Episode 29—Pete Croatto, 10 Years a Freelancer (and counting)

Pete Croatto reading the paper.
Pete Croatto reading the paper.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Pete Croatto stopped by #CNF HQ to talk about freelancing. What prompted this? This blog post right here where Pete talks about ten of the things he learned in his first ten years as a freelancer.

There are so many gems in this episode whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned vet.

I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening. Oh, and while I have your attention, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and subscribe to my monthly newsletter.

Your buddy,

Brendan

Episode 25—Elane Johnson on her Winning Essay, Accepting Your Work as Good, and Writers Block

august-in-chicago-2015

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“A successful writer is someone who alters me.” —Elane Johnson

“Teaching for me is writing.”—Elane Johnson

We’ve made it to 25 episodes, can you believe it?

Elane Johnson comes by the podcast to talk about her essay “The Math of Marriage,” which won Creative Nonfiction’s marriage essay contest for Issue No. 59. You’ll have to subscribe to magazine to read it.

What will be in store for the next 25 episodes of the podcast? I have no idea. I just hope you keep hanging around and listening to these often unsung writers talk about their work.

Elane also references Sarah Einstein, author of Mot: A Memoir. You can hear her episode too.

Episode 22—Jeff Krulik on “Heavy Metal Parking Lot,” “Led Zeppelin Played Here,” and His Kinship with Oddities

Written by Brendan O’Meara

This is a special episode of #CNF, the podcast where I speak with writers, authors, reporters and now filmmakers, in the genre of creative nonfiction.

Yes, Episode 22 features Jeff Krulik, a documentary filmmaker [link for those who can’t see the embed player below] who has the parking-lot genre nailed. He made Heavy Metal Parking Lot (see above) among other wonderful documentaries.

I worked with Jeff on an exciting project called Kentucky Confidential, headed up by John Scheinman (Episode 9 of the #CNF Podcast, go listen). You’ll find Jeff’s videos as well as my Bourbon Underworld stories.

In this episode, Jeff talks about the origins of HMPL as well as his latest movie Led Zeppelin Played here. We talk about freelancing and the financial realities of the biz, as well as his kinship with Maryland and oddities, those people on the fringe.

Here are some selected links from the episode to further educate yourself on all things Krulik. Follow him on Twitter @jeffkrulik and visit his website jeffkrulik.com.

Here’s the Deadspin article that has become the definitive history of HMPL.

One last call to action: Please subscribe to my newsletter. I try and send out a monthly dispatch of five cool things I’ve read, heard, or consumed.

And subscribe to the podcast. It’s a wing of my “brand,” and getting people on board will only help me churn out bigger and better work.

Thanks!

Love,

Brendan

Episode 20—Glenn Stout on his new book “The Selling of the Babe,” Dealing with Dead People, and the Transcendent Nature of Hitting Home Runs

Screen shot 2015-06-18 at 8.32.54 PM“You have to be out in the world and engaged in the world.” —Glenn Stout

“The truth always tells a better story.”—Glenn Stout

By Brendan O’Meara

First off, I’m like WAY behind in blog posts. I have to draw up one for Mary Pilon and Brian Mockenhaupt, but I’ll start with the latest episode and work backwards.

Enter Glenn Stout. [Hear our first interview…here]

His latest book The Selling of the Babe: The Deal That Changed Baseball and Created a Legend (St. Martin’s Press) comes out this week.

I speak to Glenn about dealing with dead people and how he approached a topic that, on its surface, felt saturated.

“You look at what seem to be time-worn topics and almost without fail you find something and you tell a better story, a newer story, a truer story,” says Glenn.

The first 30-35 minutes of the episode deal with the Babe, but the latter part riffs on random stuff.

Writers and Books Mentioned

Jack Kerouac, On the Road
Antonin Artaud, No More Masterpieces
Rainer Maria Rilke
James Wright
The Poetics of the New American Poetry
Langston Hughes
Michale Graff
Jeremy Collins
Eva Holland

A final call to action!

