skill building

You are currently browsing the archive for the skill building category.

Tags: , , , , ,


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

When the semester starts, so does A LOT of responsibility: classes, homework, teaching, etc.

The end of break was in sight. The situation was dire.

Trish, Steven and I figured we had just enough time for one last trip and we headed south…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Just a short drive from Phoenix to Mesa, yet learned about something completely new to me at the Mesa Arts Center…

Tags: , , , ,

Nogales, Arizona (June 2010)

So what have I been up to this summer? A little bit of finishing old projects (the Dubai site), a little bit of new projects (rearranging the apartment), and a lot of running around Arizona. Sometimes I’m solo, sometimes it’s a group event, either way, there’s a lot to do for my team’s News21 story which is now in the editing phase and will post later this summer. Whether it’s practicing Spanish on the go or taking photos while (literally) on the road, we’ve been trying to make use of every second this summer.

In these photos, four of us practice Spanish in the car after a day of interviews, Lauren and I attempt to capture the sunset between Nogales and Tucson, and Felipe watch the moon rise on the same stretch of road later in the month.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s so green here…

If it’s hard to remember the searing heat of the desert within air conditioned Nogales houses or even chilly Phoenix newsrooms, it’s impossible to remember so many miles away in the lush countryside of Pennsylvania. Yet the same story that led me south repeatedly is now bringing me north for a few days.

When I get home there’s a few loose end interviews, then writing and editing, then more editing. At the moment that’s all very far away. I’m realizing how accustomed I’ve gotten to Phoenix, because I can’t stop noticing how different this is – after all, it’s so green here…

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

saffron spice

Sometimes traveling isn’t possible – time, money and finals can all get in the way. But, to flip a famous saying, if you can’t go to the mountain, maybe you can bring part of the mountain to you. Photos, souvenirs and maps are all great ways to relive or predict get trips.

Another way is recreating a dish from somewhere else that tastes fantastic. While in Dubai over winter break, I made sure to pick up saffron in Dubai’s colorful spice markets – a lot of saffron. Now that we’re back, Steven’s putting it to good use.

Part of cooking with saffron is knowing how much to use. It really only takes a tiny, tiny pinch to turn a whole pot of rice yellow, and our 20 dirham stash will probably last us years if used judiciously. Steven said he marinated the chicken breasts normally – in this case using Italian dressing – and then sprinkled the saffron on top while it cooked in a broiler pan.

The saffron chicken here is served over white rice, also cooked with saffron, and with sauteed onions, mushrooms and chives – and it was amazing! Steven’s also made hummus and lebnah, and they’re delicious too – I can imagine I’m sitting in a cafe nearly anywhere on the Mediterranean. But the saffron – that brings back the sights, sounds, and most importantly the smells of Dubai’s spice souks.

At times like these when work restrictions make my movements limited, it takes a bit of effort to ignore spring weather and the travel advertisements that suddenly seem to be everywhere. But I enjoy knowing that I’m far from cut off from the world – it’s just a few steps and a few minutes away in a plastic compact on the spice rack. And the saffron will last a lot longer than the Arabic labeled chocolate bars did!

saffron chicken

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here’s the second half – or top three layers – of my border mapping project :

Border Relations

Consulates, humanitarian groups, and medical facilities that play a role in policy along the border.

red = medical facility
green = humanitarian organizations
pink = El Salvadoran or Guatemalan consulate
lavendar = Mexican consulate
turquoise = US consulate

Border Patrol

US Border Patrol stations along the US-Mexico Border, with each station’s sector assignment in the key.

Border Lands

A breakdown of border boundaries, plus cities and facilities that play a role in Arizona or Tucson Sector policy.

red = medical facility
green = humanitarian organizations
pink = El Salvadoran or Guatemalan consulate
lavendar = Mexican consulat
turquoise = US consulate
yellow = US Border Patrol Station

sources :,,,,

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m working on a big project for one of my classes – one that’s been growing and growing and growing to the point where it’s spilled over into two other classes! The project involves many locations along the US-Mexico border and will have a number of media components to show different parts of the story and the data. There’s going to be a major mapping component, and I’ve started posting some of the locations with Google Maps since they can be embedded into the final website for one of the classes.

