New York Times: News Without Newspapers

An article in tomorrow’s New York Times is titled ‘Hyperlocal’ Web Sites Deliver News Without Newspapers.

If your local newspaper shuts down, what will take the place of its coverage? Perhaps a package of information about your neighborhood, or even your block, assembled by a computer.

A number of Web start-up companies are creating so-called hyperlocal news sites that let people zoom in on what is happening closest to them, often without involving traditional journalists.

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It’s very much like what has sprung up over at FBI blogs, to which I belong. (And when I say “sprung up,” I mean “consciously created by forward-thinking Damon Tucker.”)

The FBI blogs site it not quite as hyperlocal (the article talks about areas as small as a block). By definition (“From Big Island”) we FBI bloggers are from around the whole island.

I think it’s really a terrific idea. I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that I browse the site everyday and learn all sorts of things that aren’t in the local paper.

From the article:

But many hyperlocal entrepreneurs say they are counting on a proliferation of blogs and small local journalism start-ups to keep providing content.

“In many cities, the local blog scene is so rich and deep that even if a newspaper goes away, there would be still be plenty of stuff for us to publish,” said Mr. Holovaty of EveryBlock.

Sounds familar.

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Big Merrie Monarch Push at BigIslandOnTheCheap.com

It’s almost Merrie Monarch week here on the Big Island. I love this week, when Hilo town shimmers and comes alive with people and flowers and hula everywhere.

Over at Big Island On The Cheap, we are going to be hitting Merrie Monarch hard. We’ll have a bunch of features — where to eat, half- and full-day trips to take around Hilo, all the exciting things going on with Merrie Monarch itself, some great local coupon deals that are exclusive to our readers (whether residents or visitors),  and some other surprises, too, which are already in the works. 

picture-5I just finished writing up our first Merrie Monarch-related post. It’s about taking a day trip up to the Volcano area, and it’s up now. 

So that’s what I’ve been working on.

Are you coming over for Merrie Monarch? Attending yourself and sitting on those hard hard benches (totally worth it)? Watching on TV? Sitting this one out?

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Culinary Mystery Novel “Captain Cooked” by Stephen Grogan

We went to Hilo Bay Cafe for dinner the other night while my mom was here visiting. That is such a great restaurant – inside it’s really got the ambience happening, in spite of its unlikely location in a strip mall adjacent to Wal-Mart, and the food is always so fresh and good.

While there, I talked with them about getting some recipes for an author I’m working with. Stephen Grogan, a Las Vegas author of a previous book called Vegas Die, is, interestingly enough, writing a culinary/mystery novel set here on the Big Island. He hired me to edit the manuscript for Hawai‘i references and history and culture.

Stephen Grogan
Stephen Grogan

He actually found and hired me through this blog, which proves that blogging is definitely worth the time and effort. We did all our business together by email.

Steve’s new book’s title is great: “Captain Cooked.” How could I resist that? I did the edit, and helped him gather up some Big Island recipes to go into the book too. The chef at Hilo Bay Cafe has agreed to provide a couple recipes, too.

There’s an interesting gimmick in Steve’s previous book. He hid a dagger somewhere in the metropolitan Las Vegas area, the book provides (kind of hard) clues to its location, and the person who finds it takes $25,000! 

People have been actively seeking it for quite awhile now. There’s even a forum where they go to discuss clues and such. 

He’s going to do the same thing with Captain Cooked, so stay tuned for how to win your $25,000! I’ll let you know when the book is coming out.

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The Magic of Letters: I Believe It, Too

Wow. I am a huge believer in reading and writing and the power of it all — but have a look or listen to this woman from Nepal, who was a child bride and didn’t learn to read until she was 21.

The story she tells — her story — is enormous and beautiful. Now that is somehow who has learned to appreciate the power of the alphabet. Wow.
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It’s another This I Believe story from over at NPR. What an amazing collection of essays they are gathering, saving, sharing.  People have the most incredible stories. I think everybody probably has one. This woman’s story really struck me.