Please subscribe to the monthly newsletter if you like to have articles, quotes, and podcasts shipped to your email, curated by yours truly. Also subscribe to the podcast and share it with friends. Thanks!

#CNF Episode No. 17—Brin-Jonathan Butler on Bullfighting, How Surprise is His Biggest Weapon, and Access as a Drug

Brin-Jonathan Butler, Brendan O'Meara

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“Surprise is one of the biggest weapons you have as a journalist to affect people emotionally.” — Brin-Jonathan Butler

“The juice for me with journalism is not money or recognition. My ego is tied into access.” — Brin-Jonathan Butler

IMG_4707

Two pics? Whaaaaaaat? His photos rival Eva Holland’s irreverent, dare I say, get-the-fuck-out-of-my-face pic from Episode 15.

Butler is one of the smartest people I’ve ever spoken with. There’s a level of thinking and depth you don’t often hear from someone who’s in their mid-30s. You expect it from, say, George Saunders, but listening to Butler speak was a treasure for me and I hope so for you.

Like Holland, Glenn Stout, and Charles Bethea, Butler never studied journalism, yet he’s one of the best at his craft. I sense a theme that some of the best at this craft aren’t journalists by trade, but people who have a keen sense for language, are widely read, and think long and hard about the work. They aim for impact, not a sound bite.

You should also listen to him on the Longform Podcast from back in 2014. Pairing that interview with mine will give you tremendous insight into Butler’s mind.

Here’s a bunch of links to Butler’s work:

Buffalo and Wide Right, Broken Hearts and No Illusions
Myths Made Flesh: Last Breaths in a Spanish Bullring
The Poison Oasis
The Kindle Singles Interview with Mike Tyson
Errol Morris: The Kindle Singles Interview
The Domino Diaries

Please subscribe to my email list. You get access to these exclusive interviews and other cool stuff ONLY when I publish something and ONLY once a week. Small cost for big info.

 

Episode No. 15: Eva Holland on the Nature of her Hustle, Being Super Analog, and liking Faramir

Eva Holland

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“It’s been a long process at feeling at all stable.” —Eva Holland

“I don’t know how you keep going if you don’t think your work is good. you have to believe that you’re good.” —Eva Holland

Here were, yet again, with another episode of #CNF, this time with Eva Holland. Eva is a rising star and if you have a chance to buy stock in Holland, now’s the time.

Why read more of my guff when you can read hers? Here’s a list of some her work:

Unclimbable
Hellbent, But Not Broken
Why We Play
No Sleep Till Fairbanks

There’s a good primer.

Writers mentioned

Matt Power
Ian Frazier
David Grann

Books Mentioned

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann
The Lost City of Z by David Grann
Gone to New York by Ian Frazier
The Big Year by Mark Obmascik
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Thanks for listening. If you get a chance, please subscribe to the podcast and subscribe to my website. No spam, just good, good stuff.

Episode 12—Sarah Einstein on writing an other-person-centric memoir, Jane Eyre, and Count Chocula

Sarah Einstein, author of "Mot: A Memoir"
Sarah Einstein, author of “Mot: A Memoir”

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“I never imagined that I would write this book. I never imagined actually that I could write any book. The idea of book-length work terrified me.” —Sarah Einstein (@SarahEM2 on Twitter)

“I believe you have to give memory time to mellow and age and become a narrative.” —Sarah Einstein

 

Here I’ve got Sarah Einstein, author of Mot: A Memoir, a book that explores the friendship between Sarah and a homeless, mentally ill man named Mot (Tom backwards). He’s a brilliant, fascinating, resourceful man and an unlikely source of stability for Sarah during this period of her life.

In any case here’s the streaming player and notes from the show:

People mentioned:

Kevin Oderman
Dinty Moore
Sara Pritchard
Maggie Messitt

Books Mentioned:

Safekeeping and Three-Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
Two or Three Things I Know for Sure by Dorothy Allison
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
Jane Erye by Charlotte Bronte

Subscribe to the show and sign up for the monthly newsletter from this very website. What a world!

