Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Wisconsin gunman has died

From USA Today's site, running a report by the Green Bay Press Gazette:
MARINETTE, Wis. — The 15-year-old Marinette (Wis.) High School student who held 23 students and a teacher hostage on Monday has died.
The gunman, identified by Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik as Samuel Hengel of Porterfield, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 10:44 a.m. Central . . .
I sank when I heard the news. I was hoping he would pull through, and expected to be sad if he died. I did not expect to be this sad.

Gates asks Senate to repeal gay ban this month

The Pentagon report on gays is out. Secretary Gates is on TV backing repeal by the Senate this month.

From New York Times:
At a news conference on Tuesday announcing the release of the report, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said that repeal “would not be the wrenching, traumatic change that many have feared and predicted.” 
The Times also has details from the report, many of which had already been leaked. Read the entire report here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

All hostages released from Wisconsin high school

I'll keep adding updates to the bottom, as the story progresses.

The hostage situation in Wisconsin has ended peacefully. Within the past hour, AP and others confirmed it is over. Local TV station WFRV had the most complete report I've seen:
MARINETTE, Wis. (WFRV) -- The hostage situation at Marinette High School has been resolved, all hostages have been released.

Authorities say the 23 students along with one female teacher have been released from the classroom where they were held hostage by a student armed with a hand gun.

Columbine book: $10 Christmas gift

Any students, moms, teachers, cops, librarians or therapists on your list?

They have really embraced Columbine. Also: dads, lawyers, EMTs, firemen, detectives, profs, and school administrators. Or anyone who loves an absorbing read.

The paperback, with new material, is $10 at Amazon. The Strand ships autographed copies worldwide.

Sound dark for Christmas? People just want a great read—and something they would not have chosen. Will someone hesitating about the subject be happy you nudged them to discover an unexpected story?

You can now gift a kindle-book: it's $9.99. In physical stores, all Barnes & Nobles have it 20% off all year, because it won their Discover Award for best new nonfiction this year.

That's my completely shameless Columbine pitch. Don't be shy about passing it on. Haha. (Especially at book sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing and Kindleboards.)

The intro video just passed 20,000 hits for the three months since we relaunched it. Thanks for all the links with anchor text Columbine shooting. They make a huge difference.

Also see: Columbine Student Guide, Columbine Teacher's Guide, Columbine Online research site.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It turns out they have mountains near NYC—and they're beautiful

I believe my agent warned me not to post things this personal on my blog. Hopefully she won't read it. Haha. Or my mother.

Tonight, I'm headed to the Catskills for Thanksgiving. Here's how that happened . . .

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The real Columbine connection to the Aussie twins’ suicide pact

 I'm happy to be a guest poster today on Slate's excellent XX Factor blog, with Columbine's Lost Lesson

(If you haven't read XX Factor, you're missing out. It's subtitled What women really think, and describes itself as "a conversation among Slate’s women writers and friends about politics, culture, and anything else that strikes our fancy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sick of Patti Smith yet? Not me

I'm still giddy over Patti Smith winning the National Book Award for Just Kids, and want to share a few cool things sent to me afterward.

WQED, the great NPR station in San Francisco, wrote to share this recent episode where Patti read from Just Kids for their weekly reading series, The Writers' Block. Listen here:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Introducing the Columbine Student Guide

The Columbine Student Guide is now complete. It's online and free. (The Columbine Teacher's Guide and Columbine Online are in beta, coming soon.)

The idea came this spring, over weeks touring colleges and high schools, meeting thousands of students who had embraced the book. You guys really invigorated me.

Most of you were reading Columbine on your own, out of curiosity and enjoyment.* But a lot of you liked the idea of using the time you'd put in for school, too. And the best papers comes once a subject grabs hold of your imagination. 

I get similar requests as I skype with schools this fall, and emails come nearly every day from students trying to define a paper topic, or looking to jump-start your research. So only six months later (haha) . . .

