This week is women’s week on Storyboard. We spotlight wonderful writers like Katherine Boo, Sarah Lyall, Harper Lee and Elizabeth Bowen. But get this — all the writers of the posts are women too. Kind of cool, no? This theme grew organically, with no grand plan to raise a feminist flag, but that makes the result even more sweet. (Oh, and if guys are feeling a bit left out, don’t fret: Two of the soundtracks are by men.)

Katherine Boo

Katherine Boo speaks at last year's Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Texas.

Katherine Boo’s 15 rules for narrative nonfiction — now this is a “must read.” These amazing “rules” from Pulitzer winner (and journalism rock star) Katherine Boo got a huge reaction on social media, and for good reason. The tips, which she delivered at the Mayborn Literary Journalism Conference last weekend, are wonderful. I think my favorite is this quote with No. 12: “I’ve come to believe quite strongly that the American reading public is more hungry and sophisticated than we give it credit for. What is this convention in journalism that every reader has to get every line? They don’t.” Thanks to our Mayborn correspondent, Katia Savchuk, for a great post.

The soundtrack: “The Right Stuff,” by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Sure, this song doesn’t hit the highs of “Wonderwall” or a lot of other Oasis songs, but Gallagher has a freaky gift for songwriting. Here, he gets into a bit of a dancey groove that I’m liking.

One Great Sentence

“Summer was our best season: it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape.”

Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Read why we think it’s great.

Oh, for the days when "glamour" and "air travel" went together.

Oh, for the days when "glamour" and "air travel" went together.

Sarah Lyall and (the hilarious) “Paying a Price for 8 Days of Flying in America.”  Oh, how Sarah Lyall makes me laugh. And new contributor Julia Shipley not only feels the same, but also has a touch of the Lyall about her. Consider this lede: “Whoever said ‘It is better to travel than to arrive’ wasn’t sitting next to Sarah Lyall aboard American Airlines Flight 1886 en route from Iowa to Arizona at the moment she tried to open her single serving of yogurt.” It’s one of my missions at Storyboard to spotlight funny storytelling — or, as Julia writes, “voicey longform.” This reported essay about the Hunger Games-ish hell of traveling coach for eight days is a pitch-perfect example of it.

The soundtrack: “Waitress in the Sky,” by the Replacements. This should be the anthem of those in coach. “Paid my fare, don’t want to complain/You get to me, you’re always outta champagne/Treat me like a bum, don’t wear no tie/You ain’t nothin’ but a waitress in the sky.”

What I’m reading online: Let’s keep with the women theme, shall we? For starters: Where Are the Mothers? In this piece for sister site Nieman Reports, Katherine Goldstein writes, “In the conversation about how to create more diversity and gender balance in newsrooms, one group has been routinely ignored: mothers. What are newsrooms doing to retain women who have or plan to have children, to make sure more women stay in the talent pipeline?” The deck hed could be a manifesto: “If news organizations want to attract and retain millennial journalists, newsrooms must better meet the needs of parents with young children—and create better work-life balance for everyone.”

And Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings site is a near-daily read for me. (I recommend the newsletter.) In this post, she talks about the book by Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, “When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.” It’s full of great advice, including this one: “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

What’s on my bedside table: “The Heat of the Day,” by Elizabeth Bowen. Or should I say by “the criminally underappreciated Elizabeth Bowen”? Because she should be famous for her powers of observation, both of the seen and the hidden. How about this line, about at an outdoor concert? “Married couples who had sat down in apathetic closeness to one another could be seen to begin to draw a little apart, each recapturing some virginal inner dream.” Or this one that quickly follows:  “To be sitting packed among other people was better than walking about alone. At the last moment, this crowned the day with meaning. For there had been moments, heightening towards the end, when the Sunday’s beauty — for those with no ambition to cherish, no friend to turn to, no love to contemplate — drove its lack of meaning into the heart.” Sunday afternoon coming down…

What’s on my turntable: “Right On,” by Maxine Weldon. I chose this for women’s week on Storyboard because of her joyous yet fierce face on the cover. Right on! And I love that she covers Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” turning it on its head, and that Leonard Feather wrote the liner notes, ending: “If Maxine Weldon is not hell-bent for the upper echelons of show business, all I can say is grits ain’t groceries, eggs and poultry and Mona Lisa was a man.”

If you want to chat about storytelling (or music), I’m Storyboard editor Kari Howard, and you can reach me at Or you can find me at @karihow on Twitter.

Most popular articles from Nieman Storyboard

Show comments / Leave a comment