Show, don’t tell.
Learn from Jon Krakauer in Into the Wild.
I was working then as an itinerant carpenter, framing condominiums in Boulder for $3.50 and hour. One afternoon, after nine hours of humping two-by-tens and driving sixteen-penny nails, I told my boss I was quitting: “No, not in a couple of weeks, Steve; right now was more like what I had in mind.” It took me a few hours to clear my tools and other belongings… (135-136)
What Krakauer does here: There’s dialogue, but only one line. Rather than giving us the entire conversation, he gives us only what we most need to understand the substance of the conversation.
The lesson to learn: Let the people in your narrative speak, but use just what you need with dialogue. The reader may not need the entire conversation. Continue reading “Five things from Jon Krakauer’s Narrative Genius that You Should Steal and Use Immediately”
by Diana Marcum
Originally published by the LA Times, 30 May 2014
HURON, CALIFORNIA: The two fieldworkers scraped hoes over weeds that weren’t there.
“Let us pretend we see many weeds,” Francisco Galvez told his friend Rafael. That way, maybe they’d get a full week’s work.
They always tried to get jobs together. Rafael, the older man, had a truck. Galvez spoke English. And they liked each other’s jokes.
But this was the first time in a month, together or alone, that they’d found work.
Continue reading “Dreams Die in Drought: Drought Yields Only Desperation”
by Rachel R. Swarns
Originally published by the NYTimes, 16 April 2016
WASHINGTON — The human cargo was loaded on ships at a bustling wharf in the nation’s capital, destined for the plantations of the Deep South. Some slaves pleaded for rosaries as they were rounded up, praying for deliverance.
But on this day, in the fall of 1838, no one was spared: not the 2-month-old baby and her mother, not the field hands, not the shoemaker and not Cornelius Hawkins, who was about 13 years old when he was forced onboard.
Their panic and desperation would be mostly forgotten for more than a century. But this was no ordinary slave sale. The enslaved African-Americans had belonged to the nation’s most prominent Jesuit priests. And they were sold, along with scores of others, to help secure the future of the premier Catholic institution of higher learning at the time, known today as Georgetown University. Continue reading “272 Slaves Were Sold to Save Georgetown. What Does It Owe Their Descendants?”
by Lisa Chow
Originally published on Five Thirty Eight, 17 October 2014
Shirod Ince sat at the front of a line of more than 100 people, mostly guys in their early 20s, on a Friday evening last month. For two days, he and his friends had been taking turns waiting outside a Foot Locker in Harlem to buy the new LeBron sneaker. Through the long, restless hours, they had sustained themselves on Popeye’s, McDonald’s and a belief that it would all pay off in the end.
Ince had no plans to wear the new Nikes. No, for the past two years, the 22-year-old basketball coach has been reselling the sneakers he waits for. And he thought he could double, triple, possibly even quadruple his money for this particular pair, getting anywhere between $500 and $900 for a sneaker that was selling for $250 retail.
“I’ve been here since Wednesday. I have to get it,” he said. “It’s going to be crazy in the morning.”
Continue reading “You See Sneakers, These Guys See Hundreds Of Millions In Resale Profit”
by Eli Saslow
Originally published by The Washington Post, 7 September 2014
LOS ANGELES — The caseworker told Alex Ramirez he was being released from the immigration shelter, so the 10-year-old packed what was left of his belongings into a donated shoulder bag. He put on the rubber Tony the Tiger bracelet he wore for good luck and sneakers emblazoned with red flames. Then he visited a nurse for the last of eight mandatory immunizations, and she asked a version of the question he had been hearing for the past six weeks.
“Can you be brave?” he would later recall her asking in Spanish, and he told her that yes, he could.
He had been brave ever since leaving El Salvador at night in the company of a stranger and traveling more than 2,500 miles to cross into the United States. If there was one skill he had acquired during his long journey, it was how to affect toughness — how to stiffen his shoulders and spike up his wavy black hair with gel to make himself look a few inches taller and a few years older. “Estoy bien,” he remembered saying, again and again, to the trafficker who brought him and abandoned him, the Border Patrol agents who caught him, and the caseworkers at three government-run shelters who asked if he was okay. “I’m fine.” But in fact he was tired from the stiff cots, nauseated from the strange foods and anxious even now, as he waited at the shelter to be picked up by a mother who had left him behind six years before.
Continue reading “A 10-year-old immigrant faces risks, doubts on the journey to reunite with his mother”
by Benjamin Hochman
Originally published by the Denver Post
He was an old man who played baseball in a league for old men and he was the oldest of them all and he liked this. He arose each morning as incandescent as the sun itself and he carefully tucked in his uniform top and pulled his black socks high and crisp to his knees and was ready.
Lou Rotola turned 81 years old on this day, June 19th, 2015, and he drove an hour south from Fort Collins to Denver to play baseball.
“I can’t get a better gift, truthfully,” he said.
Continue reading “Baseball dreams for Lou Rotola, 81, grow with age”
by John Branch
Originally published in the NYTimes, 11 June 2015
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Afternoon gave way to evening, and the parade of restless clouds and the occasional bursts of rain had moved on from Yosemite Valley. In their wake was the empty quiet of Taft Point, 3,000 feet above a famous green valley going gray in late-day shadow.
There were no tourists, only a raven, black and unhurried, circling at the edge of the cliff. It spiraled upward, a silent signal of rising air. A good sign for BASE jumping and wing-suit flying.
Dean Potter, a 43-year-old professional climber and jumper, considered one of the world’s best in a wing suit, stood a few feet from Graham Hunt, 29, his apprentice and flying partner.
Continue reading “Lost Brother in Yosemite”
by Jane E. Brody
Originally published on the NYTimes Well Blog, 20 October 2014
Within a week of my grandsons’ first year in high school, getting enough sleep had already become an issue.
Their concerned mother questioned whether lights out at midnight or 1 a.m. and awakening at 7 or 7:30 a.m. to get to school on time provided enough sleep for 14-year-olds to navigate a demanding school day.
The boys, of course, said “yes,” especially since they could “catch up” by sleeping late on weekends. But the professional literature on the sleep needs of adolescents says otherwise.
Few Americans these days get the hours of sleep optimal for their age, but experts agree that teenagers are more likely to fall short than anyone else.
Continue reading “Hard Lesson in Sleep for Teenagers”
by Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times, July 15, 2016
Gaspar Marcos stepped off the 720 bus into early-morning darkness in MacArthur Park after the end of an eight-hour shift of scrubbing dishes in a Westwood restaurant.
He walked toward his apartment, past laundromats fortified with iron bars and scrawled with graffiti, shuttered stores that sold knockoffs and a cook staffing a taco cart in eerie desolation. Around 3 a.m., he collapsed into a twin bed in a room he rents from a family.
Five hours later, he slid into his desk at Belmont High School, just before the bell rang. The 18-year-old sophomore rubbed his eyes and fixed his gaze on an algebra equation.
Continue reading “Nearly 1 in 4 students at this L.A. high school migrated from Central America — many without their parents”