Drew Brees, off season 
Drew Brees, off season 
Rough Likeness, Lia Purpura
Given the choice between, say, a dozen okay chocolates and one small piece of pure Belgian dark, I’ll take the smaller, perfect thing. The brief one-time delicacy. It’s always been this way with me. I’ll eat it at once, no slow rationing-out, and then I’ll live with the fleet abundance and the longing.
But, too, I have these perfect T-shirts, so well fitting, falling just-so—a whole drawerful I took such care in collecting—that I resist wearing them for fear of using them up and then not-having.
The boy knows she’s studying him…
The lede: “Most 14-year-old boys whirl through a room, slapping door jambs and dodging around furniture like imaginary halfbacks. But this boy, a 5-foot, 83-pound waif, has learned never to draw attention to himself.”
Time – “For months Feb. 3, 2000, has been circled on the family calendar that hangs on a kitchen wall.”
Place – “The Northeast Portland house, wood-framed with a wide front porch and fading cream-colored paint, is like thousands of others on Portland’s gentrifying eastside.” [Also hints at character, mood, subject]
Character – focus on main, Hallman paints Sam as cautious
Subject – We are introduced to Sam and his family
Mood – a bit anxious
From Franklin’s Writing for Story: We orient base on five things: time, place, character, subject and mood. Good orientation helps with absorption. Time is most important, b/c a story’s time sequence is different than how we experience it in our daily lives.
Strokes of genius: Hallman places Sam in home setting, then moves to high school, which is an experience most people can connect to from the start.
"He grabs a small foam basketball and throws up an arcing shot that soars across the room and hits a poster tacked to the far wall.
His mother made the poster by assembling family photographs and then laminating them. In the middle is a questionnaire Sam filled out when he was 8. He had been asked to list his three wishes. He wanted $1 million and a dog. On the third line, he doodled three question marks — in those oblivious days of childhood, he couldn’t think of anything else he needed.”
"Sam recognizes a girl who goes to his school, Gregory Heights Middle School. Sam has a secret crush on her."
photo credit: Benjamin Brink and The Oregonian
Reporting tricks: high school, middle school, put yourself in the place and focus w/out too much distraction or nostalgia.
Let the subject speak— like tchotchke example. Notice details, the mirror. Be interested in their life, not just what you think you’re going to report on.
NUT GRAFS AND CODE
“His left ear, purple and misshapen, bulges from the side of his head. His chin juts forward. The main body of tissue, laced with blue veins, swells in a dome that runs from sideburn level to chin. The mass draws his left eye into a slit, warps his mouth into a small, inverted half moon. It looks as though someone has slapped three pounds of wet clay onto his face, where it clings, burying the boy inside.”
“You find yourself instantly drawn into that eye, pulled past the deformity and into the world of a completely normal 14-year-old. You can imagine yourself on the other side of it. You can see yourself in that eye, the child you once were.”
Hallman then zooms out, giving an overview of Northeast Portland with great detail, but also adding heft and sweep to the story.
Hallman ends the section with a quote from Sam, who wonders what we’re all wondering: “Will it kill me?”
At a part-time museum job I had in Hyde Park, I cut out a photo from the Chicago Tribune’s daily of Tina Fey and her husband Jeff and thumbtacked it next to Tina Turner and Minnie Mouse on our breakroom wall. Everyone I knew in Chicago loved Tina and some of us pretended she was our friend. The caption under the photo said that she and Jeff went to our museum on their first date. I took pride in that fact. I may have only worked in the museum’s movie theater, where I told field-trip kids to turn off their cellphones, but my employer helped Tina find love.
This first date had happened long before I started working at the museum, but still, I took some of the credit.
Unlike Tina, though, I was not happily married or happily dating or even happily single. My boyfriend and I had been broken up for about six months when I decided I was in a funk and needed to shock my system. Some of my coworkers were taking classes at Second City – where Tina, Stephen Colbert, and Steve Carell had spent time back in the day – and I decided to sign up for Comedy Writing. This was one of those sounded-good-at-three-in-the-morning ideas, because there was a slight problem: I wasn’t funny.
— I wrote this for The Toast, read the rest here
At the same time, I wish young writers could have more time to do what they must and grow in the ways they need to without feeling like they have to leap for the golden ring at the first sign of marketable interest. Your writing is yours. Others can sell it, but ultimately your writing will represent you, not them. Protect it.
Live your love.
I’m not in a cell block, just my room.