Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, guys! I’m looking forward to a long weekend of reading by a large body of water (my favorite activity), spending time with friends, consuming lots of tasty food/drink, and seeing if Bodo prefers swimming to dozing in the sun. Let’s get the weekend started with some book reviews in fifteen words or fewer:

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard
Started slow, but I didn’t want to leave Pen and friends behind. So many feels!

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Thoughtful and nuanced look at the complexities of elder and end-of-life care.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
A thrilling adventure through four different (mostly) magical Londons. I’d also like Kell’s coat.

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, everybody! It’s been a week, and for some reason it’s snowing again, but that’s a good excuse to stay inside and talk about what I’ve been reading in fifteen words or fewer.

Irises by Francisco X. Stork
Touching story about sisters, sacrifice, grief, and moving on.

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
Another fantastic Tiffany Aching book; excellent look at fear and violence.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Powerful and moving account of the amazing black women who got us to the stars.

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, everybody! We’re digging out of a snowstorm here in the Boston area, which means all I want to do this weekend is curl up with a lot of books and baked goods. (Gotta get a run in there, too.) In the meantime, let’s kick things off with a couple of book reviews in fifteen words or fewer.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
A beautiful story about family and kindness and the power of stories.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Epic and engaging look at the history of cancer. Literally cried at some parts.

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
Whether it’s poetry or books for adults or YA, Woodson more than delivers.

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, guys! My week has mostly been sneezing and hacking and staring out the window like a recluse in a Victorian novel. But I’ve also gotten a little reading in, so let’s kick the weekend off with my fifteen-word-max reviews.

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
I already loved the show; now I love the book, which features more obstetrics.

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
I love the Penderwicks more and more with each book. Batty is a joy.

Friday Fifteen

So. It’s been a week. I haven’t felt particularly writer-y this week, and a lot of other, smarter people have already said smart things about the election and its results.

This week I was also reading 26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey into the Heart of the Boston Marathon by Michael Connelly. I loved reading the history of the marathon and going step by step in the route and remembering all the excitement of last year. I remembered the emotions of the 2013 marathon and the bombing and how the week after felt then, too. But I remembered how even in hard times, good people prevail. We need to stay strong together and fight for each other.

So instead of a regular Friday Fifteen, here’s a (fifteen words or fewer) quote I particularly liked from 26.2 Miles to Boston. It’s from five-time wheelchair division champion Jim Knaub:

“Just concern yourself with what’s ahead–anything behind you doesn’t matter.”

Keep fighting. Keep moving forward.

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, all! I was feeling the good writing vibes this week, and I’m looking forward to a beautiful weekend here in the Boston area. Let’s get things started with a look at what I’ve been reading and writing in fifteen words or fewer.

ReadingRise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt
This made me wish I’d been naturally better at science. High five, NASA ladies!

Writing: It always seemed like friendship at first but they always wanted something.
Girl, you gotta stop being so suspicious.

Storytelling and Reporting

Gene Weingarten is one of my favorite feature writers ever. He knows how to craft a story and isn’t afraid to look at complicated characters. A couple of pieces he’s written are “The Peekaboo Paradox,” about children’s performer the Great Zucchini, and “Fatal Distraction,” about parents who accidentally leave their children behind in a car on a hot summer day. Both are heartbreaking and wonderfully written, and I highly recommend checking them out.

Writer’s Digest has an interview with Weingarten about the writing process. About storytelling and reporting:

One of the things I admire about your work is that you consistently prove that great writing begins with great reporting. Talk about the importance of reporting.
Well, let’s start with the maxim that the best writing is understated, meaning it’s not full of flourishes and semaphores and tap dancing and vocabulary dumps that get in the way of the story you are telling. Once you accept that, what are you left with? You are left with the story you are telling.

The story you are telling is only as good as the information in it: things you elicit, or things you observe, that make a narrative come alive; things that support your point not just through assertion, but through example; quotes that don’t just convey information, but also personality. That’s all reporting.

What distinguishes a well-told story from a poorly told one?
All of the above. Good reporting, though, requires a lot of thinking; I always counsel writers working on features to keep in mind that they are going to have to deliver a cinematic feel to their anecdotes. When you are interviewing someone, don’t just write down what he says. Ask yourself: Does this guy remind you of someone? What does the room feel like? Notice smells, voice inflection, neighborhoods you pass through. Be a cinematographer.

Very much like Weingarten’s focus on the story itself, not extraneous flourishes, and creating a cinematic feel in a piece. Even though this is about nonfiction, I think both of these tips are extremely useful to fiction writers as well.