The Columbine Student Guide. It includes sections to help you:
  • Choose a topic. Extensive ideas for student papers, projects and class presentations.
  • Research. Everything imaginable about the case gathered into one site, organized into categories for easy navigation: Journals, Killers, Attack, Victims, Depression, Evidence, Etc.
  • Explore topics in-depth. Major topics include teen depression, PTSD, survivors and overcoming adversity.
  • Resources. FAQ, author biography, book summary, bibliography, reviews, videos by Dave for students, next reads and more.
  • Skype opportunities. Instructions on how to arrange a skype with me and your class. 
It took awhile to compile all this stuff and then pare it back down into a simple format, but hopefully it will help. Thanks for all the input and encouragement. Let me know what you think.

Much of the material does double-duty in the upcoming Columbine Instructor/Teacher's Guide, but we've organized it differently so that each of you can get what you want quickly.

Please help spread the word to other students—and teachers and profs. Links on your facebook page, blog, discussion boards, etc., are invaluable. Help another student out. And help others discover the book. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Patti Smith won the National Book Award!

Amazing. It's nice to see these things go to great talents. Patti is right there at the top.

Full winners' list here. The photo was texted to me by my friend Dennis Grech, the lucky bastard who was there for Tom Wolfe. Look how happy Patti is.

(BTW, Amazon rank for big surprise fiction winner Jaimy Gordon's, Lord of Misrule: #322. Let's see what it is by morning. Not that anyone checks their amazon rank. haha.)

It was great 'watching' the ceremony by Twitter, but seriously, can't someone televise a single book awards show?

My favorite tweet of the night:

Holy shit Patti Smith is in tears. "please never abandon the book. There is nothing more beautiful than the material of the book."
(Various people had various versions of that quote.)

And Betsy Lerner, I have a big hug for you, too. I guess you can retire now. But please don't.

Insights from 2010 National Book Award judge Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr has weighed in on the year she just spent on the judging panel for one of the four National Book Awards. (She's in the Young People's Literature category, where she was a 2007 finalist for Story of a Girl.)

Sara abides by the agreement not to divulge any arguments or near-miss books, but still offers a lot of valuable insight.

My favorite part comes when she quotes or paraphrases Richard Rodriguez saying that the reader re-creates the book when he reads it. Damn, I love the way he said that. I have always believed it.

"If that’s true," Sara says, "and I think it probably is, that means 100 readers could have 100 different experiences of the same book. Which can be frustrating, but is also kind of magical and also tells you something about what it is to be a person, an individual."

Good word, magical. That's how I feel. That's what makes books and films and music so enthralling for me—from both sides of the creation.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I love Patti Smith—rooting for you at the National Book Awards

The National Book Awards will be announced at a dinner tomorrow night. (I'll be following the live tweets by the foundation that puts them on.)

My congratulations go to all the nominees, but I'm rooting like crazy for Patti Smith in the nonfiction category, for her memoir, Just Kids. (It's about her and notorious-in-some-circles photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.)

Patti has been a hero of mine since I first heard her wail "Because The Night" in the spring of 1978. I was a junior in high school. I think my allowance was 25 cents a week, so asked for her album Easter for my birthday and waited until June 3 to hear more.

I wanted it even more once I saw the stunning Mapplethorpe cover photo. (I had never even heard of him, but man, I liked the shot.)

My Catholic siblings were horrified by the exposed armpit. Hahaha. Seriously. It was 1978. We were sheltered Midwestern kids in the arch-conservative northwest suburbs of Chicago.

They were too embarrassed to take the album up to the checkout counter. They handed me the money and made me do it. If I dared. They were puzzled that I didn't seem grossed out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Word leaks: Talented writer to edit new Yahoo movie site

Yahoo is moving hard after the content market now. They bought Associated Content for $100 million this spring, and now they are grabbing professional writers and journalists to build entertainment sites.

Word leaked today that they hired New York Magazine writer Will Leitch as one of the editors for their new movie site. Will is a wonderful writer. Very perceptive guy.

He and I started writing online around the same time about ten years ago. I think I first noticed him at The Black Table, a terrific early web zine that eventually went under, but helped create what we know as the web today. (I was freelancing a lot for Salon back then.) Will also created the big sports site Deadspin along the way.

