer. Find something else that lights you up.

Same with reading. Anybody who has no time to read isn’t a writer. All the work necessary to learn how to write boils down to reading and writing. This is not subtle or nuanced advice, obviously. I stress it here because of how often I talk to people who seem to think there’s a shortcut. I know no shortcuts.

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I was catching up on some back issues of Harper’s a few weeks back, and this quotation about the author of In Patagonia and The Songlines caught my eye:

He saved travel writing by changing its mandate: After Chatwin, the challenge was to find not originality of destination but originality of form.

Among those who have followed Chatwin, the most interesting have forged new forms specific to their chosen subjects: thus Pico Iyer’s sparkily hyperconnective studies of globalized culture and William Least Heat-Moon’s “deep maps” of America’s lost regions. Perhaps most important were W.G. Sebald’s enigmatic “prose fictions” — particularly Rings Of Saturn — that likewise hover between genres, make play with unreliability, and fold in on other forms: traveler’s tale, antiquarian digression, and memoir. What Sebald, like so many of us, learned from Chatwin was that the travelogue could voyage deeply in time rather than widely in space, and that the interior it explored need not be the heart of a place but the mind of the traveler.

(It’s from “Voyagers: The restless genius of Patrick Leigh Fermor and Bruce Chatwin,” by Robert Macfarlane, in the November 2011 issue.)

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