Episode 10—Joe DePaulo on Talese, Kramer, and What It Means to be Edited

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“There’s no downplaying that moment for me. There’s no humble bragging that. It’s a straight-up brag, a measure of pride for me.”—Joe DePaulo

“I can’t abandon it. For me, I don’t know what else I’d do.” —Joe DePaulo

Maybe my favorite part of my conversation with Joe happens toward the end where we briefly touch upon drafting one particular writer in a Fantasy League for Narrative Nonfiction. I should’ve expanded on this, but I figure it’s going to be a much longer segment in the future.

This was a fun one. We talked about writers who inspired Joe and the harsh financial realties of the freelance game. (You can hear Episode 9 guest John Scheinman shed insights into this as well.)

I’ve shortened by Bookshelf for the Apocalypse segment to five books. Good stuff here.

Joe’s BftA

The Complete Works of Shakespeare
Character Studies by Mark Singer
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
The Best American Sports Writing of the Century
Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer
Billy Bathgate by E.L. Doctorow

Ricky Jay’s Magical Secrets by Mark Singer is a New Yorker profile Joe re-reads over and over again.
The Man Who Knew Too Much by Marie Brenner

Here’s Joe’s SB Nation Longform archive, which includes his profile on Mike Francesa, a story that earned Joe a notable selection in the 2014 volume of Best American Sports Writing.

So let’s get to it. Enjoy!

Hey, if you get a chance subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and throw down your email here at the website. I know that’s asking a lot, but it would mean a lot to me.


Episode 9—Inside the Reporting Mind of John Scheinman

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“You know what? It’s like when you ask a girl on a date. How scary it can be. It’s terrifying sometimes.”—John Scheinman

“I was always a conversation person. I would literally say this, ‘I’m going to earn your trust and you will never be misquoted.’ They loved it!”—John Scheinman

This week I interview my friend and colleague John Scheinman, who won the Eclipse Award for feature writing for his piece about legendary Maryland horse trainer Dickie Small. The piece, titled Memories of a Master, is a long, sweeping profile that took John about three months to craft. Give it a read.

We get into the use of voice recorders versus notebooks, something I find fascinating as different reporters use different methods for gathering information. We also talk about the anxiety that comes from having to interview people and I think that may be particularly helpful to others who feel the same way.

And, of course, there’s John’s Bookshelf for the Apocalypse, the books he’d keep in his survival pack that he could never part with should the world melt down around us. He is the second person to say this is a stupid question in two weeks. Does that mean I should give it up? Not yet. If next week’s guest says it’s stupid maybe I’ll consider.

John’s Bookshelf for the Apocalypse

The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell
Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante
Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell
The Honest Rainmaker: The Life and Times of Colonel John R. Stingo by A.J. Liebling
Life by Keith Richards
The Great Deep: The Sea and Its Thresholds by James Hamilton-Patterson
Blues People: Negro Music in White America by Leroi Jones
Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story by Nick Tosche

Thanks again for listening. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and sign up for my email newsletter that brings you my book recommendations for the month and anything you may have missed from the podcast.

Episode 8—Maggie Messitt on Shi#y First Drafts and Making Documentaries on Paper

maggie messitt, the rainy season

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables by Maggie Messitt (@maggiemessitt):

“I really embrace the shitty first draft.” 

“I was always into true stories, almost at an obsessive level.” 

Maggie Messitt wrote a gem of a book in The Rainy Season: Three Lives in the New South Africa. 

We talk about a lot of stuff, certainly about process and the challenge of writing book-length narrative. Maggie is a writer, author, teacher, hiker, dog owner, reporter, super kayaker, all-round liver-of-life. 

Also I introduce a new segment called the Bookshelf for the Apocalypse. What’s this? Should the world be ravaged by global pandemic, zombies, meteor strike or nuclear winter, and you were allowed ten books to keep in your survival pack, what would they be?


Below you’ll find a list of books Maggie mentioned that you may want to check out. Thanks for listening and I ask that you please subscribe to the podcast and sign up for the email newsletter.

Thanks so much!

Maggie’s Bookshelf for the Apocalypse

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadimann

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, An American Childhood, A Writing Life, all by Annie Dillard

Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

Open City by Teju Cole

Portrait with Keys by Ivan Vladislavic

A dictionary

What is Justice? by Robert C. Solomon and Mark C. Murphy

Episode 7—Richard Gilbert Bought a Farm

Richard Gilbert, author of “Shepherd: A Memoir,” stopped by the podcast in 2014.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

[Tweetables to come!]

Richard Gilbert is the author of Shepherd, a memoir about his days on an Ohio farm fulfilling a lifelong dream to become a farmer. He raised flocks of sheep, got hurt, dealt with ragweed allergies, the list goes on and on. It’s a wonderful book and I think after listening to Richard you’ll want to devour it and also follow his great blog, Draft No. 4, and follow him on Twitter @richardsgilbert.

The audio to the podcast kinda sucks. For that I’m sorry. There are some points where my Skype connection got real choppy. Other times the audio gets uneven. I’m sorry, but brighter days are coming. Subscribe to Hashtag #CNF on iTunes and sign up for the weekly emailer that updates you on the week’s posts. That’s it! Enjoy!

Brian Koppelman on rejection and writing habits

Written by Brendan O’Meara

This was a great listen, so much so that I’ve listened to it twice.

Brian Koppelman, screenwriter/director to several movies including Rounders and The Illusionist, spoke with Tim Ferriss, author of the 4-Hour Work Week and 4-Hour Body, on the Tim Ferriss Show.

Koppelman talks about rejection and powering through it all. Before he reached the level he’s at now he spent two hours every morning working on a screenplay with his writing partner. That screenplay was Rounders. He made the time. This speaks to many of creatives that may have a day job for the steady income while working on our passion projects.

