Category Archives: Community of writers

My guest spot on The Thinkingest

When fellow writer Bill Lascher invited me to appear on his podcast, The Thinkingest, I took one look at the title and knew I’d found a home.  Our conversation, largely about overthinking food, just came out. What is my (over)thinking regarding the White House Kitchen Garden, who advocates for food access, and bringing lunch to the office? How about Bill’s take on the proliferation of bacon? Find out in the blog post and podcast. Also follow Bill’s progress on a book about Melville Jacoby, the first Time Magazine reporter to die in the line of duty.

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Science and religion

Photo by Flickr user kkfea

Every Yom Kippur, I take my attention away from my growling stomach and the repentant prayers for a moment to think  I should write about this. I never do. Luckily, Gabe Popkin, a friend and graduate student in science writing at Johns Hopkins, has now done it for me. Gabe addresses the psychological and spiritual effects of going without food for religious purposes in The Sieve. I am honored to be one of the people he quoted for the piece, along with a rabbinical student, a Muslim community leader, and a D.C. cab driver.

Grab a snack and check out “Yom Kippur and the Science of Fasting.”

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Discerning the Videofreex

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A woman with an automatic rifle was one of the images in a Videofreex screening held in Washington, D.C. in January 2011. Photo by Rhea.

The package came a couple of months ago. It contained a free copy of Nancy Cain’s Video Days: And what we saw though the viewfinder. The author had signed the title page, “To Rhea with love. (Videofreex: the next generation)”

I tucked into the book eager to learn more about my father’s life before I existed, hoping to understand more now that he’s gone. I found something unexpected.

Video Days chronicles Nancy’s adventures beginning in the era of 30-pound cameras that democratized the art. It continues until 1996, a few years short of the one-handed Flip Cam era. During the social revolution that straddled the late ’60s and early ’70s, the young Nancy runs off to join the New York video-making collective known as the Videofreex. There, she works alongside my dad, Chuck Kennedy. They all live in a rambling former boarding house in Lanesville, N.Y.

Somewhere in this Freex section, I hit a passage that struck me as familiar:

Chuck was born in the Bronx and spent a large part of his youth in a Catholic orphanage. At a certain point, he was given the choice between reform school or the Army, so he joined up. In the Army, Chuck learned electronics and saw the world. Continue reading

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“Are you trying to decide…?”

-“Are you trying to decide between two workshops?”

-“I really appreciated what you said on the panel.”

-[At reception] “Do you mind if I just put my beer here?”

-[Reading name tag] “Hello, Tom.”

    …Four ways to start a conversation with a fellow conference-goer

-Throwbacks coming back: Unedited storytelling, knitting, fermentation

-Child adoption statistics: Where, who, and why around the U.S., a data journalism story

-My memoir about Science Olympiad and snow days in clickable essay form

      …Three story ideas I generated this weekend

    …Two fragments of a conversation

-“A Short List is made from your experience or research or daily life.
You read it out loud for about 60 seconds and then tell us at the
end what the list WAS. It’s a story, with the title at the end.”

      …One explanation Jay Allison gives of his concept

A list of Short Lists inspired by  NarrativeArc: Storytelling journalism goes digital

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Strunk and White debunked

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E.B. White first encountered The Elements of Style at Cornell in 1919, when it was self-published by the precise and aging hand of his English professor, William Strunk Jr. White revised the book in 1959, and commenced to counsel and derange generations of writers.

When I assigned the fourth edition of the slim silver volume to my class, I had to look closer. And I was surprised. Instead of acting as an extension of Professor Strunk’s knobby finger, explaining with cold clarity at which point to use “who” and when “whom,” many of the book’s supposed rules are merely suggestions. Perhaps even more delightful, the book rarely takes itself seriously.

So why do so many writers?

To straighten the record and lighten your mood, I give you:

Three myths about Strunk and White

Myth #1: It’s stuffy and outdated.

Au contraire. Some of the examples make me LOL, while others border on X-rated. Turn to the section “Misused Words and Expressions.” Look up nauseous vs. nauseating. The book counsels readers not to say you feel nauseous “unless you are sure you have that effect on others.” Continue reading

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‘How to Tutor Your Own Child’ published this week

Rube_Tutor Own Child compMy friend Marina just published her first book, How to Tutor Your Own Child: Boost Grades and Inspire a Lifelong Love of Learning, on August 2.   I had the honor of following Marina’s progress through the writing, editing, and publication process. I may have even suggested a subtitle or two. I look forward to seeing the culmination of that journey at the book launch later today.

Congratulations, Marina! This one-time unschooler fully endorses this publication. And my future kids say “thanks.”

Announcement:

Do you interact with a school-age student–or know anyone who does?  If so, read on:

I’m pleased to announce the publication of How to Tutor Your Own Child: Boost Grades and Inspire a Lifelong Love of Learning, which was released on August 2, 2011.  The book is available in print and digital form from Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House. Continue reading

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If a tree falls in a bulletin board of sticky notes…

Markers
A recent post in ProfHacker, a Chronicle of Higher Education blog, caught my eye. In “Writers’ Bootcamp: Organizing Intrusive Thoughts,” Billie Hara discusses ways to address–and dismiss, for the moment–thoughts that could thwart your writing process. Her solution to thought intrusion involves sticky notes, X and Y axes, and The Falling Tree Method.

I have a system similar to this, though lacking the fancy graph and use of newfangled apps mentioned in the comments. At work, I keep a small white board on my desk and render each random thought into a color-coded note (red marker for emails to compose, orange for things I need to do or write). At home, I grab a writing pad to jot down my To Do (Later!) list.

I would like to tell you that I do this because I’m ever so organized. The truth is, whether a distracting thought ends up in a list or forces me to attend to it right away can mean life or death for a writing session. The less I enjoy a writing task, the more dangerous these non sequiturs become and the closer a massacre creeps.

How do you handle distractions?

(Photo by Ian Brown via Flickr/Creative Commons license)

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