Brain Food : Summer 2018

Here it is, my almost-quarterly roundup of content that I found educational, inspirational, or flat-out interesting. This summer has been one of trying to refine my writing by taking in solid advice and good work, and I've got links to all of it - just look for anything bold and orange

As per usual, a link in this rundown does not indicate a whole-hearted endorsement of the persons or organizations behind the content, and any link containing some adult language or content is marked with a star (*) so that you can pursue at your own discretion. 

Visual - Kendrick Brinson


I discovered Kendrick through her work on Instagram when she was continuing work on an ongoing project about the south. Her work is lively, thoughtful, and full of true color in a perfect, desaturated-cool-gram world. Kendrick, I want to be you when I grow up. 


Away Message - A podcast put together by Our State correspondent Jeremy Markovich, each half hour episode is packed with quality Carolina storytelling. It features distant places and forgotten stories such as the man who got away with murder by standing on the NC border, and it’s easy, enriching listening. If I can put aside the fact Markovich beat me to some of these incredible tales, it’s always a good time. 

Magic, by Ben Rector - If you need an album for road tripping, this is it. Singer-songwriter esque lyrics with a nostalgic sound? Yes, please! Plus, the first song Extraordinary Magic is basically the Thistle & Sun message, so thanks for that, Ben.

Sweet Tea Shakespeare Playlists  - * After tripping down to Fayetteville to shoot a couple STS productions, I kept coming home with tunes they would use for their pre-show entertainment stuck in my head. Thanks to playlists like this I can actually learn the songs and enjoy singing them for years to come! 


The Witches, by Stacy Schiff via Overdrive - * We all know that things were messed up in order for the Salem Witch Trials to happen - but I never knew just how tangled things were until listening to this book. Carefully researched and artfully written, The Witches takes the reader through the trials - starting with the cultural background in the years leading up to 1692, and staying with it up until the girls that sparked the hysteria grew up. One of the biggest takeaways for me was that the culture of Salem was a product of dedication to reformation without a matched dedication to Christ. And puritanism without a savior is a threatening thing indeed - certainly more frightening than a witch.


Two Masterclasses: 

Malcolm Gladwell on Writing - Gladwell has an enduring curiosity about the way that the world works - and in his decades of writing for the New Yorker and other magazines, he has sought to take his readers along with him in the voyage of discovery. The class is part anecdote, part lecture, and part practical rubber-meets-the-road advice. After a spring of pitching with less results than I would like, it made me excited to get back in the saddle again.

Bob Woodward on Investigative Journalism - One half of the reporting duo that busted the Watergate story wide open, Bob Woodward is as much tempered as partner Carl Bernstein is tempestuous. Getting hours of advice from this unassuming, almost grandfatherly source was a pleasure. Although I have no intention to go into the investigative side of things, there was a lot of general wisdom (how to interact with an editor, making a source feel heard and comfortable, obtaining the best available version of the truth) that was golden.

As an aside, Masterclass has been an invaluable resource for general brain food - full of subjects taught by veterans of their trade. If you have the annual fee to spare and you love to learn: do it. It’s worth the investment in yourself. 

The Art Assignment - * A YouTube channel dedicated to helping us understand art in a way our high school classes never quite could. My favorite videos are the “A Case For” series (diving into why certain less-understood strains such as conceptual art or cubism actually contribute to the world of art) and the “Art Trip” series, which takes the viewer to different towns and helps them explore the arts in different communities. For a good start, check out their field trip to Marfa or A Case For Jackson Pollock . 



Sondheim, by Lin-Manuel Miranda for T Magazine - There is something so comforting about knowing that great work is produced by ordinary days of work on a couch, of consistently showing up on good days and bad days and brilliant days and everything in between. Here you’ll get a glimpse into the world of a great through the eyes of another remarkable artist.

Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers by Dannye Romine Powell, Photographs by Jill Krementz - Journalist and North Carolina native Dannye Powell had interviewed many writing legends about their newest books during her tenure at the Charlotte Observer - but what interested her was not the newest book, but the methods of the authors. What did ordinary life look like? Did their methods diverge from tried-and-true advice? When had they failed, and how had they reacted? These are the questions featured in this book, and it has made me nearly cry from relief several times. If Maya Angelou can have a bad day, then I’m allowed to have one too. If Doris Betts wrote in the margins of her time and produced something good, I might be able to as well. If Fred Chappell (after multiple acclaimed books) still felt like he lived and died by his mailbox, I don’t need to feel so guilty about my frequent inbox checking. It’s just given me the gift of feeling more normal, and seeing that the shoulders I'm standing on belong to mere mortals, not gods. 


The Morning Briefing from the New York Times - This daily morning email is a good way to stay in touch with the general goings-on in the U.S., and for the last month or so it's been my first reading before breakfast in the morning. I have to wonder if this is what black-and-white sitcom fathers felt like, perusing the paper over a plate of eggs before picking up his briefcase and heading off to work. 

Here endeth the link-sharing - I hope I've given you some new resources to enjoy as we all head into autumn!