Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Our Favorite Headline & Quote of the Week

Each month we bring you our favorite lead paragraph, in a belief that beginning well is at least half the battle with any piece of writing. But we can't forget other important building blocks of interesting writing: great headlines and vivid quotes. Our favorite headline comes from Inside Higher Education, a lively and well-written online-only competitor to the grandaddy of the niche, the authoritative Chronicle of Higher Education. We noted with interest this headline, "The Pedagogy of Place." Meanwhile, in the Guardian, the founder of the British literary journal Granta and later the New Yorker's fiction editor, Bill Buford, offers up this pithy sentiment: "I'm a person who gets energized by deadlines, even when I'm well past them." I think most people who write can appreciate the blend of humor and truth in that thought.
UPDATE: Special thanks to Inside Higher Ed's editor Doug Lederman (a native of Shaker Heights) for taking note of our busted link today and sending along one that works. Great editors are like world-class chefs. They somehow pay attention to the big picture while also keeping track of microscopic details such as this, a problem link to one of their stories on a blog they've never heard of before. Thanks for dropping us a line, Mr. Lederman. We now like your pub even more than before. I neglected to note previously that we've celebrated this online publication here before.


At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Steve Schultz said...

Great links. Mr. Buford's quote raises an existential problem along the lines of 'If a tree falls in the forest….' If one passes (misses) a deadline, can it still be considered a deadline? Or does it simply become 'that day two weeks ago when I promised to be finished.'

At 6:43 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

For a first-time commenter (I think) you make an awful good point, Steve. There are basically two schools of thought among writers when it comes to deadlines (remember I'm talking about writers here. Editors will see it differently, so it behooves writers to find editors with whom they're mostly on the same page). There are the former A students in high school and college who believe that there's a reason the word "dead" appears in "deadline." They tend to be favorites of many editors, as A students are often favorites of their teachers. They're less challenging and more dependable.

But then there are those writers who feel that everything is negotiable, including deadlines. Like a friend I used to have named Jeff, who would schmooze with female editors by delivering a single white rose on deadline day, in hopes of winning a few more days. They tend to be those who got rather less than A's in school, either because they were too busy having fun, goofing around, delving into activities and/or meeting others. All of those things are probably better formative experiences for writing than sitting in a class and collecting a good grade. Anyway, those more slovenly about deadlines know they can't get away with A). abusing deadlines all the time and with every editor, and B). that if they do go past deadline, they'd better be sure the resulting piece of writing is truly worth waiting for. In other words, lots of editors will gladly wait a couple extra days if they know they'll get something good, and that it won't be two weeks late, etc. But being late and being mediocre is generally a toxic mix.

Anyway, I've gone on far too long about this topic. I do thank you for adding your voice to the conversation.


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