Filtering by Tag: TRAVEL

How Journalists Can Think Like Scientists

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Russell Sage Foundation’s Social Science Summer Institute for Journalists. Helmed by Nicholas Lemann and Tali Woodward, it’s an intimate seminar that teaches journalists how to write about the social sciences and think like social scientists. Guests speakers included Andrea Elliott and Shamus Khan. It’s held in a Philip Johnson building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I’m already using the tools I acquired there. I highly recommend it for everyone: from graduate students to veteran reporters.

[Image via my Instagram]

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When the Writer Wanders

In the last few years, I've undertaken some trips that revolve around writing. An investigative journalism conference in New Orleans. A storytelling conference at Yale. A month-long writing residency at the Carey Institute for Global Good. And another residency on Martha's Vineyard. There were pluses and minuses for all of them, but here are a few reflective thoughts.

Just go. I spent a fair amount of time trying to talk myself out of all these adventures. Because that's what they are: adventures. Here's what writers do too much of: think, talk themselves out of things, and sit at a desk. Whenever you're doing pretty much anything that isn't what you usually do but is in service of you, you're doing the right thing. You will concern yourself with real concerns: money, time, guilt, etc. But there are ways to manage all of these things. Once you start executing your plan, and, better yet, once you find yourself there, you will sense on some level, hopefully, that you're doing the right thing. Why it's the right thing may not be clear right away.

You take the bad. There were things I deeply didn't like at some point during these adventures. The investigative journalism conference was: not freelancer-friendly, overpopulated by FOIA nerds bragging about their data-driven discoveries, attended by a certain number of on-air news personalities including women wearing sleeveless dresses in primary colors. I felt like a dateless dipshit at the prom for much of the time. But it meant I got to spend several days doing nothing but thinking of myself as an investigative journalist. I learned a lot: about how to do those FOIAs, about how to win a Pulitzer, about how to be who I am.

You take the good. My favorite experience was the residency at the Carey Institute. It was in this amazing rural area in upstate New York, and the trees were aflame with autumn. We were the first group in the program, and it had this air of bristling excitement. I was woefully underproductive on the page--or so it seemed at the time. But that was the start of the journey that's taken me to the place I am today. And that? It feels like a good place to be.

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The Vineyard

I spent a couple weeks on Martha's Vineyard. I was there working. This was the hallway to my room, at night, lit by the EXIT sign. It looks like something out of "The Shining," doesn't it? First, it was warm. Then, it was cool. I took some walks to the lighthouse. Eventually, I was ready to leave, and then I did.

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How Well Are You Received?

The guy walks in and takes a look at Vincent van Gogh's latest work. It's La Berceuse. Why is her face so yellow? the guy wants to know. He points at the woman's strange hands. What have you mangled there? the guy queries, clearly annoyed. I don't like this, the man says. It's just too weird. (Just ignore him.)

Support the arts! Buy a digital copy of THE TUMOR, a "masterpiece of short fiction" by me, Susannah Breslin.

Preps

Where I grew up, they didn't have people like this. I guess it's an East Coast thing. I gawked at them when I saw them. They were on their way to a wedding. They saw me agog and smirked.

I don't think they really got what I was thinking.

Support the arts! Buy a digital copy of THE TUMOR, a "masterpiece of short fiction" by me, Susannah Breslin.

Have Laptop, Will Travel

"Flogging the Freelancer" is a blog post a day about freelancing in the gig economy. Browse the archives here.

I'll be traveling, and blogging, over the next few days, but one thing I try and do as a freelance writer is to do a story every time I travel.

So, when I went to Hawaii, I wrote "Gun Tourism Is All the Rage in Waikiki": "It was like Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, California — except for instead of burning incense and selling hemp necklaces, they were hawking the fruits of the Second Amendment."

When I went to Miami, I wrote "How the Biggest Strip Club in America Grinds": "'I like dancing a lot,' she says. 'I’m not shy. I have a lot of spunk.'"

And when I went to Shanghai, I wrote "This Restaurant Is Shit": "I had no trouble eating the desserts that looked like shit at the toilet-themed restaurant."