Google Maps does not have a layering feature, so I’m experimenting with simulating a layering effect through creating multiple maps. Each will have a different component of the story – cities, boundaries, etc. – and will go on the same section of the final webpage. The last map includes all layers from the previous maps. Here are the first two – let me know what you think, and if you have suggestions for what I should include, leave me a comment telling what and why!

Border Boundaries

American and Mexican states along the US-Mexico border.

Border Cities

Cities that play an important role in border policy and migrant travel routes.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Creative nonfiction, narrative journalism, long form reporting – whatever you call it, that’s what this week’s Must See Monday / Cronkite Conversation was about. As an aspiring writer myself, I’d been looking forward to this one ever since this semester’s event list came out. I didn’t know a lot about creative nonfiction, mostly just two things. I knew that it was included in KU’s new MFA program which one of my favorite professors at KU had worked hard to set up. Also, to borrow a phrase, I know creative nonfiction – and appreciate it – when I see it.

Oh, and I know that creative nonfiction’s relationship with journalism is new and growing. There’s lots of discussions about how journalism is changing – are newspapers going to survive, must journalists master multiple media formats, and will stories go mobile? But change isn’t always dramatic. Reporters who are seeing their audience respond to creative nonfiction are learning how even more subtle changes can make a big difference. The definitions of creative nonfiction are well discussed all over the web (like here, here, here, and here) so I’ll cut to the chase : great advice from great writers.

Lee Gutkind Lee Gutkind is editor of Creative Nonfiction as well as being writer-in-residence for the Consortium For Science, Policy, and Outcomes and working with The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Terry Greene Sterling is also writer-in-residence at ASUher blog is here and her newest book, Illegal, will be coming out this fall.

Lee Gutkind, Grandfather of Creative Nonfiction

Gutkind pointed out that with creative nonfiction, creative equals the dramatic part, and nonfiction equals the journalism and information part. “Every time you write a story, every single time you think about a story, you’re trying to draw the reader in as long as possible” – creative nonfiction is one way to do this, whether it’s personal narrative about the journalist or public narrative the journalist writes about others. Either way, the building blocks for creative nonfiction are scenes. Gutkind uses the yellow test – taking a favorite piece of writing and a yellow magic marker, then highlighting all the scenes.

“If you’re doing a serious story, 50 to 60 to 70 % should be scenes,” Gutkind said. “The way I work – I gather my information and think of the stories, and am constantly thinking of where the stories go.” He sits down and writes the scenes of the story, then looks for where the information goes and “the story determines the information you provide, the story determines the reportage – so instead of worrying about the reporting, I get the information the story needs.”

Gutkind doesn’t just work with journalists – when he’s not working on Creative Nonfiction, he’s applying creative nonfiction to other kinds of narrative like science and law through a mixture of classes and workshops. In fact, Gutkind said that in some ways it’s easier to teach scientists, historians and lawyers to start writing, since journalists are often very set in short, short formats – they must break familiar writing patterns to switch to creative nonfiction.

Terry Greene Sterling

For Sterling, narrative journalism equals telling true stories that matter…and that people love to read, and hear, and see, and interact with. It uses the techniques of fiction to tell true stories. She points out that you can’t be a good writer if you can’t be a good reporter since you have to have the material first – Sterling describes public records as “gold.” Also, narrative journalism doesn’t come easy and “you have to train yourself – train yourself every single day.” Sterling described narrative journalists as risk takers who “should learn something new very single day” and “see stories everywhere.”

Sterling organizes her work as she goes along by keeping running lists on the whole project and each section and going over her notes regularly. She said that her stories evolve during the reporting and then the framework comes together. Finally, it’s important to tell the reader how she got the story – it’s also tricky to work citations in to a narrative form. Writers like Sterling and Lane DeGregory, who don’t want to clutter the narrative put the attribution at the end.

During the questions and answers, two other attending journalists – New Times reporter Robrt Pela and freelance award winner Valeria Fernández – also answered questions about they organize their work. Fernández described her work as making a good meal – she gathers the ingredients, starts cooking, and gets more salt as needed. She uses “check on this” markers to get the story down. Pela calls these “apocryphal markers” and uses them for follow up interviews. I really appreciated this advice, and the rest of the evening. Coming back from break can be hard, but having the first day back end with inspiration sets a strong precedent for the rest of the semester.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

« Older entries


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: