I thought I'd share the one word processing feature I can't live without: screen splitting.
It's the reason I refuse to write in the Post-Gazette's content management system or basically any word processor that isn't Microsoft Word. When I'm done I copy the text over to Libercus so it can be published. Word's split-screen function is well worth the extra step.
Here's the how-to: Open a document, click "view" on your menu bar, then choose "split screen." You can use your mouse to place the split wherever you want it in the document, and you can scroll through it to view different parts of the same document simultaneously. I write my stories on the top of the document and put all my notes underneath. Using the split screen I can see my notes and my story at the same time and everything is all together.
There are other ways to achieve the same effect, for example, by opening two different windows side-by-side. Sometimes I do this as well, for example, if I'm getting information from a website or an email message. More typically, though, I copy and paste whatever content I need into the bottom of my Word doc and view it there.
Writers, give split screen a try, but in the end do what works best for you.
"It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."
"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;" Your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."
"The importance of the writer is that he is here to describe things which other people are too busy to describe."
"I made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short."
"Not that the story need be long, but it will take a while to make it short."
Henry David Thoreau
Do you have a favorite quote about writing? Share it in the comments.
I've kind of ghosted on my blog readers lately. It's because I've been busy ghosting.
I've been working on a fascinating non-fiction book based on the lives of two artists. I really wish I could say more but I signed a non-disclosure agreement. That's the downside of ghosting. I'm really proud of the work I've been doing but I'm not allowed to tell you about it.
I've also got two big transcription clients now so I'm busy, busy, busy. That explains the lack of blog posts.
My goal here is no secret. I'm trying (and mostly succeeding!) to get in the groove of managing multiple projects and clients so that I'm in a good position to freelance, ghostwrite and transcribe full-time. This started out as my Plan B in case of a work stoppage at my full-time job, which is a real possibility in light of our labor dispute. Now, though, I think it's on the way to becoming Plan A. I'm loving working with all my clients but I hope I'm not being spoiled. Maybe I've just gotten lucky and landed unusually terrific ones out of the gate.
Two more potential projects on the horizon: a smaller ghostwriting gig this summer and maybe a children's book project with a friend.
If you have a project you'd like to talk with me about, now is a good time to do it before my summer and fall schedule fills up.
I'm so excited for things to come!
It takes stamina to cover an event like the March for Our Lives rally in Washington. Carrying the right stuff can make long reporting days like this go a lot more smoothly, so I thought I'd write a post about what's in my MoJo bag.
Now, coffee is an excellent source of mojo, but what I’m talking about here is Mobile Journalism. MoJo. Get it?
I’m always interested in helpful tools and gadgets other reporters carry with them to make their jobs easier, so maybe people are interested in what I carry. The main thing is that I try to carry everything I need and nothing I don’t. That’s trickier than it sounds. Here’s what I’m bringing to the march starting clockwise in the upper left, where I have the all important SNACKS!
Fellow journalists and urban adventurers: What's in your go bag? Let me know in the comments.
Here are my best -- and most contradictory tips -- for conducting journalistic interviews. They boil down to this: 1.) Play smart. 2.) Play dumb. But before we even get to any of that there is one other essential rule you must follow: Never begin a journalistic interview without being properly caffeinated. Understood? Good. Now let's get to it.
A good lawyer never asks a question she doesn't already know the answer to. That's not true for journalists, but there is a lesson in that for us. My takeaway from that is that with a new source you should know the answers to the first few questions already. This helps you gauge credibility, gives you an idea of how your subject is going to spin the information, and also gives you a chance to divide your attention so you can notice things in the room -- photos on the desk, books on the shelf -- that could spark insightful questions or become revealing details in your piece.
Appear as if you know more than you do. In a tough interview, if you're trying to confirm information, ask your questions presumptively. Don't ask, "Did you shred the documents?" Instead ask, "Why did you shred the documents?"
But don't be afraid to look dumb in front of a source. It's much better to ask a stupid question in front of one person (or even in a room full of reporters) than to make an error that will be seen by thousands of readers who depend on you for accurate information. Go ahead and ask the dumb question. If you still don't understand, ask it again. "Can you explain that again another way?" Even if you do understand, it can be helpful to repeat the answer back intentionally incorrectly so the source will explain again.
Shut up. Silence is your friend. Be quiet and let your source talk.
Don't telegraph the big one. Don't say "I hate to ask you this, but . . ." Just ask your question.
Please add your own thoughts about interviewing in the comment section.
"A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" isn't on my Top 10 list of favorite books but its lengthy, honest and engaging preface may be one of the best things I've ever read. Now its edgy writer is coming out with -- I can't wait! -- "a true account of a scrappy underdog" who "surmounts immense obstacles to start his own coffee company."
That's according to The Washington Post's ultimately critical review which casts "The Monk of Mokha," as a patronizing trope of an immigrant trying to make his way in the coffee business.
The WaPo's take on books is often spot on, but I think I'll give this one a whirl anyway. Eggers had me at "biography" and "coffee." What more could I want in a book? Then I learned this was an immigrant's story and now I can't resist.
I'm working on my own long-form narrative piece on a Pittsburgh family that is terrified of being torn apart by federal immigration policy. I can't wait to see how Dave Eggers handles the subject of immigration.
"What didn't I ask you that I should have?"
If you don't ask some variation of this question, you could be missing out on the real story. Asking it requires you to be prepared for the unexpected, to be flexible and to hold your ego in check since what you're really doing is asking your source to point out where you've failed at a core part of your job. But it can lead to unexpected stories.
There are other ways to ask the question, so phrase yours in the way that makes the most sense to you. And, by all means, ask it more than once by changing up your wording. You'll be surprised at the answers people come up with after they've had a few minutes to think. The answers might be even better after a few hours or a day, so don't be afraid to follow up with a phone call to ask again.
I've asked these questions hundreds of times and almost everyone has had a helpful answer. Many times people raise angles I hadn't thought of, and their answers shape my reporting and sometimes lead to follow-up stories.
Sometimes they reiterate points they've already made, but this is helpful, too. It clarifies their values and allows me to better capture the essence of their position.
Most people want an opportunity to be heard. Ask questions that let them know you're listening.
What are your must-ask interview questions? Let me know in the comments section.
Welcome to Perkatory, the place where coffee and creativity converge.
I'm here to blog about how I manage my writing life, and I hope that you'll chime in with your own thoughts and we can help each other become better caffeine-fueled word artists. The focus, at least at first, will be on journalism and creative nonfiction, but I hope we can exchange ideas other genres as well, especially as I expand my portfolio to include ghostwritten memoirs.
My goal is to post weekly, but that may be ambitious while I manage my full-time job as a Washington reporter.
Come back next week to find out the one question you should ask at the end of every interview.