Style: Where Structure Creates Meaning

A popular method of creating style that I have witnessed in literature and English classes is using textual structure to create meaning that is relevant to the work. I know someone already mentioned Hemingway, but one style he popularized was the iceberg concept. The iceberg concept is the method of using minimal dialogue to suggest deeper meaning. The top of the iceberg is the text, the meaning is the submerged portion. It is the writer’s responsibility to infer that meaning from the structure of the text.

Another example of this would be with novel Catch-22, by Joseph Heller. Catch-22 was a famous postmodernist novel that discussed ambiguity in society and confusion and rebellion toward authority figures during wartime. The language structure is confusing and contradicting and it serves to enhance the themes of uncertainty in society toward institutions.

As writers we can use the structure of words and sentences to tap into greater meanings and themes. Whether you want to do it through minimalism like Hemingway, or contradiction like Heller, you can adjust your structure to your story’s needs and purposes to craft a personal style.

Blonde Hair and Bravery: Navigating the Middle East

On Twitter, Kayla Ruble describes herself as an “acid reflux survivor.” But her next description, “professional eavesdropper,” is one that is massively downplayed.

Ruble is a correspondent for VICE News, covering issues in the Middle East and its surrounding regions. Her hard-hitting articles are written decisively and backed by an abundance of knowledgeable and “legit” sources, leaving audiences elucidated and possibly even  infuriated.

In between her articles with VICE, she maintains her presence on both Facebook and Twitter. Her posts are informative but tactful, never entirely giving away her location. She uses an active voice, one that demands attention and cultivates rock-solid ethos.

Her most recent article, “US and EU Accused of Turning a Blind Eye to ‘Rampant Torture’ in Uzbekistan” is one that begins with a testimonial of an Uzbek man, an average Uzbek man, that police tortured for three days before finally letting him go.

The flow of the article seems to easily and logically swap from first-person accounts to expert and organizational sources.

Ruble is constantly active and seeking credibility and boldness. Her articles are timely, lucid and drenched in ethos. While her articles stray away from the story-telling aspects and adhere to the matter-of-fact laws of news, she finds a way to earn the audience’s attention through depicting her sources as the humans that they are.


Paul Salopek: Off the Beaten Path, On to Literary Success

I am going to swim upstream against the flow of information and try to slow people down to have them observe stories at a human pace—at about three miles per hour.

Paul Salopek’s style is one of calm, quiet bravado and crystal clarity that is the result of processing, analyses and comparisons.

He is a storyteller; but one whose background in journalism provides not just a slice of life, but how that slice of life is part of the entire pie.

To do this, he dives from the comfort zone that we are accustomed to and into the seemingly-alien homes that other people just like us inhabit.

His current project is one that our ancestors endured; one that is taking him through the migrations of our thousands-of-times great grandfathers and into how we live in these regions now.

His commentaries on the Out of Eden Walk are beautifully depicted, but not without perspective.

This December 4th entry he posted last year, “1 Bucket of Wheat= 1 Candy Bar,” observes the meaning of a “bakkal:” a store, a place of respite, and a place where the ancient practice of bartering still thrives. In one article, he explores the role of children in this society, how outsiders view the bartering system, how the people their enjoy the bartering system and value their goods, how they make money, and how even a native of Turkey sees this system and wonders how little he could know about his own country.

And, all this is told in a meager 527 words.

His angle seems to be “a society of bartering.” This is not weaving a story, it is precise needlepoint that creates an immersive environment that both tugs on heartstrings and provides balance.  It introduces conflict without detracting from the circumstances he sees before him.

The ability to see, process, and tell is one that absolutely must be done with tact and balance; not simply finding the right words, but the right delivery.


Publishing Pseudonyms: A Product of Fear?

After reading several articles by Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, I stumbled across one that really piqued my interest about publishing and gender equality. Kristof wrote an article stating how only 25 percent of online comments for The Times are made by women.

He noted that female authors still publish under male pseudonyms for fear of being ignored, especially if the topic falls under science or math. Sometimes, women will only use their initials to avoid gender as well. Kristof noted that the same goes for the opinion pages of The Times. So, why is it that women feel the need to lie in order to get published? Kristof states that women are 25 times more likely to be harassed for their comments than men. He also says there is a startling lack of female reporters for online newspapers, making women feel less comfortable putting their opinion out there.