A news org actually hiring: New Editor Job

One of the best organizations I've encountered in the journalism field the past ten years has been The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, which is now part of the Columbia Journalism School.
I'm an Ochberg Fellow at the Dart Center, and part of the Dart Society, which is launching an online journal next fall, and is hiring now.

This project has great potential. I've been talking with the organizers about it for some time, and I'm excited about what they have in mind. Keep an eye open for it next fall, and if you are a journalist, or know one, here's the job description:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pentagon study undermines argument for Don't Ask Don't Tell, and Cindy McCain links it to gay teen suicides

Washington Post headline:

The paper broke the story of what the long-awaited study will reveal:
A Pentagon study group has concluded that the military can lift the ban on gays serving openly in uniform with only minimal and isolated incidents of risk to the current war efforts, according to two people familiar with a draft of the report, which is due to President Obama on Dec. 1.

More than 70 percent of respondents to a survey sent to active-duty and reserve troops over the summer said the effect of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy would be positive, mixed or nonexistent, said two sources familiar with the document. The survey results led the report's authors to conclude that objections to openly gay colleagues would drop once troops were able to live and serve alongside them.
That is huge news. It offers hope to gay soldiers, but they are not ready to celebrate yet. They have been disappointed countless times before.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day thanks, memories & photos, to gay and straight soldiers

Happy Veterans Day to everyone serving in the military right now, or earlier in your life.

I just had my old yearbooks from infantry training at Ft. Benning shipped here from storage in Denver, because I'm working on a story.

Man, those brought back a flood of memories. They make the day feel a lot more personal for me. I thought sharing them might for you, too, if you don't know anyone in the military.

(Can you pick out the stern-looking (past-and-) future writer as an acting corporal in 1983? I whittled it down to twelve choices for you, and hopefully you can narrow your search to the white males. Haha. My name might also be a clue, but that's probably too fuzzy to make  out.)

I never went to war, so I have a big thanks for everyone who did, or who is one now, or standing ready.

My heart is also with any of you gay men and women in service today, being forced by Congress to keep silent about who you are. That may end soon, though I know you've heard that way too many times before.

Hold on and keep up the faith. We know you're there, and we care about you. In the words of your commander in chief, in an only-slightly-different context, It Gets Better.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Best Books Lists: A pattern Emerging Already

Publishers Weekly unveiled its 100 Best Books of 2010 list today, and the Top Ten is remarkably similar to Amazon's last week.

They share six of the same top ten titles:
Is that a record?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The NYC Marathon on one leg

Congratulations, John Devine. Congratulations on completing the New York City Marathon. And thank you for being hero today.

John Devine, having a bite
I was worn out this morning and ready for a day of rest. I settled in to watch the climax of the NYC marathon on the TV, even though the finish line was one block and three avenues from my couch. I could hear the helicopters through the TV and the window. I got up and put on a pair of shoes. (And actual pants. Haha.)

I'm so glad I went. I'm glad I took the long way home. Something told me to turn back and check out the exit near the finish line.

That's where a man asked me to take his picture. He wanted his daughters to see him after he finished the race.

I didn't even notice the crutches at first, much less the missing leg. I was busy with my own stuff, and it wasn't until I tried to frame him, that I said, Oh.

I'm not sure whether it was out loud. 

John rode through all five boroughs in his wheelchair today. He completed the marathon in 2 hours and roughly 24 minutes, a pretty incredible time.

I spent the afternoon marveling at the 45,000 people who came out to tackle this course today. Pretty impressive for anyone. It's something I will never accomplish.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Interviewing advice: Roles sources can play

Third in a series for writers and journalists.

This third installment on interviewing comes at the job differently than the previous two. I suggest you only skim the list, and glean from it the following: 
  • You're hunting for a whole lot of things from sources, and most can only provide some of those well. (e.g., some great sources just don't give good quote.) Don't beat yourself up trying to squeeze out something that's not there. (Worse, don't leave them feeling beat up.) 
  • Size each source up quickly. Figure out which of the following they can offer, and focus the interview on gaining more of that.
  • Realize that you need to conduct enough interviews to cover each of these bases with multiple people. Are you interviewing enough?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Amazon's Best of 2010 list rewards books that took time

Halloween now marks the kickoff of the annual book best lists. I think that's way too early, but I'm very happy with what I see.

