Top 5 Narrative Journalism Resources–Analog Edition

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You’re not going to be in grad school forever (hopefully!), so it’s good to amass some handy reference resources for when you make that transition from masters student to master reporter. This week, I’ll share my top five print resources. Next week, you’ll learn my favorite online references.

And it may sound super-cheesy, but my most valuable resource isn’t online or in a book. It’s my network of classmates and professors who continually inspire, challenge, and share opportunities with me. This close-knit, small, and supportive community is definitely a huge reason why I chose Columbia College Chicago, and they haven’t let me down.

That said… bring on the books!

#2: The AP Stylebook

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Journalists just need the AP Stylebook, often referred to as “the bible,” since it really is the industry standard and weighs about as much as a real Bible. Not only does it help you remember all the quirky tricks of putting numbers and titles into your writing, it’s a handy reference for those times you blank on grammar rules. You just need one, or access to one (borrow a friend’s, use the newsroom’s copy, purchase access to the online version).

#3: Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

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Roy Peter Clark is one of the gods in the pantheon of narrative journalism. The man is an excellent writing instructor; he even makes grammar fascinating. This collection of writing tools is a culmination of a free series of articles he wrote for Poynter. The tools Clark introduces to his readers are not only useful for narrative journalists who plan to tell their stories in writing, but his lessons in character development, description, and pace are useful for visual storytellers too.

#4: Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide

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The Nieman Foundation (more about them next week) is a great think-tank and supporter of narrative journalism. This book, edited by the organizer of the fabulous Narrative Arc Conference, Mark Kramer, and the talented Wendy Call, is an advice anthology with contributions from nonfiction luminaries like Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Orlean, and Tracy Kidder. These heroes of narrative journalism weigh in helpfully on all parts of the writing process, from reporting to publication. Swoon. This book is useful for remembering that even wonderful writers struggle, and if they found ways around their writing/reporting obstacles, you can too.

#5: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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Anne Lamott’s candid essays about the joys and frustrations of writing is like a writing-therapy session in book form. The book’s title comes from an episode where Lamott’s brother was struggling to complete a grade school report on birds that he put off until the last minute. Lamott recalls her father sitting beside her brother and reassuring him, saying, “‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” Which, of course, is great advice for any writer. My other favorite chapter is the one where Lamott stresses the importance of writing “a really sh***y first draft.”

This is just the start of my list, and there are plenty of other fantastic writing resources I didn’t quite get to. So what are some of yours? Leave a comment and let me know!