Kristof has made a name in the publishing world for having very opinionated views on hot-button issues. While it may be easier for him to do this since he is male, he still encourages women to do the same. “Don’t worry too much about what others will think. Showing support for a survivor of sexual assault makes it more likely they will continue to tell their story. This is worth the risk of seeming aggressive,” he states. In a perfect world, women would be able to voice their opinions in the same way as men without fear of criticism solely due to gender. This trend Kristof noticed will hopefully subside in the future.


A Path Appears: People as Inspiration

“Cold facts, flesh and blood stories – the written word is their loud hailer. They write, we read, and our world view is not the same. Nick and Sheryl’s meticulous arguments and free flowing eloquence is what inspires their readers to become activists…myself included.”

—Bono, lead singer of U2 and Co-Founder of ONE and (RED)

Is it possible to create a better world around us through a simple combination of words and faces? Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, thinks this is the case in his book, A Path Appears. According to Kristof, there is an art to giving. He uses a collection of people and the things they are doing to better the plane as inspiration for his writing.

The use of narratives is not a new tactic when it comes to reporting. People want to hear about other people. We don’t want to talk hypothetically or use our imaginations. We want to see firsthand what people are doing and be moved by their stories. In A Path Appears, Kristof and his wife showcase everyday citizens who are using a combination research, passion and heart to keep the momentum of change going.

A Path Appears was also made into a documentary, but Kristof used a different inspiration for this medium. As opposed to spotlighting those who were making a difference, he showed those who needed help. He gets the majority of his inspiration from having conversations with the people he wants to help, stating “I have often tried to tell the story of a place through people there.” Not only do these people inspire Kristof to create articles, books and documentaries, they inspire change within Kristof’s audience. The art of storytelling goes hand-in-hand with the art of giving.


Blank Walls And Moldy Sheets: A Writer’s Paradise

For my birthday last year, my mother gave me Letter To My Daughter by Maya Angelou.

I don’t know the last time I read a book so zealously. Maya Angelou was a woman of character, of resilience and of discipline. And, of course, her voice made me feel like one of her many daughters.

So, I wanted to learn more about my literary mother.

I learned that Maya Angelou’s process was one of suspended reality. Her office was a hotel room in her home town. She paid for it monthly, and the staff knew all her quirks.

No pictures on the walls. No fresh sheets. Just a few necessary doodads that help her when her calloused elbow begins to hurt and she needs to take a break.

“I go around 6:30 in the morning. I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible.”

She held this routine so staunchly that one day the staff slipped her a little note, begging her to let them change the sheets on her bed. She, of course, didn’t want to trouble them since she never slept in the bed. That, and she didn’t allow housekeeping in the room to make sure that even the smallest scrap of paper with her writing was not accidentally discarded.

“Dear Ms. Angelou, please let us change the linen. We think it may be moldy!”

She would write by hand on legal pads, sipping a single glass of sherry as she wrote. Eventually, she learned to tie her hair in headscarves. She found that after writing, her hair would be more than a little eccentric because she would wind her fingers through it while she scribbled.

Around two in the afternoon, she would return home and relax. By five, she would edit the days work. And by the time she passed away in May of last year, she had a presence that continues to surpass generations of people.


Lust, Not Love: A Writer’s Relationship With Words

Writers write. Lovers love.

But for many writers there is a momentous realization when you combine these things. It becomes a lust for language.

According to the bible, love is “a strong or constant affection.”

Lust, however, has a more instinctual basis. Lust feeds a basic need, and drives the sinner to indulge in his or her poison of choice.

To Peter Selgin, his lust for life manages to feed and fuel his lust for writing. He sees everything through sensuous seconds frozen in time, even from a young age. When his Kindergarten teacher exchanged a kiss on his cheek for one of his first paintings, his mind was set: art is the consummation of romance.

Selgin turned from visual art and came face to face with words in such an intimate way that he now works to explore the flaws in his writing for the sake of enjoying the full scope of its possibility. He admits that he sometimes can be distracted by the shroud of the muse; pretty words on paper. But he knows that the true beauty of a subject lies in its naked form. Fiction, he says, is the most honest form of human expression.

