Sassy Smocks and Moist Panties

  Words are a writer’s currency, and we each have our favorites. The first word I remember falling in love with was onomatopoeia. It had a satisfying rhythm, plus there was the delight of discovering, oh — there’s a word for that. That joy of discovery was exactly what I felt reading Lost in Translation, […]

Freelancing Sucks. Long Live Freelancing.

Last month, Fast Company senior editor Reyhan Harmanci published a column called “Freelancing Sucks.” She wrote: Everyone knows this: the freelancers, who are forced to beg for months-late checks; the editors, who surf on an endless sea of referrals, looking for unicorn writers who turn in copy clean and on time; the readers, who get the […]

To File or Pile?

With the new year often comes an urge to purge all my unnecessary belongings. I dream of tossing entire filing boxes of documents into the recycling bin, hauling a dozen garbage bags of clothes to Goodwill, or whittling down my possessions to a few suitcases and moving into a tiny house. This year, I was motivated […]

Holiday Redux: The Pocket Guide to Bullshit Prevention

LWON is celebrating the holidays by re-running some of our favorite posts. This post originally appeared in April 2014, but its applications multiply.  Wishing you a very happy—and bullshit-free—2015. I am often wrong. I misunderstand; I misremember; I believe things I shouldn’t. I’m overly optimistic about the future quality of Downton Abbey, and inexact in my […]

How to Write a Science Feature

1. Write late at night, preferably the night before your deadline. That’s when the creative juices will really be churning. Your gut will be churning too. With panic. 2. Don’t write the whole piece in one fell swoop. Focus on a single sentence. Make sure that sentence is perfect before you move on to the […]

Who Gives Press Releases Their Power?

Newsflash — Press releases about medical studies may contain hype. That was the conclusion of a report published last week in the medical journal BMJ. Petroc Sumner, a professor at Cardiff University, compared 462 press releases on medical studies from leading United Kingdom universities in 2011 and found that 33 to 40 percent of the […]

Ira Glass is Not My Friend and Some Thoughts on Serial

Last year, I told a story for This American Life (TAL), my favorite radio show. My story was about being so lost in grief over my sister-in-law’s death from cancer that I mistook a pizza delivery guy for an undertaker. My error wasn’t as ridiculous as it seems. The pizza guy had the wrong house, […]

Window Seat

At 3 a.m., a quiet settles like fog around the neighborhood, freckled by a few bursts of sound. Sometimes there’s the whistle of an incoming train. An acoustical trick might carry sea lion barks from distant buoys, the deep buzz of fishing boats, even a wave pummeling the rocks. Occasionally, a single too-loud bird call […]