Episode 11—Carrie Hagen on Finding the Essence of Story

Screen shot 2015-06-18 at 8.32.54 PM

Written by Brendan O’Meara

 

The subject at hand is Carrie Hagen, author of We is Got Him. She and I met at grad school where she began fleshing out the story for We is Got Him. It’s her first book, but you’d think it was her third or fourth. I’ll let her do the talking.

As always I’d love for you to sign up for email updates (they arrive on Tuesdays if they arrive at all). Also be sure to subscribe to the podcast that way you’ll get the latest episodes of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast beamed straight to your favorite audio device.

Thanks!

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?

Hmm….

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

When Backstory Feels ‘Deliberate’

Day 4: about 20% through the book. Will it be worth keeping? Should it be chucked? We’ll see. #writing

A photo posted by Brendan O’Meara (@brendanomeara) on

By Brendan O’Meara

In yet another bout of mapping vs. outlining (mapping is just reverse outlining. The terrain of the book is in place and you set out like Magellan and map the world. Very clever, I know.) I’m hitting the notecards pretty hard. See pic.

I’m at this point in the this book where I just backed up the dump truck and unloaded a chapter of backstory about my central character. Reading it feels laborious. I haven’t touched this manuscript in four years.

I’m thinking of gutting the entire backstory thus leaving my main guy a little mysterious, a little cloudy around the edges, like Gatsby. He is my Gatsby and I’m Nick, an unreliable insider-outsider who greatly admires his Gatsby.

I love seeing giant limbs of text come tumbling down. I prefer the chainsaw to the pruning sheers.

In Maureen Corrigan’s great book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, she meets with Scott Shepherd toward the end. Shepherd reads the entire novel once a day for the broadway production Gatz. He actually has the text memorized. That’s not hyperbole.

Corrigan speaks with Shepherd about Gatsby’s (the character) backstory. Shepherd says of the four-and-a-half-page section that fills in Gatsby’s early backstory:

The beginning of chapter six was sometimes tough. That’s when the audience [for Gatz] would just be back from the dinner break and the’d be logy with food. There’s something about that section that feels deliberate.

Max Perkins, the famous editor to Fitzgerald and others, pushed for Fitzgerald for more biography. Shepherd continues:

In my mind, I see Fitzgerald inventing more specifics in the backstory because Perkins told him to, while at the same time dealing with his strong impulse to leave most of the questions unanswered. The result is, to my ear, a slightly obligatory and vaguely evasive quality that’s artificial in comparison to the rest of the book.

Indeed.

In nonfiction (and all writing for that matter), there’s this tendency to fill backstory, backstory, backstory to round out the character. It’s how most reporters write a 1,000-word take out. It’s basically ALL backstory with some quotes. These past events are why you care about this story about me today.

When we’re dealing with narrative, every word is an oar that must row the boat forward. If you’re going to pause for backstory, that backstory needs to inform the foreground. If we’re going to tell you something that happened way back when, there needs to be some sort of payoff or at least a connection to the foreground.

In my mapping of this first book I wrote, I find this backstory chunk merely background with very little of real substance. Of the 5,000-8,000 words, I bet there’s a 1,000 words worth keeping to pepper throughout the rest of the story.

It feels, to echo the above statement, deliberate. Deliberate feels labored and, worst of all, boring.

Yes, we need to know where our characters came from to have a better understanding of why we care about where they’re going. But too much and we’re too anchored to the past and all forward momentum is lost.

Hey, folks, if you made this far, I’d love your email address. I send out a weekly newsletter with the week’s posts every Tuesday morning. Also, for your loyalty and permission, whenever I have freebies you’ll be the first to know. If I’m selling a book, I’ll make sure you get a discount somehow. You’ve given me your time. I give you story, and maybe a few extra dollars in your pocket. Thanks! 

Love, 

Brendan