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Oct 6 / King Kaufman

Great advice for writers: Tweets from a daylong workshop at Georgetown

Roy Peter Clark

Roy Peter Clark

I quote Steve Buttry often, but I think he’s outdone himself with a Storify curation of a daylong writing workshop Saturday put on by the Georgetown University graduate journalism program in partnership with the Poynter Institute and the Washington Post.

Buttry is one of my favorite people to steal material from. Wait, did I write that? I mean I end up mentioning him a lot because he’s a great teacher. He’s the director of community engagement and social media at the Journal Register Co., one of the most progressive old-media outfits in the United States.

Four Pulitzer Prize winners, owners of five Pulitzers—Gene Weingarten of the Post has a matched pair—spoke Saturday at the Georgetown workshop, which was called “Write Your Heart Out.” But for my money the highlight of Buttry’s post is the tweets relating to the talk by Roy Peter Clark, the legendary writing teacher at the Poynter Institute.

I spent three days at Poynter in 1988, at an ethics seminar for college journalists. I’ll pause for a moment while you think of “It didn’t take” jokes. I’ll respond with what used to be my favorite Bertolt Brecht quote: “Grub first, then ethics.”*

Clark was there, and while I don’t remember the specifics of what he said, I remember thinking, “Every time this guy opens his mouth, he says something I feel like I should remember forever.”

Fortunately, eventually, the Internet came along and the things Clark says are available for everyone to soak in and remember. If you care about writing, there are worse ways to spend a day than to plant yourself in front of a computer and try to find as much of his wisdom as you can.

Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht

You can start with Buttry’s blog post. If you just read the tweets about what Clark says, you’ll probably learn more about writing than you’ve learned on any other day this year. If you click through on the many links provided, you’ve got yourself a semester’s worth of material.

Little of it pertains directly to sportswriting, but almost all of it is adaptable to any kind of writing you’ll ever do.

There’s too much wisdom just in that one section of Buttry’s post for me to try to summarize it, but just note how many times my favorite piece of writing advice comes up: Read what you’ve written out loud.

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* In the last few years, for some reason, another quote, also from “The Threepenny Opera,” has become my favorite: “What is robbing a bank compared with founding a bank?” (Go back.)

  • Steve Buttry

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m honored.