February 2010


“Writing Worth Reading” will be an ongoing feature of this blog wherein I will link to or recommend a piece of writing that I think showcases someone writing very well.

To start off this feature, I’m recommending two pieces.  The first is a piece from “Esquire” magazine about Roger Ebert, the film critic.  It was written by a man named Chris Jones.  The second selection is Mr. Ebert’s response to the piece.

Roger Ebert: The Essential Man is an observational interview piece based on Chris Jones spending two days with Mr. Ebert and the people close to him.  The point of Mr. Jones’s interview was to show people what Mr. Ebert has been doing in the four years since a sudden medical emergency robbed Mr. Ebert of his ability to speak.  Jones starts out giving us a view of Mr. Ebert as we know him: sitting in a movie theater making notes on a film he plans to review, and then he slowly unwinds the last four years so that we readers can understand how Mr. Ebert has become a man with no lower jaw, no ability to speak, fed from a GI-tube but still, essentially, the man people can recall clearly when they know the name Roger Ebert.

Roger Ebert’s response is a short blog entry, commenting on Mr. Jones’s version of events and where he agrees and disagrees.

I’m recommending these pieces because Chris Jones shows a strong talent for writing a biographical piece with an emotional heart that does not become saccharine or over-wrought.  The hope he shows the reader is real and strong, and his imagery presents a multi-faceted man in Roger Ebert, not just the known film critic, and not just the man who is now without his voice.  Roger Ebert’s response I’m recommending because it’s a prime example of how to respond to someone else’s version of your own story (whether biographical or otherwise).  He is understanding of Jones’s view, honest about his reaction, but never, ever rude or dismissive of how Jones views the events.

You can see how to write a piece with sadness and happiness on an even keel by reading Jones’s piece, and you can learn how to handle feedback and critique by reading Ebert’s response.

I started this blog with a list of topics I knew I wanted to cover.  I sat down last week to pick a topic to really start off the blog and ended up making a close approximation to this emoticon:

o.O

It’s not that I couldn’t sit down and write a blog entry about any of the topics I had listed; it’s that I didn’t feel any of them were right to start off this blog in the manner I find most fitting.

As with every kind of writing, the hardest part of blog writing is getting started.

I am a voice of experience in the matter.  I’ve written short stories and novels and news articles (fun, fun, and fun) and plays and poetry (not my forte).  I wrote a 30-page academic paper on the reactions of female comic book fans to character death in comic books (fascinating), and I’ve dabbled in non-fiction essays (good times).  But I’ve also written employee manuals and brochures and style guides (more fun) and a television series proposal (yeah, not doing that for a living).  And I’ve written mock-ups for ad copy and news broadcasts (fun but not my cup of tea).  Before my final semester of undergraduate work is over, I’ll write a movie premise (terrified), and I’ve definitely blogged before (enjoyable).

I tell people that I’m a Professional Writing major, and they nearly always ask, “What’s that?”

See above.

The way I see it, if it needs an editor, it’s professional writing.  You can call it your novel, your poetry, your song lyrics, or your crochet pattern, but at the end of the day, each of those types of writing has a particular format and a particular set of rules, and my career goal is to be the one who’s helping you make sure what you’ve written fits into its format.

There’s more to it than that, certainly, and I plan to talk about all those aspects on this blog, but for now, you get this first post (not counting my place-holding intro) with a smattering of my credentials from experience, and I get to take a deep breath and say, “Okay, that first post is written now,” and relax in the knowledge that the getting started has gotten started.

Other people have come ahead of me, but that doesn’t make my skills and knowledge any less valuable.  I’m a Professional Writing major at Missouri State University, and I hope to be getting my M.S. in Professional Writing at Portland State University in the fall.  This blog is here so I can talk about editing because I love it.  And with editing comes grammar, and I also love it.