Words of Inspiration from Yearbook Camp

Reporter and screenwriter Skip Hollandsworth spoke to student journalists at the 2012 Gloria Shields Publications Workshop in July. He gave GREAT advice.

  1. Learn the rhythm of a good sentence.
  2. Type of famous writers’ work to learn that rhythm.
  3. I don’t have droughts. I’m not allowed. The insurance man doesn’t get to have droughts and neither does the writer. There’s a lot of writing that’s not inspired. I get a first draft, then I know where to go.
  4. 1st draft is crap. (He used Hemingway’s quote)
  5. Challenges? I still feel fear. I still write a paragraph and say who do I think I am? I’m not a writer.
  6. The way to beat the fear is to write a sentence and then another. And then another.
  7. No matter how bad it is, keep writing.
  8. I don’t ever try to write a cluttered sentence.
  9. Hollywood always looking for the next teen movie that captures the teen zeitgeist.
  10. Start taking notes in a journal. It will be gold one day.
  11. How to get ready to write: wake up early, drink a lot of coffee, try not to get distracted.
  12. The great goal is how to shut out the outside world.
  13. Your life (as a writer) is a lonely, miserable, pain drenched life. And you’ll love it.
  14. Don’t be safe. Don’t write the predictable story.
  15. If the quote goes on too long, you lose the reader
  16. I love getting the detail that makes people gasp. That’s reporting.
  17. Readers want to be moved
  18. Why he’s a reporter: Because I couldn’t do math. (His father loved to tell stories) If you’re surrounded by good storytellers you pick it up.
  19. People love to talk about themselves.
  20. Here’s where you get the best stories: don’t be afraid to ask a stupid question, but ask it sincerely. I would interview anyone who would talk to me.
  21. Never stay with the one quote. Follow up. Ask more.
  22. A lot of journalism is pedestrian work, but that teaches you to write tight. Just because you’re writing a boring story doesn’t mean you get to be bored.
  23. ALWAYS LISTEN, follow up, don’t even look at your notebook.
  24. Don’t red your questions to your source. Have a conversation.
  25. I’m still never comfortable with my work. Never happy with it.
  26. Don’t think of writing as an art. Think of it as a craft.
  27. Get them to tell a story that’s important to them–and you
  28. He tells them “I’m not here to judge you. I want to try to understand what got you to this place.” Then he tries to make them comfortable.
  29. Make sources feel like they have a sympathetic ear
  30. Where he gets his stories: I read. I look for funny stories. Stories that I read and think “that will make a really good twist”
  31. Start a conversation. Don’t let them think it’s an interview.
  32. When you’re interviewing someone and they pause, take a breath too. LET THEM SPEAK. (STFU)
  33. I believe it’s very important to get banter going.
  34. If you get the forum to write about people, don’t get the hot head when they criticize you. When you enter the public arena, you ask for criticism.
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