5 Reasons People Need to Stop Complaining About List Articles

Categories: Writing

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In list form, because pfffffffft.

Lately it seems my newsfeed on Facebook is full of a charmingly hipsterish attitude regarding list articles. The words "hack" and "not real journalism" seem to come up a lot, but I'm a perfectly professional writer who is more than capable of laughing off such knocks against a writing style I happen to enjoy, as witnessed in the screencap above.

Setting aside my self-esteem issues for a second, there is really no point in hating on list articles as a whole, nor do they represent the dumbing down of journalism any more than Cosmopolitan or NaturalNews.com do. Which brings me to my first point...

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5 Harsh Truths That Will Help You Be a Better Writer

Categories: Writing

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Right now I've got a ton of friends on Facebook currently plugging away for National Novel Writing Month, the annual contest where people are encouraged to pen 60,000 original words of written work. Though I don't join in myself due to increased obligations at my day gig during November, it always warms my heart to see so many people taking up the art of creating with words.

However, writing is probably the most self-deluded art out there. I have never found a single person who didn't think they could write a book if they just sat down and put some time in it. Stephen King always used to have a great quip when people told him they always wanted to be a writer. "Really?" he'd say. "I always wanted to be a brain surgeon."

Today, I'm here to pop that bubble. Not because I want to dishearten aspiring writers, but because I want what you write to actually be good.

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Fostering Female Success at NYCC's "Comix Chix" Panel

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Chuck Cook Photography
The GeekNation Comix Chix panelists: Back Row: Joan Hilty, Heidi MacDonald, Nicole Wakelin, Meghan White and host/moderator Kate Kotler. Front Row: Sarah Miller, Molly McIsaac, Bonnie Burton and Jill Pantozzi

People who have never been to a pop culture convention probably think that it's all fun and games, but what happens when you put nine successful and creative women in one room? Discussion ensues on women-centric topics including sexual harassment, creativity, self-confidence, business networking and how young women can break into the industry.

The Comix Chix panel delved into these issues and more. The panelists were Bonnie Burton (editor, author and show host) Jill Pantozzi (associate editor of The Mary Sue), Joan Hilty (fiction/non-fiction editor), Kate Kotler (host of the Comix Chix podcast), Meghan White (Comix Chix Co-Editor/Contributor), Molly McIsaac (co-star of SyFy's "Fangasm" reality show), Sarah Miller (illustrator and tattoo artist), Nicole Wakelin (writer for the GeekMom web site) and Heidi McDonald (editor-in-chief of comicsbeat.com).


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Writing for Us Is the Most Awesome Thing In the World

Categories: Writing

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Jessica Fitzgerald
Me, signing copies of my book, hundreds of which I've sold from exposure on here
Earlier this week my beloved boss Margaret Downing put out a call to you plucky young art commentators to come and do some freelance work here at the Houston Press. Like all her work, it was concise, well-written and informative. Just what you'd expect from a seasoned newspaper editor and writer.

Now let's hear from the psychotic lunatic division! That's me, by the way.

Folks, listen to me when I tell you that this is an opportunity to change your freakin' life for the infinitely better. Writing is literally the best thing in the world you can do. Stuck in a rut? It's time to unstuck yourself so hard that you catapult up into the sky and land on the old lady's roof next door... the roof of awesomeness!

First off, you may think you've got no talent and no place to start. That may be true. I was a horrible writer when I was ten years old, and only marginally better than when I started freelancing here in 2008. You can click on my byline up there and it will take you back through my archives. Don't, though; it's crap back in 2008. The point is you've got to start somewhere.

It takes 10,000 hours to get really good at something. I got paid to practice that right here because there are shows that need reviews, artists that need to be interviewed, and video game portrayals of Hitler that must be ranked against each other. The world cries out for those things, and they are what the makes the readers go clickety click.

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UH Creative Writing Students & Artists Unveil Their Tier One Graphc Novel Tonight

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University of Houston student Zach Martin had been struggling with a literary story for years about a theater family unraveling in the middle of putting on a play. "I could never get the story to work purely as a written piece," he says. So he decided to adapt it to a new genre - that of graphic novel.

Tonight, from 6 to 8 at Alabama Song, 2521 Oakdale Street, several student writers will be celebrating the release of the first edition of Cougar Comics' Tier One, an anthology that's the product of professor Mat Johnson's graphic novel workshop.