And in this crazy modern world we live in, I tweeted out to Koppelman just to say how much I appreciated his insights. He replied and retweeted. Pretty cool for a guy in the big time.

Click here to listen to the interview.

The Right Balance: Drafts for You, Drafts for the Reader

Written by Brendan O’Meara

If you have an hour, listen to this conversation on writing between Neil Strauss and Tim Ferriss. Ferriss, while not a master wordsmith (by his own admission) has, at his core, true immersion journalism in his system. He experiments, meets interesting people, and writes about it. If he wasn’t as consumed with life hacking, startups, and tech, he’d make a great narrative journalist. While at Princeton, he took a course with John McPhee. How great would that be!

But it’s what Strauss said about his early drafts that prompted this little riff. At 21:15, he talks about the first draft being for you, being for the writer. It’s the vomit draft, it’s all you want to say. The drafts following are for shaping and crafting. What you wrote in that first draft may not make it into successive drafts. Strauss says, “The first draft is for you; the second draft is for the readers.” I’d rephrase this because it gives a false dichotomy that there are only two drafts. There are many. “The early drafts are for you; the later drafts are for the readers.” You reach that line of demarcation once you being making wholesale cuts, then you know you’ve entered late-draft writing.

For the past five years (!) I’ve been writing, toiling, drafting, cutting, writing more, cutting more, from my baseball memoir The Last Championship. I’m definitely in the late-draft phase. I haven’t touched it in months, which is probably a good thing, but I do have to revisit it at some point. My father isn’t going to be alive forever!

My earliest drafts, and that includes the latest, are pretty harsh at some points toward my father. The more and more I realize it, some of that stuff doesn’t need to be in there anymore, but I needed to write it in the early drafts. I needed to get it out of my head and onto the page. Once there, I could judge its literary merit. I could judge if the reader needs to read the stuff. I could decide if the memoir is too confessional, instead of just laying out a nice story about a father, a son, and their bonds, broken then reformed, by baseball.

The wonderful folks at Summer Game Books, who have taken an interest in the book, wrote me a nice critique. They enjoyed what they read, but figured the book was at its strongest when it adhered to the baseball narrative. Any time it branched off that road it faltered.

My father, at times, behaved in unsettling ways towards me, my sister, my mother, but some/most of that stuff doesn’t need to be in the final product. As I get older, I now realize that we do our best. It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback things. I know he did his best. It could’ve been better, but it could’ve been a whole lot worse. I’m not complaining. The early drafts are too damning to him, too hurtful to read, and, in the end, irrelevant to the overall story.

But the early drafts needed to have it. And that’s my point. I needed to get it out of my head, out of my journal, and onto a public page to better judge. The first draft was for me, now it’s onto the later drafts for Dad, and for the reader.

Hashtag #CNF Episode 6: Three Days in Gettysburg

He’s back for more. Brian Mockenhaupt wrote the compelling Byliner Original Three Days in Gettysburg about the war front hitting home.


I wrote this on Amazon about the piece:

Brian Mockenhaupt, an intrepid and elite reporter of the living, turns his eye to those long gone. And as we near the 150th anniversary of that bloodiest battle at Gettysburg, Mockenhaupt, through his deft skill as an information gatherer, writes a compelling story about friendship, love, and loss in the most famous battle of the Civil War and its putrid wake for those left behind.

It culminates with President Lincoln presiding over a newly created memorial to the felled Union soldiers, a speech where he turns the volume down so we may hear the ghosts of Gettysburg.

And in this latest episode of Hashtag #CNF, Mockenhaupt talks about the challenges of writing historical narrative with nothing to consult but the archives.

Like what you hear? Subscribe on iTunes and subscribe to my blog. If you do, I’ll send you a signed copy of Six Weeks in Saratoga.

Hashtag #CNF Episode 5—Sheri Booker


Written by Brendan O’Meara

Sheri Booker’s memoir Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner City Funeral Home chronicles her near-decade long experience immersed the culture of death. Everything from picking up bodies to preserving them in the inner sanctum of Wylie Funeral Home.

In it Booker learns that death knows no age and that a funeral home is every bit a part of a community as a church. She also answers the age-old question of whether bodies move on the embalming table or not.

Hashtag #CNF Episode 4: Harrison Scott Key


Written by Brendan O’Meara

I get to interview some pretty cool people doing this humble little podcast. In this latest episode, I speak with Harrison Scott Key about his award-winning essay The Wishbone. The Wishbone won Creative Nonfiction’s Southern Sin essay contest. It is a wildly funny essay about his father bending the rules to win a football game … a pee-wee football game … in which he recruit’s his 14-year-old son—Harrison—to suit up as the team’s integral 11th player.

In this interview we talk about comedy writing and where Key developed his comedic sensibility. Enjoy and share!

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast here.

Follow me on Twitter @BrendanOMeara and give me a ‘like’ over at Facebook. Looking to reach 1,000 true fans and there’s PLENTY of room available.


Hashtag #CNF Episode 3 Part 2: Brian Mockenhaupt


Written by Brendan O’Meara

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In Part 2 of my interview with Brian Mockenhaupt, freelance journalist and author of the Byliner.com original The Living and the Dead, Brian talks about publishing with Byliner, what America learns from its wars, and the burden of telling such a heavy story. Enjoy.

If you or anyone you know would like to be on the podcast, please email me at brendan@brendanomeara.com and, as always, feel free to leave comments.

Listen to Part 1 of my interview with Brian Mockenhaupt here.

Please ‘like’ me on Facebook. Makes me feel good. I also give away stuff.