Writers and writing

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Writers and writing

Nieman Storyboard can be counted on to give us something worth posting every week or two. So can John McPhee. Now, the two meet as part of a series, “Why’s this so good?” NASW member Carl Zimmer deconstructs McPhee's 1987 article on the Mississippi River, “Atchafalaya.” Says Zimmer: “I get the sense that McPhee spends every waking hour gathering observations, stories and plain facts that he stores away for articles he may not write for decades to come.”

It's one part curiosity, one part mechanics, and one part stubborn determination, the legendary New Yorker writer tells interviewer Peter Hessler in the Paris Review. "Stories are always really, really hard," McPhee says. "I think it’s totally rational for a writer, no matter how much experience he has, to go right down in confidence to almost zero when you sit down to start something. Why not? Your last piece is never going to write your next one for you."

What made Rebecca Skloot's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" the top science book of 2010? It wasn't just the science, said John Dupuis in Confessions of a Science Librarian: "People that were predisposed to like science books loved it and that shows through. More tellingly, however, are the cases where the reviewer didn't seem predisposed towards science books at all but still loved the story of Henrietta Lacks."