Thursday, April 10, 2014

Need writing inspiration? Read this!

I was racking my brain Wednesday night after critique trying to come up with a way to help members of The Orion feature staff adopt a different approach to their writing.

Too much of their stuff reads like the front page: all inverted pyramid and who-what-where-when ledes.

And I remembered examples of features I used to give my Media Writing class at Normandale Community College (where I taught before I came to Chico State last year), winners from an annual contest sponsored by the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors.

The group is now the Society for Features Journalism, and the contest entries are still inspirational.

Here's a lede from one of the Short Features category winners:
She scheduled an 11:30 a.m. surgery Wednesday to remove the brain tumor and told Tafoya they should marry first.
"I wanted to go into the surgery and come out to my husband," she says. "He could be my strength."
Monday, he picked up a marriage license.

During an angiogram, she mentioned to a nurse her plan to marry in the hospital, and word spread.

Invitations zipped out by text and Facebook message.

One hospital staffer offered a veil, another to play the harp, a third to do Amos' makeup. The gift shop would deliver floral arrangements and the caterer trays of fruit. They reserved a patio planted with wildflowers. Amos' 13-year-old niece baked a layer cake. The couple's friend, Jessie Sponberg, agreed to perform the ceremony. Hours beforehand, David's Bridal lent a gown.
How could you not read the rest of this story by Katy Muldoon of the Oregonian in Portland?

Here's another:
He's already written Sunday's sermon.
Psalm 23. The good shepherd story.

Reinhard Beckman hasn't put anything on paper, because he's legally blind now, but he's thought of the words, moved them around, locked them in. He knows what he'll say when he returns to the pulpit at Luther Memorial with his son, his friends and his flock listening from the pews.

His cup is running over.

"I'm going to stress all the good things God has done for me."

And the next day, he'll turn 100.
 That's by Peter Salter of the Lincoln Journal Star. Amazing, right?

A lot of great feature writing is about finding a great story to tell, but really great feature writing is also about the art of telling. Go to the SFJ website and read some of the other really great writing on the winners' page. See if it doesn't inspire you, too.

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