Writers could illustrate their own work, or be matched with professional artists as part of this course of study, a joint effort by the university's Creative Writing Program and the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

Ted Closson participated in the class twice as a graduate student. "The workshops are an opportunity to make comics work. You write. If you're an artist you may also draw. If you're quick, it can be an opportunity to craft as many as two to three short works or a short comic and the beginnings of something longer. And the workshop is valuable whether you approach the class with a writing or an artistic focus. Mat works to show writers in the class how to think visually and to help artists understand the nature and pacing of a narrative. Even if you already have something of a background working with comics he has an inside perspective on the industry that is really priceless for those trying to see inside a publishing process."

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Review: Phillip Lopate at Brazos Bookstore

Categories: Books, Writing

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Photo by Joseph Capparella
Phillip Lopate is not a nice guy. At least, that's what he tells himself while he is writing. Lopate, a well-known essayist, teacher, and versatile scribe in general, came to Brazos Bookstore on Friday to read from his two new books, a collection of essays called A Portrait Inside My Head and a sort of how-to manual for writers called To Show and to Tell.

Lopate offered plenty of wisdom to the audience from his selection from the latter on "The Ethics of Writing about Others." He emphasized that writers have to be willing to offend when they write about those close to them. "If you plan to write about friendship, make a lot of friends because you're bound to lose a few," Lopate said. According to Lopate, a writer must learn to accept the sense of guilt from pain inflicted upon others through creative nonfiction.

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Beautiful Paintings of a Most Toxic Waterway

Categories: Writing


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Barbara Davis Gallery
Mie Olise's new series draws inspiration from the Gowanus Canal, one of the most toxic waterways in the country.

The Gowanus Canal is barely two miles long and yet the lore surrounding the Brooklyn waterway is renowned. Decades of pollution from chemical plants and coal yards on its shores has made it one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the nation, and two years ago it was designated a Superfund site. At one point, it was even diagnosed with gonorrhea. Sadly, it's also a place where dolphins go to die.

For years, the area surrounding the canal has also attracted artists looking for cheap rents and the romantic inspiration that decaying industrial sites can bring. Mie Olise is one of them. Originally from Copenhagen, the painter currently has a studio only a few blocks from the canal, and her latest series pulls directly from the canal (literally, it turns out, too).


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Spoiling the Surprises of This Year's CraftTexas 2012 Juried Exhibition

Categories: Writing


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"My Toothbrush" by Paula Gron
Contemporary craft artists have a habit of toying with functionality in an effort to separate what's art from what's craft or decorative items. The dynamic can get tiresome after you've seen one too many ceramic tools or aluminum blobs. But as CraftTexas, a juried exhibition at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, proves, there are still surprises to be had (spoiler alert!).

The biennial show purports to feature the best in Texas-made contemporary craft, and the 40 artists featured don't call that into question. They also provide some great variety, working in clay, glass, metal and wood, though the most striking pieces had wood in common. Paula Gron is a basket weaver by nature, but used her skills to concoct a wooden handle with found tree branches protruding creepily, chaotically from it like some alien takeover. For all its creepiness, it's not without a sense of humor -- the piece is called "My Toothbrush."


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We're Looking for a Few Good Interns

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The Houston Press is recruiting undergraduate journalism and communications students for its Fall 2012 internship program, and the deadline is fast approaching.

By "student" we do not mean "a student of life"; we mean "currently enrolled in college." There's no cash offered with this gig, only college credits.

Still interested? Read on!

Interns work directly with Houston Press editors. Depending on your skills and interests, interns cover pop culture, music, art, gaming, fashion, film, television, dance, celebrity news, politics, food, sports and trends. There's no grunt work involved. You'll work alongside Houston Press award-winning editors and reporters, contributing to both our print and online editions.


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Wanna See Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer Have an Epic Smackdown? RIP Gore Vidal.

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Last night literary jack-of-all-trades Gore Vidal passed away at the age of 86 due to complications from pneumonia. The man had a 60-year career in literature, and was a noted liberal figurehead and pundit. And boy, could he turn a phrase. The New York Times turned in a wonderful and elaborate obituary of the man hours after his death.

And yes, he was bisexual, but that's not even the most interesting thing about the guy. You can check out his plethora of novels, essays, articles and screenplays to see that. I say that that only gave him a better understanding of the human condition. Writers are supposed to get weird now and then.

In the wake of Vidal's death, I found this great clip of him and Norman Mailer -- who passed in 2007 -- verbally sparring on The Dick Cavett Show in 1971. It's a pretty prissy fight by today's standards, which is actually pretty charming considering that in 2012, this would have been an expletive-fueled exchange, with angry tweets afterward.

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