Freelancing is about starting, and stopping, and restarting. I've found this process of living, and working, and reworking helps me stay in the flow.

You can connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and you can email me here.

I Heart New York

After I went to the journalism program at Yale, I spent a couple days in NYC. It was an amazing time. I ate at The Breslin, which I Ioved. I sat at the bar upstairs and enjoyed a Brooklyn Bramble cocktail (I tried the Pickled Gibson, but it was too weird for me), the market salad with tahini dressing (tasty!), and the duck and sausage (delicious). Thanks to Matt for being a cool bartender. I stayed at the Algonquin, which, oh my god, I loved so much. Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle! Dark wood! A cat named Matilda working the front desk! A copy of the New Yorker in every room! I will definitely return. On my first full day there, I went to see the Alexander Calder show at Dominique Levy. Everything was white, white, white there, and you had to wear booties to not scuff up the floor. The Calders were mostly small-sized, and there was a very dear set of miniature sculptures that fit into a cigar box, a gift for his wife. The rooms in which the pieces were shown were designed by Santiago Calatrava. After that, I saw the Richard Prince show at Gagosian. The show featured cheesy pulp books that were coupled with the original artworks that had been commissioned for them. It was a little odd, and somewhat amusing. Of course, the infamous appropriated shot of an underage Brooke Shields in the nude was included. As usual, Prince underwhelmed. After that, I went to the Met.  This show required a warning, and I loved the China fashion exhibit. There were some amazing Tom Fords and a lot of glorious Galliano, but I wished there were more McQueens. Don't miss the weird, watery floating box on the roof garden. The next day, I had to check out the new Whitney Museum. So glad I did. It is super cool. It's like a stack of fantastic shoe boxes, or art-filled jewel boxes, and the views that frame the art make you feel agog. The all-floors show is America Is Hard to See. The top floors with older works were crowded and less impressive, but the lower floors with newer works were just spectacular. Oh, and I walked the High Line, too.

Buy THE TUMOR! "This is one of the weirdest, smartest, most disturbing things you will read this year."

My Bloody Sacrifice

I've got a new personal essay up, this one on The Billfold: "Blood Sacrifice."

I fantasized that if I went, on the night that I was there, by some strange coincidence, Achatz would be there. Achatz, I knew, had had cancer, too, and, in my daydream, Achatz would come by the table, and I would motion to him, and he would bend down low, and I would tell him, in a murmuring voice, that I had had cancer, and I knew that he had had cancer, too. He would smile knowingly at me, and I would smile knowingly at him, and then he would disappear into the kitchen, and he would emerge with a plate of something that looked like a tumor splattered across porcelain, and I would eat it, and whatever it was made of (rhubarb? venison? something else entirely?), it would be delicious, and I would have eaten the tumor that had tried to eat me, metaphorically, of course, and the cycle of life would close upon itself, completing itself, like Ouroboros with his tail in his mouth rolling down a street like a wheel.

Buy THE TUMOR: "This is one of the weirdest, smartest, most disturbing things you will read this year."

I'm on Instagram

I got an iPhone 6 Plus, which I love, and I'm on Instagram. Follow me here. I love taking photographs, but my big Canon was a PITA to drag around and was getting old. I had trouble with my old iPhone, though, because my hands tend to shake, and my photos were often blurry. I wasn't sure whether to get the iPhone 6 or the Plus, but I went for the latter and am so glad that I did. Taking photos on it is fantastic. The images are great, and the weight makes it easier for me to take a sharp picture. Since my old Canon was dying anyway, my hope is to have my iPhone 6 Plus be my main camera. We'll see how it goes. For some reason, it took me forever to get on Instagram. Probably mostly because of the problem I had with taking iPhone pics, and I never really got the point. Now I get it. I also love, like everybody else, that Instagram is like Photoshop for your life. It makes everything look better. Thanks, Instagram!

Buy THE TUMOR: "This is one of the weirdest, smartest, most disturbing things you will read this year."