For many years he achieved that honesty primarily through fiction. It wasn’t until the late 2000’s that he discovered that intimacy can also be achieved through exposing himself directly; something that he does so tactfully and with such honesty that the audience can be both appalled and empathetic to private events he reveals in his nonfiction and memoirs.

He draws influence from people: from himself, from those around him, and how the environment rules those that inhabit it. He notices, remembers, relishes the romance that washes his writing in watercolors or charcoal or whatever hues he wishes to cast.

Romantic relationships and questions regarding faithfulness and sexuality arise in much of his writing. Because, I think, in the end it’s something that we can all understand. Love of ourselves, love of others, love of our surroundings: the presence or absence of it fills us all with something worth exploring. Something worth the pain, the puzzlement, and the piecing together of a masterpiece.


How Netflix Has Changed The Game

For many college students, Netflix is pretty significant part of life. Some own cable, while others don’t. Some of us are able to watch television shows the night that they are released on tv, many of us are busy on these nights and unable to do so.  Netflix has revolutionized the  television delivery system because people now have more options in how they want to receive their entertainment. Before options like Netflix or Hulu, people either had to permanently purchase the shows they missed or access them through piracy. Netflix has given the public a product that adapts to their schedules within the bounds of the law.

Wall Street Journal writer Amol Sharma wrote that “…Netflix is shaking up Hollywood, spurring media companies to experiment with new ways of doing business and changing the economics of producing some types of programming. TV and film studios once saw Netflix simply as a way to make some extra money licensing older shows and movies. Now, they view the streaming site as a potential financier, a launch pad for original shows and an aggressive buyer of some programming that is less valuable in the TV world.​”

Netflix poses a serious and relevant threat to the traditional medium of broadcast television. CBC News author Pete Evans recounted an interview with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, in which Hastings implied that broadcast television will be extinct by 2030. ​ However, in the article, Evans did not discuss the role of advertising in broadcast television. Broadcast television still has more advertising ability than Netflix, and it will continue to reap the benefit of those advantages. But in the event that Netflix finds a way to cirumvent this, we truly could see the end of broadcast television.​​

Evolution of Children’s Lit

Children’s literature is a fascinating field of publishing to study. Kids are one of the most versatile demographics, exhibiting constant change in response to the world around them. As children change, their literature has changed along with them.

Originally, there were no such things as books written for the enjoyment of children. Books were much too expensive to even be a common commodity, much less trust in the hands of a child. But over the last couple hundred years, the children’s book industry has become a booming, lucrative business.

I read an interesting article called  chronicling the changes in children’s lit since the seventeenth century. The original “children’s book” was the Horn Book, paddle-shaped boards with primary information intended to help children learn how to read and their prayers. It’s interesting to juxtapose this with the myriad of children’s fiction today and how it has changed over the last several centuries, and perhaps more interesting to consider where it may be headed.

Read the article here

21st Century Publishing: Trends + Future Speculation

Current publishing trends embody the data-driven, technological age of the 21st century. Some speculators suspect that the printed-book will–potentially in our lifetime–become a thing of the past. George Lossius, CEO at Publishing Technology, has expressed his optimism about the evolving publishing market. Lossius brings forward the reemergence of “format first,” the trend where books and text are first released on mobile devices like phones, tablets, and e-readers. This pattern should bolster sales in the e-book market. Lossius and many other players in the publishing industry are willing and capable of adapting to the new digital age.

On the other hand, certain niches within the publishing community are being hit particularly hard. The Washington Post, for example, is famous for its in depth investigative journalism. The Post puts in money and resources to uncover and produce important stories. Now, any number of websites have the ability to summarize the Post’s stories and offer them for free. It is very difficult for print and subscription business like The Washington Post to be competitive now. New innovation hopes to provide answers to problems facing The Post and many other news type publications in the form of subcompact publishing. Essentially, subcompact publishing refers to a method of publishing primarily text based articles for specific audiences, via mobile devices on a weekly basis. The key behind this type of publishing is usability and convenience.

It is difficult to say which sectors of publication will become entirely digital, if any at all. It is clear that certain niches of publishing are more impacted by the trends of the digital world.