Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Unknown City

Several years ago at an ASJA luncheon, I had the opportunity to meet lifelong New Yorker Pete Hamill. Whether fiction or nonfiction, Hamill writes about New York City.

I love the feeling in New York City with its rich heritage and diversity. It's fun for me to melt into the crowd and ride the subway to different parts of the city. I often purchase a seven-day unlimited pass to ride to different parts of the city. It's normal for New Yorkers but it stirs a sense of adventure for me to go uptown or downtown on the local or express trains.

Later this month, New York will be the host for Book Expo America. In honor of that event, Publisher’s Weekly included a stirring piece from Hamill about his city. Hamill writes, "Nobody truly knows New York, not even most New Yorkers. The city is too large, too dense and layered to be intimately known by anyone. I was born here, the first son of Irish immigrants, during the first term of Franklin D. Roosevelt. I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, attended schools here, and worked for more than 40 joyous years as a reporter and columnist on the newspapers of the wider city." I loved how the heritage and memories of the long tradition of the city are woven into this article. I hope you will read the entire article.

How can you weave this type of emotion and detail into your own writing? Can you capture the sense of place in your nonfiction magazine articles? Can you take me to the place with your fiction? It takes continual creative work for each of us to find the right words for each piece of our writing. Many people aren't willing to do this work. Today I'd encourage you to lift your head and rise up beyond the ordinary in your writing. You can do it with the right amount of energy and effort. Let's learn from the example from Pete Hamill.

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