Amazon unveiled a remarkable Top Ten this morning:

My favorite part of their write-up:
"one thing that struck me about the top books on our list is how many of them took a long time to get written, for one reason or another. If we, as people say, live in an age of instant gratification and infatuation with youth . . . these books are noteworthy for how much they gained from patience and persistence. And perspective too"
That gave me a great big smile.

It echoes what my editor, Jonathan Karp, says incessantly about books.

I need (specific) sleep advice

Just to be clear from the outset, I am not not NOT looking for general advice on sleeping better. (Was that clear?) I've read lots and lots on sleep, and I'm gathering data to see a professional. But I have a couple specific questions where I'd love some help:

1. A sleep tracking device for iPhone. I stumbled across Z Tracker yesterday, and tried it last night, but it's not some annoying problems, and it seems to record only limited data (like how many times I woke up, instead of when each wake-up occurred). I think this sort of data will be invaluable to a sleep doctor I talk to, and there must be better programs out there. Anyone used a good one?

2. Ambient noise programs. I've never used one of these, but thinking maybe I should. On live on a mostly-quiet dead-end street on the Upper West Side, but it gets all clanky around 7 a.m., the worst possible time. (When I'm not done for the night, but least drowsy and least likely to fall back to sleep.) There are garbage trucks, clanking of street people sifting through the glass/metal recycling bags to get the aluminum, and I think delivery trucks blaring their horns at that awful Trump building a few hundred yards down.

So I'm thinking maybe one of those rain programs would help block that out. Or does the research show that those things only give the illusion of calm, and actually make people restless all night by adding a constant barrage of noise.

Thanks for any insight on either of those questions.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My new life in NYC: 1st in my youtube series

I finally followed through on a promise made months ago, and started capturing snippets of my new life in Manhattan on youtube.

Click to view at youtube
(I moved from Denver July 12, after threatening to do it for a good thirty to forty years.)

The first installment is on my neighborhood on the Upper West Side. It runs a little under a minute.

I'm shooting them on my iPhone 4, so me turning the camera around and cutting off 10 percent of my head. Haha.
More coming. The playlist for the series is here. (It's a list of one for now. Who knows how many goofy videos will be in there down the road.) My full youtube channel is here.

Next up, my workspace at Paragraph, downtown. Suggestions are welcome.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

(500) Days of Summer

I finally got to (500) Days of Summer this weekend, and it's the best movie I've seen in quite awhile.

Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are magnetic. I believed them both completely, and couldn't take my eyes off them. They are both going to be huge one of these days.

The direction by Marc Webb was also impressive. He's a creative guy, with a lot of cool touches I hadn't seen before. The future looks good for him.

Spoiler alert, just for this paragraph: My favorite scene came right after Joe finally slept with her. The way he walked out in the morning all bubbly and good with the world was all I expected and good enough. Then he started nodding at strangers and they smiled back, which could actually happen, and then one actually high-fived him, and by the end of the scene, they were all dancing in the street with the sweet bird of paradise fluttering in . . . haha. Often I would hate that kind of shit, but the way Marc eased into it was perfection. It gradually transformed from reality to Joe's vision of the world that morning. And it was clever and funny and beautiful to behold.

Great taste in music. I loved everything on the soundtrack. Watching Joe Karoke my favorite band, The Clash was priceless. (It was Stand By Me, a song that still brings me joy.)

I've admired Joe since 3rd Rock, where I think he was under-rated. He's a real find, and I think the public is slow in discovering him, but will get there.

He has a cool video website experiment called HitRecord.org, too. What a talented guy. He seems nice, too.

And I already loved Zooey for telling (People? magazine) that she loved my book Columbine. This is the first film I've seen her in, and now I'm much more proud.

You can see all three of them in this pic.