I can feel again. I know it because of the tightness in my chest and the weight I’ve carried on my back, heavier than ever before. I know it because I missed him more this Thanksgiving than I did last year. Looking back, I know it’s because grief had anesthetized me last year, locked my broken heart in a box so that all the pieces would be kept close together in one place, ready to be reassembled someday.
One year. I’ve made it. Flora and I have made it. We have survived our first year without Mike.
Together, we’ve managed to plod through the muck, gulp for air and dive under these stormy waters we’ve sailed, holding our breath, and holding it, as we wait for the storm to subside, wait for the whirlpool to stop spinning. We’re still out there, swimming. We have each other as lifesaver.
A friend of mine wrote to me the other day, asking me about how I write. He wanted to know how I was able to find out which stories make a book, and which stories are better told as magazine or newspaper articles. "When have you reported enough to figure that out," he asked, "and how much of it emerges in the writing?" It's a question I often hear at book signings; besides their interest in the story of my book, The Fire Line, readers also want to know how I found out that it was a story worth telling in a book.
This spring, I taught a seminar in short-form narrative at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. Friends of mine warned me about the challenges of teaching, telling me to focus on the good students — because, invariably, there would be students who would be uninterested, or who just wouldn’t care. They were wrong. Maybe I was lucky; my thirteen students were engaged and engaging. They were creative in the topics they selected for their writing assignments and perceptive in the details they noticed and reported. They were eager to learn and they challenged me every step of the way, in a good way. With the semester behind us, I believe that I learned from them as much as they learned from me.
Hi, everyone. Have you ever wondered if you're on the right track? If you've chosen the right career? If the time you've spent trying so hard to do your job well, and to do it right, has been time well-spent – or, worse, if it has been time wasted. We all feel that way once in a while – why? I've been thinking about that lately. Another way to look at it is, whose definition of success are you using to define your success?
So often, our choices are based on priorities and our priorities are set by necessities. There’s what we want to do and what we have to do, and the haves often take precedence.
Reviews: We've all seen them and we've all probably bought a book (or more) because of them. Reviews can be powerful, and even if they're wholly subjective, there's great value to them. Reading a good review of a book we're interested in is kind of like hearing a friend whose taste we respect tells us good things about the book: It makes us want to read it.
I spent three days at the Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy in Prescott, Arizona, in March, learning what it takes to be a leader. It was my third course there, a third opportunity to spend time with the selflessly brave men and women who battle fire in the wild lands. For it is not the chemicals that drop from airplanes or the water that rains from helicopters that put out these fires. It is people who toil for sixteen hours a day, for two straight weeks, felling trees, hacking off brush and scraping the hardened ground with shovels, rakes, pounders and axes – landscaping tools, really – to safeguard lives and homes.
I read this book for my daughter on the life of Amelia Earhart, the pioneer aviator who chose to defy conventions (women can't fly airplanes!) to pursue her dream, doubters be damned. Amelia liked to say, "Never interrupt anyone doing what you said couldn't be done." My daughter, who is 6, became very interested in these words – "What does Amelia mean, Mommy?" I told her that Amelia had a dream, believed in her dream, and worked very hard to bust out of her box and make her dream reality.
What have you resolved to do – for yourself, for others – in 2016? Some people agonize over New Year's resolutions, only to ignore them. Some people set the bar too high, and then get mad at themselves for not keeping their resolutions. Others pick so many resolutions, they end up forgetting them all. I made one resolution this New Year. It's etched in my skin. I chose to be better.
WHY – AND HOW – I WRITE
The key to writing a good story is knowing what you don’t know and finding the right people and documents to help you learn it. You have a fundamental question that leads to a bunch of other questions that need to be answered so that your fundamental question makes sense. This is how I write.
Follow along with Fernanda and get occasional stories.