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Writing for mags like The New Yorker, GQ, Esquire, etc.

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by WaylonJennings, Oct 22, 2008.

  1. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Thanks, my friend.
  2. SixToe

    SixToe Well-Known Member

    It was touched on earlier to maintain contacts, keep phone numbers, email addresses and other information for that one possibly desperation call or email.

    While reading through the bio for William Langewiesche on "The New New Journalism" site (www.newnewjournalism.com) it says in the hours after the 9/11 attacks he and an editor were discussing how to cover it. Access was limited.

    "He flew to New York and found that only limited-access press passes were available. He and his editor sent two faxes, one to City Hall and one to Kenneth Holden, the commissioner of the little-known Department of Design and Construction. It turned out that not only was Holden an enormous fan -both of the writer and The Atlantic Monthly - but he had read several of Langewiesche's books. Holden gave Langewiesche unlimited access to the site and all meetings concerning the physical cleanup -making him the only journalist with such privileges."

    Lucky? I would argue it was a smart decision to try to ease in the side door and it paid off. It could have as easily been making contact with an acquaintance from a dinner party or sporting event, but remembering who they are and where they worked. One call could open the door.

    A friend at another newspaper told me recently he will be changing beats and moving into the main office from an outlying area. The last few weeks he has been forming his contact list of coroners, medical response locations, hospitals, funeral home directors, law enforcement agencies and other associated agencies.
  3. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Re SixToe's post about contacts:

    I have giant rolodex wheels that go back to (mumble mumble), and every business card I've ever been given. Every so often, I go through the whole mess...reminds me of people I forgot I knew, and sometimes gives me an idea or reason to get in touch with an old contact.

    You never know.
  4. here is a link that speaks to the work habits, personalities and the unpredictable peaking of great creative minds.... and encourages anyone who thinks their chance has passed....


  5. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    A quick note of thanks to Michelle for posting that New Yorker piece. My wife handed me the magazine a couple of weeks ago folded open to that very article, knowing that Ben Fountain and I shared something in common as to how and when we came to writing. She knows too that I take comfort in the success of my contemporaries, because it means that I might yet succeed.

    As to Monsieur Cezanne, and the late full bloom of excellence, it's balm to geezers like me to know that there's always time to get better at this.

    So a word this morning about discouragements.

    Part of what we're talking about on this thread is how any writer anywhere rises to that next level in their work. Whatever that level may be.

    Some of which can be done by mastering craft and working harder and smarter, etc., etc.

    But part of that rise has to do with failure and how we cope with it. Because what we do nearly always fails to reach the heights we'd hoped for it. This is as true for an Oates or an Updike as it is for a dewy kid starting out on a rural weekly. The work is never what you'd hoped. It gets close sometimes, but much more often turns to ashes in your hands.

    So that kid and Updike and I all resolve to do better the next time. The trick to which, I think, is to believe very deeply in the absolute value of what we do.

    For example, I have a piece coming out shortly that isn't by my lights very good. I did my best in the circumstance, but to me it's just a tidy little bouquet of ash.

    Now here's the part where I'd normally incline toward a pep talk. To bolster my own resolve much more than to bolster yours. But what I'm going to say this morning is this: to succeed at this - at any level - you have to do something counterintuitive. You must embrace failure. And you must do so because failure is the natural state of artists and artisans everywhere. And in order to do so, I think you have to disconnect the process of creation from the result.

    So, whether you're trying to storm the ramparts at The New Yorker, or just write your way onto a slightly bigger weekly, you must love the process, the act of writing, the life of writing, rather than covet the outcome of having written.

    Just a thought for a Thursday.
  6. friend of the friendless

    friend of the friendless Active Member

    Mr macg,

    I'm inclined to say "My young friend," but I digress.

