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Town Hall with Michael "Mickey" Kearns

The Buffalo Association of Black Journalists is hosting a forum with Buffalo mayoral candidate Michael "Mickey" Kearns at 7:30 p.m. at True Bethel Baptist Church. Please join us for a "live chat," pose your questions to the candidate or just read while I post comments from the scene. See you here at 7:30.

Dawn Marie Bracely

The Paragraph Factory

Welcome to today's chapter of The Paragraph Factory, an occasional (usually monthly) on-line live conversation on the art and craft of writing. Mike and Charity Vogel will open the discussion at 2 p.m. today, and the topics will include anything you want to discuss -- although Charity just may have something to say about book-length writing.

Program note: The Paragraph Factory

For those of you who enjoy the give-and-take of a live on-line chat about the art and craft of writing, the next chapter of "The Paragraph Factory" will open right here at 2 p.m. Tuesday (July 7). Join Mike and Charity Vogel for some conversation about books, journalistic writing or whatever else in the writing biz may be on your mind.


Program note: The Paragraph Factory

For those of you who watch this space for The Paragraph Factory, our (hopefully) monthly live chat on the art of writing  -- sorry. Scheduling and workload issues have kept Charity and I from coinciding long enough to host the chat during the past few weeks.

But we're going to try again soon. We're now planning to be on line for that conversation at 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 7. Hope you'll join us!

-Mike Vogel

The Paragraph Factory

Welcome to the third installment of The Paragraph Factory, a live chat on the art and practice of writing. Author Lisa Genova will be joining us for today's hour-long session, which will start at 2 p.m.

- Mike and Charity Vogel

The Paragraph Factory

Hi, again. We're back for a second chat in The Paragraph Factory, starting at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Hope you'll join us when the "live chat" window below opens.

In the meantime, Bob Pohl sent Charity a couple of observations after reading the transcript of the last session (thanks, by the way, to all of you who posted on that session's blog as well):

1.) In your story on Jodi Johnston, salient use of detail early in the piece, especially regarding the handbag and the BMW, did convey something essential about her "accessory" consciousness and the contrast between her private life and her high profile broadcasting career.  It was good writing.
I understand, though, how some readers might mistake it for an implicit criticism of her lifestyle ... women are subject to a level of scrutiny of their personal appearance, style, and even their parenting skills that men in their professions do not face, which may have been your critical reader's point  If someone was doing a piece on a successful male anchor, would mention of "accessory detail" drawn such a response?  This issue came up again and again during coverage of the Clinton and Palin campaigns this past year.
2.) With respect to the point your Dad made about the emphasis on "storytelling" in contemporary newspaper writing, I'm all for it, but would point out that the way critical reading and creative writing skills are being taught today at the college and university level does not portend well for the "soft lede" in journalism.   As I'm sure you know, there is a powerful ongoing critique of traditional, "linear" narrative and a corresponding suspicion of its lack of transparency.
The critique maintains that traditional narrative assumes the trustworthiness and reliability of the narrator and the intrinsic capacity of language to represent the world unambiguously.  It does not hold that narrative writing is obsolete, only that it's "artifice" be acknowledged, and in some instances, foregrounded. 
Take a look at the boom in "Flash Fiction," in college and graduate level writing, for instance.  Here we have  an intentional movement toward writing "across category"--mixing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir and personal essay--together without distinction in a fragmented, collage-like form.  It's influence is pervasive, which is why we see so many "fake memoirs" in the mainstream publishing world, and acclaimed critical studies by Anne Carson and Susan Howe that are at least part memoir.
It's as if the structure of experience and knowledge itself is changing.  Reading flash fiction assumes a different sense of time, a different quality of attention from the fictional worlds created by Dickens, Tolstoy, or Jane Austen.  It assumes a world where the reader's attention span is limited; and there is no single "reality," but a plurality of hyperlinked "realities," an infinite parallelism of experience.
The so-called "blogosphere," with all it's partisanship, rumors, unsourced information, and worse is the news gathering world's first response to the parallel crisis in journalism.  I'm not saying that the future of journalism is The Huffington Post, but it is likely to look and operate on a business model that is much, much different than anything we are reading today.
OK, that's food for thought -- and maybe for discussion. Talk to you soon!
- Mike Vogel

Next date for The Paragraph Factory

As promised, this is a schedule note for those of you interested in writing. The next live chat from "The Paragraph Factory" will be held in this blog space at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2. Charity and I will look forward to spending an hour chatting with anyone who wants to talk about the art and craft of writing (last time, there were 63 of us in the room!)

-Mike Vogel

The Paragraph Factory

Welcome to The Paragraph Factory! We'll start this live chat at 3 p.m.

We're informal here, and while some of us refer to the entire newsroom here as the Paragraph Factory, for the moment we're just gathered around the water cooler to talk about the art and craft of writing. I'm Mike Vogel, and I've been earning a living as a writer for about four decades now -- newspaper and magazine articles, a handful of books, that sort of thing. And there's something genetic about that, because my daughter Charity has been doing the same thing for about 10 years -- newspaper work here and at the Boston Globe, a play, some book projects. We blame my father, who was a printer by trade. Ink got in the blood.

Anyway, if interest warrants we'll make this a regularly scheduled thing. We're not here to discuss issues (there are plenty of places in this paper's blog and print pages for that). We're in the "Matters of Opinion" space because that's a part of my domain as editorial page editor, but this is about writing.

Flaubert wrote that humans yearn to make music that melts the stars, but wind up playing tunes on cracked kettles for bears to dance to. Let's talk about melting stars.