Essays On Craft

Natural Narratives

By Essays on Craft February 16, 2007

[Editor’s Note: These comments are adapted from a talk given by Michael Pollan at the 2006 Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism.] Book by book, project by project, it’s usually hard to say who you are as a writer or what … Read more

Voice and Meaning

By Essays on Craft December 1, 2006

[Editor's note: This essay first appeared on transom.org, "a showcase and resource for new public radio."] Dear Transomistas, It was daunting to have Jay Allison’s invitation to be a guest on Transom.org, because I’m no insider to radio production. I … Read more

Endings

By Essays on Craft October 13, 2006

[Note: The following is an edited transcript from a talk at the 2001 Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. It first appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of Nieman Reports.] The ending is something special. The ending is the last word. Read more

The Heart Attack Beat

By Essays on Craft August 8, 2006

For an ambitious young reporter who loved writing stories, it sounded like the assignment of a lifetime. My editor, Joel Rawson, wanted daily narratives for the front page of The Providence Journal. The idea also seemed impossible. I’d written narratives … Read more

Why We Should Care: Writing Well about Endangered Kids

By Essays on Craft June 7, 2006

Many—surprisingly, perhaps most—of the stories we read for this site are about, or involve, children we worry about: They're alone, ill, miseducated, lost in the system, abandoned or abused. Mark Kramer calls such pieces "endangered children" stories. They're attractive to newspaper writers because children are of universal concern to the community. Portray a child in a fix and everyone cares. But precisely because the dilemmas of children are emotionally fraught, writers run the risk of veering into mawkishness—a tack that's too easy and that often evades the social complications at the heart of any story. We asked Barry Siegel, director of the literary journalism program at UC Irvine, to offer some advice. Read more

The Persuasive Narrator

By Essays on Craft May 23, 2006

We call lots of things “stories” in American journalism, but very few of them are true narrative storytelling. Most journalistic accounts are reports, whose primary purpose is to pass along information to readers. Reports require certain writing strategies to help readers … Read more