    Towards the end of your entry you talk about embracing failure--I have embraced it like the Mighty Igor's bear hug, they're ringing the bell and I won't let go. What's interesting to me about the creative process is to see journals, sketchbooks and the like. One thing that I believe is that the discovery of unpublished work by a great author rarely turns out to be the finding of a diamond. In fact, that it was unpublished while other stuff reached the audience probably tells us more about the choices the author makes, his biggest swings-and-misses, or how far he would stretch the flawed idea. I wonder if that might be a component of the Writer's Workshop--you know, if on one of the threads you or another of the heavyweights might show the drafting process, the first or rough drafts and then a link to the final story.

    Just a random thought.

    YHS, etc

    YD&OHS, etc
  7. Colton

    Colton Active Member

    I'm embarrassed to admit I just began reading this thread but once I started, I could not stop. Sort of like a great book.

    Now, I feel like a sponge, one that came here dry as my late grandfather's scalp and now soaked to the gills.

    Thank you.
  8. goalmouth

    goalmouth Well-Known Member

    There was a time, when Sports Illustrated was still a platinum product, that it would publish short, one-page back-of-the-book filler pieces from unknown authors. I guess that gave most of us the wrong idea, so they stopped doing it...

    Someone said here that no two paths to a top mag assignment are the same, and it's true. Mine was more or less equal parts desire, luck, networking and being in the right place at the right time (see Luck). As a magazine editor, you're always staring at a mostly black hole, wondering how in hell you'll fill those other pages. It helps to get a referral -- that's a foot in the door for a writer -- but an editor isn't going to know what he or she has got until the raw copy presents itself.

    As far as unknowns go, it was about ideas first and talent second. There are many successful writers whose reporting and idea skills far outdistance their ability to write a really good sentence. But give me a really good idea, and a good editor can make it work.

    Feel free to PM me with any questions.
  9. In Exile

    In Exile Member

    Couple of wise quotes to ponder from a story from the Guardian entitled "Seymour Hersh: The Man Who Knows Too Much."

    " 'There's a huge difference between writing and thinking.' Not that he has much time for those who put cosy pontification over the graft of reporting: 'I think... My colleagues! I watch 'em on TV, and every sentence begins with the words: "I think." They could write a book called I Think.' "

    " How does Hersh operate? The same way as he's always done: it's all down to contacts. Unlike Bob Woodward, however, whose recent books about Iraq have involved long and somewhat pally chats with the President, Hersh gets his stuff from lower down the food chain. Woodward was one of those who was convinced that WMD would be found in Iraq. 'He does report top dollar,' says Hersh. 'I don't go to the top because I think it's sorta useless. I see people at six o'clock in the morning somewhere, unofficially.' "

    Worth a read: http://www.truthout.org/110508T
  10. SixToe

    SixToe Well-Known Member

    I heard some NPR segmented interviews with Studs Terkel - I believe Terri Gross did them - after his death a few weeks ago.

    One thing stood out and I've always thought this is important. Terkel said: "It's a conversation, rather than an interview."

    Here's a link - www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96724840
  11. I read an interview with Jane Kramer yesterday in the "New New Journalists" (Kramer is 70, so not sure how "new" she is, but whatever), and she said essentially the same thing:

    "I try to get conversations going and, if I'm lucky, they take on their own shapeand form. That way, I can observe how a particular person improvises. I learn more about the person I'm interviewing that way. Although in a real conversation I'm a lot more straight-forward about my opinions."


    "It doesn't matter whether it's the president of a country or the concierge of an apartment -- everything depends on the kind of rapport you have. The rapport needn't necessarily be a friendly one. It can be hostile."

    BTW, that book is a huge source of inspiration. Any time I want to kickstart my Serious Writer aspirations, I pull it off the shelf and I'm raring to go in no time.
  12. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    Came across this blog ... http://dailyroutines.typepad.com/daily_routines/

    Basically, it's about how artists (mainly writers) organize their days. I think some of it could apply to people wanting to be elite magazine writers.
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