I've got a ton of stuff going on right now. Two big stories for ESPN The Magazine, one smaller one, another long story for ESPN.com, plus a story for GQ, a few fiction stories, and my master's thesis. I'm overwhelmed, and I'm loving every second of it. I'm passionate about stories and I love being busy, and so it's been sort of the perfect summer. For some reason I felt like the twelve of you who read this blog might want to know a little more about what's going on, so, here you go.
Special Forces guy story for ESPN The Magazine. This is the one that I've been working on, in a way, for more than two years. I'll write more about it here once it's published. It was supposed to come out in the Body Issue, but it ended up being a longer story than we originally thought it would be, and since they have a specific story pages-to-ads ratio they have to meet—or something like that—they wanted to hold it and run it in a later issue rather than cut it down. I was all for it. One, it's such a tremendous story, I'd hate to see certain parts get lost in the name of squeezing it in when waiting an extra couple months could mean it runs at full length. And two, my mom is going to be SO thrilled that she doesn't have to wade through picture after picture of naked people to read it. And she can put the magazine out on the coffee table without completely offending guests. Wins all around. Last I heard, it's going to run later this summer or sometime in the early fall.
NHL story for ESPN.com. I'm putting the final touches on this story today and sending it in once I talk with one of my sources to confirm some things. It's a really great story about some guys in the NHL. That's really all I want to say about it for now. It's my first big story for ESPN.com—as in, in-depth feature-length narrative storytelling. I'm really excited about it. I love what guys like Wright Thompson and Wayne Drehs do on ESPN.com—long storytelling without the contrains of magazine publication requirements. It's great, great practice for me as a growing, ambitious storyteller, too. I get to write as long as I feel necessary, but I have to make sure not to just ramble on because I can. I have to write tight enough to keep the stories, you know, good. A good story is better than a long story.
Baseball story for ESPN The Magazine. This is the whackiest story I've ever worked on, and it very nearly killed me. It made me lose my hope in humanity for a brief time, and then it showed me how utterly human all of us really are. It's a really remarkable tale, and it demanded absolutely relentless reporting. I always want to report the hell out of my stories, but this one was a whole different beast. Like I'd been hunting deer so far all my life, and now suddenly I have to track down ... well, I don't know, something huge and scary and more terrifying than deer. Like a liger. Point is, I'm so stoked to get this one finished. I'm going to be sending a draft to my editor by the end of the week, I believe, and while I'm not sure when it's going to run, it's going to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime type of stories. You won't believe it.
Other miscellany for ESPN The Magazine. I also like to do small interviews and stories for ESPN The Magazine's front-of-book section. It's a nice way to make a little extra money while staying busy during the slow times between stories' publication. I've really developed some great relationships with the editors over there, and they are all really talented, fun people to work with. They dream and think big over there, and that's what I'm all about, so I try to do as much work with them as I can.
Secret project for GQ. I can't say a lot about this one, except to say that I am working on something big for GQ magazine. It's technically not an official assignment yet—I'm doing part of it on spec first, to show them that I can pull it off, and then, hopefully, they'll decide to pay me for it and send me more places to report on it. But it's involved a lot of work through snail mail, cold calls and lots of other old-timey reporting. Not much Google can do for me on this one, although I have gotten a few assists from some super awesome reporter buddies around the country. Not sure when this one will be finished or when it'll run. It's kind of an adventure. But a fun one.
Thesis. Some of you might know that I'm in grad school right now, too. I wanted to be able to teach college courses—I love teaching and I'd love the extra income—and so I decided to get my master's now while I was young and before Katie and I had kids and all that good stuff. I did journalism for my undergrad, and since I've been a relatively successful journalist for the past couple years, I figured it'd be fun to get my master's in something a little different. So I'm getting it in creative writing. I went to East Carolina University because it was the most affordable school and it had the fastest program. I'll be wrapping it up in December, after just three semesters.
I'll tell you this—there are some weirdos in creative writing. But sort of endearing weirdos. I've learned way too much about how some people, because for some reason young writers think that their own life experiences are what are most important. So I'm learning things about them that maybe only husbands or wives should know. And I'm having to read them. And critique them. It's made me a nicer person. It's also been strange. But it's ALSO been surprisingly amazing.
I went into it thinking I'd just sort of coast through, but I got really, really into it. I've learned a ton about storytelling, read so many great authors I would've never discovered otherwise. Now I have one semester left, during which I'll be finishing my hours—one nonfiction workshop, one elective—and teaching one or two freshman composition courses. It should be fun. Oh, and I'm also finishing my thesis, which keeps changing but which I think at this point will be a collection of some of my journalism revised and repurposed as sort of a director's cut with director's commentary, for lack of a better term. Basically, it's an excuse to do as little work as possible while writing all about myself.
Fiction. Reading fiction as a kid is what got me into writing, and it's something I've always wanted to to write more of. So in what free time I can find outside of school and work, I write fiction. I've never had any published yet, but honestly, I've never really tried. One of my goals by the end of the year is to have two fiction pieces accepted at national literary journals. I have four or five different stories in the works right now, plus scribblings and rough outlines for like a dozen more ideas, so we'll see. I'll try to keep you posted. But yeah, that's fun, too. Writing fiction is surprisingly awesome practice for writing journalism. It forces you to think of storytelling in a completely different way. Since you have to make everything up, you really realize what's important about your characters, their backstories, what happens to them and what they do and the impact of it all in this fictional little world you've created. And what's crazy is, if you're like, "Oh, this story would be SO MUCH BETTER if THIS happened," then you can totally MAKE THAT HAPPEN. Fiction!
So, that's my deal. Now, I'd like to hear from you all. What do you have cooking? And do you have some goals you'd like to reach by the end of the year?