From her essay, which someone else read in English:

…Before learning how to write, my life was like the nearby Indrasarovar Lake, always stagnant. I had the pain of child marriage, my husband did not support me, abject poverty was my way of life and I didn’t have any skill or courage to do anything. But I saw that the number of people learning to read and write was growing — and their lives were improving. I then realized it was neither wealth nor beauty that I lacked, but letters…

Powerful.

Edited to add: I just stumbled upon a TED presentation (do you know those? fascinating) by Isabel Allende, one of my favorite authors. In her video, she discusses passion and also women. Specifically, the plight of women in much of the non-privileged world — and it brought me back to thinking about this one Nepalese woman’s words. 

Her talk is really worth a listen. It’s humorous (she says someone asked Sophia Loren how she can look so sexy in her 70s, and she replied something like, “Posture. My spine is always straight. And I don’t make old people noises”) and also poignant and important. Listen to it here.

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Books on Writing

I guess it’s no surprise there are so many books about writing. We writers need something to write about, and some of us write about writing. And then the rest of us read about it.

Writing is a craft that I continually work at. In college I majored in journalism, and since then I have continued to take writing classes (both in person and online), participate in professional writers’ groups and online forums, and sometimes in local writers groups.

And I also read how other people have succeeded as writers. How they do it. Their tips.

They’re just like us, most of those other writers. We’re all just people sitting in front of a yellow pad of paper or a laptop, starting with a blank screen and a head full of ideas. Reading about how some people have accomplished what they’ve done has, over the years, helped me set goals for my own writing, and reach high.

I could read about writing, instead of sitting down and actually writing, until the cows come home. (“What cows?” asked my four-year-old with a puzzled look when I used that expression the other day.) It’s a terrific means of procrastination.

Here are just some of the books on my shelves, which I’ve loosely grouped into categories. Some of these books are better than others. Many I’ve reread, and learned from or been inspired by.

BUSINESS

You are only a hobbyist, and will get nowhere as a freelance writer, until you accept that it’s a business and you need to be businesslike (in setting goals, where you focus your efforts, calculating your overhead and knowing how much to charge, protecting your copyrights, handling accounting, paying taxes and much more). Some creative sorts have to really force themselves to buckle down and learn the business aspect of being a self-employed writer. Here are some books that can help: 

  • The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing, ed. by Timothy Harper
  • This Business of Writing, by Gregg Levoy
  • Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer, by Jenna Glazer
  • Six-Figure Freelancing, by Kelly James-Enger

 

BY WRITERS ABOUT WRITING

I don’t know how to group these books, some of which inspired and convinced me I could quit the day job and live happily as a writer.

  • Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
  • The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
  • If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland
  • Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande
  • Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Living the Writer’s Life, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Thunder and Lightning, Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
  • Making a Literary Life, by Carolyn See
  • On Writing, by Stephen King
  • No Mentor But Myself: Jack London on Writing and Writers, ed. by Dale L. Walker and Jeanne Campbell Reesman

 

FICTION/NOVEL WRITING

What pondering these titles from my bookshelf tells me is that I have long wanted to delve more into fiction and novel-writing. But I knew that already. Maybe I’ll reread some of these and get started soon.

  • On Becoming a Novelist, by John Gardner
  • On Teaching and Writing Fiction, by Wallace Stegner
  • The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner
  • Writing the Novel, by Lawrence Block
  • Writing Fiction, by Janet Burroway
  • How to Write a Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen
  • The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, ed. by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron and the editors of Writer’s Digest

 

MAGAZINE/NEWSPAPER WRITING

I have done an awful lot of this. I started out writing an occasional freelance piece for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and then got a regular freelance gig working for Hilo’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald, where I wrote features and entertainment articles every week. Like most newspapers it paid poorly but, in retrospect, it was terrific in teaching me how to just sit down and do it. I also got over my reluctance to call people when I had several articles due each week. That was worth it all right there. 

