Tag Archives: books

six words can tell a story

“Brevity: a good thing in writing. Exploited by texters, gossip columnists, haikuists. Not associated with the biography genre. But then – why shouldn’t it be? Life expectancies rise; attention spans shrink. Six words can tell a story.”   -Lizzie Widdicombe, “Say It All in Six Words,” The New Yorker 

In the spirit of (shameless) cross- and self-promotion, I’d like to direct your attention to this article I wrote for SMITH on Tuesday, Notes from the Master of the Six-Word Meme. Yes, that’s me. The Master of the Meme. I’m thinking of putting that on my business cards. I guess I have to get business cards first. A meme, as I explain in the article, is the internet’s version of a chain letter. The one I’ve been following for the past four months asked people to take our concept – the six-word memoir – and write their own, tagging five other bloggers with the task. It’s easy, it’s fun, and people seem to love it; googling “six word memoir” and “meme” together yields 109,000 results. I’m not saying I’ve read every single one. But I have seen hundreds, thousands – many – and, for better or for worse, I’ve learned a whole lot about the blogosphere along the way. I’m not going to say anymore here, but please click the link if you’re interested. Summing it all up over at SMITH has  helped me to put the entire experience in perspective.

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timing and taste

“An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners’ names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought.” -Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook

Here in San Francisco, fog doesn’t cover or linger; it sweeps across the entire city in a matter of minutes.  I never knew fog could move so quickly, and it’s put me in a weird mood: muddled, chilled, and slightly queasy.  I’ve been wrestling with a few big life questions this past week, like what I’m doing out here, how long I’m going to stay, how to fix my increasingly dire financial situation.  My boss sent me a link to the wikipedia entry on quarter life crises; apparently my constant worries are as natural as they are distressing.  The role of writing – what to do with it, where to put it, how to someday (hopefully) sell it – underscores my overall concerns.  It’s been hard to ignore this past week, when a post about my summer job sparked more interest than all the others combined.

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california dreaming

“That is the stupidest story I ever heard, and I read the entire Sweet Valley High series.” -Moe, “Homer the Moe,” The Simpsons

I read a lot when I was younger.  Standard kids stuff, Narnia and Little House on the Prairie and all that.  Then in sixth grade, I read Julius Caesar for a book report.  It was a big leap, but I managed to trudge through it, relying heavily on the footnotes.  It should have been the start of my literary life: next Macbeth, then Dickens, then, I don’t know, Proust?  But something happened that year, something complicated and indescribable, and pretty soon, I was on my way to owning and/or reading every book in the entire Sweet Valley franchise.  

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welcome to shirley

“I wrote much of this in a room in our small farmhouse in the middle of nowhere in rural Pennsylvania and I think that was necessary. I was in no shape for human interaction for much of it, and being in this landscape allowed me to go deep into those cracks and crevices, feel that pain again, and stay there a while.” -Kelly McMasters

I spend most of my days doing editorial work at the Commonwealth Club and desperately searching for ways to make money on the side.  But in my spare time, when I’m not doing things that normal young people like to do, I work for SMITH, an online magazine devoted to nonfiction, memoir, and collective story telling.  I caught SMITH at a weird, intense time – their first book, Not Quite What I Was Planning, was just hitting the New York Times bestseller list.  I was thinking about moving to New York and they were ready to toss me in with all the publicity and the readings and whatever they’re still doing over there.  And then I moved to San Francisco.

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the place to be

Well this is, as you can tell, my first book tour. It’s the first book I’ve ever written, and I can’t tell you how much I love it! I walk around the house hugging it. I love the heft of it and the permanence of it and I even love the fragrance – a fresh book has a fragrance to it. I try to sneak looks at it but my wife catches me every time. She says, “Put the book down!'” -Roger Mudd

I can’t imagine having a conversation with a national news anchor. Wolf Blitzer is too scary, Brian Williams is too polished, and so many of the rest seem to let the teleprompter do all the work. I can imagine meeting Anderson Cooper at a cocktail party and getting really flustered. But their unapproachability gives them this false air of authority, boosted by slick graphics and intense theme music. People wax nostalgic for the old network newscasts and those steady, honest anchors. They probably weren’t particularly accessible, but at least they seemed smart, trustworthy, and genuinely charming. I get frustrated when older journalists rail against our generation and the bleak future of reporting, but when I went to see one of those old anchors a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help but think that we’re all missing out on something these days.

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