Sunday, November 25, 2012

Reading The Headlines

I once had to compose headlines for a weekly newspaper. It isn't as easy as you might think. You need to tease the reader into taking in the first couple paragraphs, but you don't want to mislead him or her. Also, increasingly, more and more people get their news from just the headlines. I promise you that in the last week someone read these gems from the New York Times and was satisfied that they had a grasp of what might be happening in the world:

"Early Sales Push Undercuts Black Friday," "More Than 100 Dead In Bangladesh Fire," "Trade Deal Between Europe and US Gains Momentum."

What else do you need? 

And if you're not especially intellectually curious, or if you want a slant on your headlines, then try these from a few conservative newspapers: "Emboldened Gay Marriage Supporters Now Want more," "What Would Jesus Shoot? Churches Offer Gun Classes."  

And from the left? "Occupy Shows Solidarity with WalMart Workers," and " Your Smartphone's Dirty, Radioactive Secret."

But fear not, there are other headlines out there, headlines that truly offer us a look behind the curtain: "What are the odds? Sasquatch researcher says Bigfoot ravaged apple orchard in his backyard – and he has video to prove it " Well, thank God he can prove it.  Or... from The Examiner: "UFO: Washington Mountain Suggests Alien-like Base." 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Writing Real

My friend Joe Ponepinto said something to me last week which has stuck with me, "Stewart, why don't you try writing memoir?"

In the last few days, as I've struggled with a short story I'm working on, I've paused and tried to imagine what I could write about which wouldn't A) get me in trouble with someone either emotionally, or legally, and B) would be interesting enough for someone to invest in as a reader.

It occurred to me that I've written many revealing things on this blog. I've written some stuff about teaching and some stuff about my relationship with my parents and family. I've expressed outrage and joy and shaken my fist at the wind. But the blog isn't really memoir is it? The blog is five hundred words of anecdote masquerading as something of substance. Before someone can really open up (someone who isn't entirely crazy), the space element and the possibility of immediate and public comment shuts down real disclosure.

Still, since all writing is somewhat autobiographical in that it draws upon some level of prior experience regardless of the content, why not do memoir? I've worked as a movie critic, as a social worker, as a teacher. I've run for public office and engaged in glorious public stupidity.

Now, I just need to own it and find in my life the elements that make my fictional characters and the things they do interesting.