Janice’s Review Blog

Archive for September 2009

Anderson Cooper shares "Dispatches from the Edge."

Anderson Cooper shares "Dispatches from the Edge."

In “Dispatches from the Edge,” Anderson Cooper shares not only the wild encounters in his professional life, but the emotional encounters in his personal life.  Knowing that he’s the son of Gloria Vanderbilt and the late Wyatt Cooper, one thinks that he might live a much different life.

At the age of 24, he writes, “I was on my own with just a home video camera and a fake press pass.  I wanted to be a war correspondent but couldn’t get a job.”  He writes that by 25 everything changed because he had a job and he received a salary to travel to wars.

Over the years, Cooper reported not only on wars but on tragedies world-wide.  His graphic descriptions of the havoc and destruction  caused by the tsunami in Sri Lanka, the starving children in Niger, the war and danger in Sarajevo, the devastation of Katrina and the casualties of war in Iraq truly take the reader on his journeys into the unbelievable horrors of these events.  Cooper never minces words or sugar-coats descriptions of the bodies or the conditions that he sees.

“I used to think that some good would come of my stories, that someone might be moved to act because of what I’d report,” writes Cooper.   “I’m not sure I believe that anymore.”

He came to Sarajevo for the first time in 1993 dressed in his Kevlar vest and helmet, but on return trips, he says that he leaves this protection behind in his vehicle when he goes to people’s houses for interviews.  He feels the need to accept life as unprotected as they do so that they trust him and tell their stories.

“Hurtling across the oceans, from one conflict to the next, one disaster to another,” Cooper writes, “I sometimes believe it’s motion that keeps me alive as well.  I hit the ground running: truck gassed up camera rolling-‘locked and loaded, ready to rock,’ as a soldier in Iraq once said to me.”

Between these action scenes of disaster and mayhem, Cooper inserts passages of loosing his father unexpectedly when he was 10.  Later he also describes the horror of his older, 23-year-old brother Carter’s suicide at his mother’s apartment as she watched.

Cooper writes this book with great honesty, compassion and detail.  One learns about his life and about the lives of people who work as great foreign correspondents and everyday heroes.  I’ve read the book twice and never get tired of the stories that Cooper tells.  I’m not quite sure why he’s not gone over the edge with all of his trials and experiences, but I’m glad that he continues to go out and get the true stories to share with all of us.

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The Associated Press presents new revised and updated "Stylebook."

The Associated Press presents new revised and updated "Stylebook."

The Associated Press recently released its new revised and updated 2009 version of “The Assoicated Press Stylebook.”  This guidebook serves as an invaluable reference for journalists, editors and students.

The Stylebook not only contains an A to Z reference guide, but it also contains sections on business, sports and punctuation guidelines, media law, editing marks, a bibliography and information on the Associate Press.  The new edition contains a complete update of all the information from A to Z, which appear in the listing on the What’s New page of the book.

Readers find easier access to items and more cross references in this version of the Stylebook.  For example, the Stylebook now lists each state in alphabetic order and gives information under “state.”

The Stylebook Key page explains, “This updated and revised version of The Associated Press Stylebook has been organized like a dictionary.”  The page provides a key with illustrations to make use of the Stylebook easy and efficient.

For questions not specifically answered in the Stylebook, a Twitter account at @APStylebook gives Twitter users a chance to pose their questions to the Twitter community by using #APStyle.  An example of an answer using Twitter is: “#APStyle tip: ABM is acceptable on all references for anti-ballistic missile, also known as interceptor rockets. http://bit.ly/ZRWV9.”

Ask the Editor also gives users another option for asking specific questions.  Whether purchasing the paperback or spiral bound Stylebook or subscribing online, the 2009 version of “The Associated Press Stylebook” remains an invaluable tool for anyone in the industry.

Paul McFedries writes "twitter: Tips, Tricks, and Tweets."

Paul McFedries writes "twitter: Tips, Tricks, and Tweets."

Last semester, I took a Writing for Online Media class with Joe Gannon at Paradise Valley Community College.  We learned how to Twitter.  I now find that Twitter supplies me with great information on all kinds of news, networking and sports information, so I decided to learn more about Twitter.

Paul McFedries wrote “twitter: Tips, Tricks, and Tweets” a great book for those who really do want to know everything about Twitter.  The book explains who might be interested in Twitter and how to set up a Twitter account.

McFedries spends time giving in depth how to instructions on every aspect covered in the book.  He explains why Twitter chose 140 characters, how to manage the characters, shorten URLs and use characters in Twitter posts.

Occasionally tweets get posted with grammar and spelling errors.  Twitter doesn’t allow edits of updates, but a delete procedure allows removal of these tweets.

The book also defines hashtags (#) and to use them to define and reference topics.  FollowFriday gives you people who others recommend for follow.  This gives those on Twitter a great way to find interesting people to follow.

The book also explains how to search for followers or for topics.  A list of gadgets and widgets expands the use of Twitter.  McFedries covers every aspect of Twitter, and the book is ideal guide for beginners or veterans in the Twitterverse.

'Will Write for Food' represents a complete food writing guide.

'Will Write for Food' represents a complete food writing guide.

In her book, “Will Write for Food,” Dianne Jacob presents a complete food writing guide.  From recipes to restaurant review, she covers it all and brings in other experts to share their writing techniques and stories.

The 10 chapters offer details on how to write about food and tips on how to be a successful writer.  In her chapter, “Characteristics of a Food Writer,” Jacob interviews food writer Anthony Bourdain, who she characterizes as “king of fearlessness.”  Bourdain travelled around the world and experienced “extreme eating.”  Bourdain sometimes became quite ill because of the things he ate, but he used these experiences in his book, “A Cook’s Tour,” and on his television show. 

Jacob lists many helpful resources throughout the book such as books to read, Web sites to visit, magazines to query and software programs to use.  She shares her personal experiences as an editor and writer and brings in experts’ views of how to do food writing. 

The book devotes two full chapters to “The Cookbook You’ve Always Wanted to Write” and “The Art of Recipe Writing.”  Jacobs presents ways to obtain great cookbook ideas and how to follow through with them.  She also explains how to write a recipe and check for accuracy.  A lot of time, effort and money go into the process of creating the perfect recipe.

Other unusual chapters in the book describe how to write about food in memoirs, nonfiction and fiction.  The final chapter of the book explains methods of publishing your book.  The Appendix includes interview subjects, 15 page bibliography, Web sites and a comprehensive index.

This book is an excellent read for any writer whether they relish writing about food or not.