After that I started writing for magazines. More interesting, more in-depth, more time for craft. Yet it still doesn’t pay enough to pay the bills. I know there are a few people who only write for national magazines and make a good living, but that’s not the norm. If magazine freelancing is your plan, you’d better have some other income, too.

  • The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, by William E. Blundell
  • Writing for Story, by Jon Franklin
  • Creative Nonfiction, by Philip Gerard
  • Story, by Robert McKee
  • Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, ed. by Jean Fredette
  • You Can Write a Column, by Monica McCabe Cordoza
  • The Renegade Writer, by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
  • Travel Writing, See the World, Sell the Story, by L. Peat O’Neil
  • Literary Journalism, ed. by Norman Sims and Mark Kramer

 

MEMOIR

  • Living to Tell the Tale, A Guide to Writing Memoir, by Jane Taylor McDonnell
  • Inventing the Truth, the Art and Craft of Memoir, ed. by William Zinsser

 

ON WRITERS

It’s aways fun to read how other writers do it. Computer? Typewriter? Pencil and pen? These books are much more than just that, though.

  • Writers on Writing, Collected Essays from the New York Times
  • The Writer on Her Work, by Janet Sternberg
  • The New New Journalism, ed. by Robert S. Boynton

 

COPYWRITING 

A lot of my work these days falls under the category of copywriting. These books were somewhat interesting as I started out writing for businesses, but I’ve found that I figured out a lot of it by myself, along the way. The Well-Fed Writer is currently a bible to some copywriters.

  • The $100,000 Writer, by Nancy Flynn
  • The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman
  • Secrets of a Freelance Writer, by Bob Bly
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook, by Bob Bly

 

RADIO

This is one of the few books from my long-ago college journalism days that I’ve kept. I have worked in public (and commercial) radio a little bit, and really enjoyed it. I keep the book in case I get back into it one day. Cool book.

  • Telling the Story, the National Public Radio Guide to Radio Journalism

 

LASTLY

And, my favorite title of all though (to be honest) I don’t remember a thing about the book itself:

  • Too Lazy To Work, Too Nervous to Steal, How to have a great life as a freelance writer, by John Clausen
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Let Me Introduce Myself

Here in Hawai’i, we introduce ourselves when we meet by telling who our family is and where we’re from; we put ourselves into a context, and try to establish some sort of a connection to each other. It’s traditional among Hawaiians. So let me tell you who I am.

My name is Leslie Lang and I am a freelance writer living near Hilo, Hawai’i. That’s on what we call the Big Island of Hawai’i, on the east (windward; rainier; lush) side of the island.

My father’s family is from this island. Some go back to the beginning, when Polynesians first landed on this island and eventually evolved into Hawaiians, and others were English and Chinese.

My mother’s English/Irish family is from West Virginia, deep in the most beautiful hills where the trees turn brilliant reds and oranges and yellows in the fall, and where they make really good cornbread in a skillet in the oven. I do that too.

It’s a pretty diverse genealogical background, huh? I love it all.

My family lives in my grandmother’s wonderful old rambly home in the country. It’s a good life.

I have a lot of stories to tell and some other things to say, and I am a writer, and so, voila! A blog.

I’ll post here about:

  • Freelance writing (Who, what, where, how and probably even why)
  • Being self-employed (Coming soon: Is it riskier, in this or any economy, than working full-time for one employer? Or much, much safer?)
  • Living in Hawai’i (It’s a pretty great place to live)
  • Historic Hilo town (I wrote a book recently about beautiful Hilo and its history)
  • and, I’m sure, how all these subjects intersect in my life

Whether you are looking for a writer, are yourself self-employed as a writer (or want to be) and are interested in how others do it, or are interested in Hilo or Hawai‘i in general, I hope you’ll check back! Or even subscribe to my feed. I’ll try to keep it interesting. And please, always feel free to continue the conversation by leaving a comment.

You can also always contact me at leslie@leslielang.com.

Aloha,

Leslie

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