Writing as Magic: It Only Looks Easy

Chip Scanlan / The Poynter Institute

Whenever I read a story I admire, the first question that pops into my head is, “How did you do it?”

That happened again just the other day when I read a magical story by Kevin Pang, a talented young writer for the Chicago Tribune. Set in a Chicago children’s hospital, “Nothing up sleeve but friendship” focuses on the relationship between a hospital volunteer, magician Mike Walton, and a 15-year-old patient named Arthur Palos. Published in June, the story is the literary equivalent of “chicken-skin music” – that is, the kind that raises goosebumps. It was such a compelling read, I had to know: How did he do it?

In an industry where training is woefully underfunded, non-existent and by necessity ad hoc, sharing the lessons of great reporting and writing remains one of the best ways to learn the craft. It’s the spirit behind the “Best Newspaper Writing” series, The Providence Journal’“Power of Words” Web site, Lee Enterprises’ “Writing Matters,” Bob Baker’s “NewsThinking” and “No Train No Gain,” home base for newspaper training editors and coaches.

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