I wanted to highlight a few examples of great writing I’ve come across lately. There’s really nothing better, if you love writing, than a really nice piece of prose to transport you somewhere else.
I’ll start with this story about a small Idaho town engulfed in controversy after some parents complained about how their students were being taught sex-ed. This story grabbed national headlines, but I thought this local reporter did a really good job taking a step back and telling the larger story.
I loved the introduction: “The first building to greet you in Dietrich is a small church with a tall white steeple. It sits on the bottom of a hill, shielding most of the town from the rest of the outside world.
At the back of 330-person Dietrich is its one and only school building. Inside those brick walls is a science instructor who became a household name.”
The writing here is cinematic, unfolding like the beginning of a movie. You can read the rest of Kimberlee Kruesi’s story here.
The next example comes from a somewhat unusual place.
I should just come right out and admit that I’m a fan of celebrity gossip sites, your Star Magazines, your Intouch Weeklies, I don’t discriminate, I love them all. It’s a habit that started early on in my career as a journalist, when I realized that breaking news can not only be fast-paced and exhilarating but also incredibly depressing. You can only take in so much of the misery before you need an outlet, some junk food for your brain, if you will.
So, a few years ago, I started to head toward the nearest newsstand on my way home from work on Fridays. The habit went online when the paper version got too expensive (i know, i know, i’m helping kill print media).
But this brings us to the Daily Mail, the UK-based paper that has, arguably, the best celebrity news website ever. It both satisfies my celebrity news addication and allows me to indulge the anglophile in me as i come across phrases such as “using the loo” and “smoking a fag.”
Headlines include: “Snooki flaunts 40-pound weight loss” and “Model mom! Giselle walks around Manhattan in skinny jeans” and ‘I don’t speak to my parents anymore,” says troubled Amanda Bynes”
I know, pure stupidity.
But then, earlier this week, there was this jewel: A story about women trying on their wedding dresses years after their big day. I was struck by this woman, Shona Sibary, 41, who got married in August 1999.
“My wedding dress has been stowed under a bed for 14 years. The thought of retrieving it is to resurrect a part of me I’m not entirely sure still has a pulse.
Photographs from the day — and it was a glorious day — show me brimming with happiness.
I have no worry lines, no flab, no puffy bags. With Keith by my side, I look as if I can take on the world. Today, I haven’t got the energy to take on a pile of laundry, let alone the world.
Wow. That is some eloquent depression. She continues:
Putting it on again is an unsettling reminder that I am now a frumpy, middle-aged mother with three more children added to the brood and another stone-and-a-half added to the scales.
I expected to have a little trouble doing up the zip, but I am horrified to discover that the dress won’t come together at all.
The lovely halterneck that once complemented my young, sculpted shoulders and upper arms now accentuates my bingo wings and makes me feel as if someone is strangling me.
See what I mean? I don’t even know what “bingo wings” are but they can’t be good if they’re included in this assessment of herself. She ends with this:
“My wedding day was a brief moment in time when expectation exceeded reality. It would be impossible to look that good again. Even if I could do up the dress.”
I hope this woman finds a way to be happy, but more than that, I also hope she keeps writing.
And lastly, we end with the prolific writer, Roger Ebert.
Roy Peter Clark at the Poynter Institute offered up this touching homage to the now-deceased film critic’s writing. I loved this line from Roy’s take.
“What made Ebert a good writer? Notice I am not using the word “great” because good is good enough, especially if you’ve been good for more than forty years.”
Early on in my career, I spent hours and hours pouring over stories, writing and re-writing leads before deciding they weren’t good enough and scrapping them altogether. I really can’t get to the rest of the story until I love the beginning, and even though some writers make it look easy, the process can be torture.
At my last job, I placed a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to be perfect. A colleague who was probably sick of watching me beat my head against the wall offered the following mantra: Perfect is the enemy of good.
It stuck, and I’m a better writer because of it.