This past year, I've written one feature and three shorter stories for D Magazine (my "Letter to Downtown Arlington" will be in the December issue and my article on Dallas microbreweries has been bumped to January). I love writing for magazines. I hope to write more. A few years ago, I talked with my friend Andrea Grimes. We went to the same high school, same church youth group, and same summer camp. She was writing for the Dallas Observer, and I wanted to pick her brain on the process. 90% of my writing experience is with comic books. I took only one year of journalism in high school and one year of journalism in college. I was overwhelmed at the prospect of writing something true. Andrea suggested The New New Journalism for direction and inspiration. And like all good advice, I ignored it for a while.
I finally started the book. It's a great read. (Thanks Andrea!) In part, the book confirms a lot of things I already love about magazine writing. I just didn't have the terms "literary nonfiction" or "longform journalism" in my lexicon.
My interest in magazine-format journalism started with a grim moment from my senior year at Mansfield High School. On December 1995, my friend Adrianne Jones was murdered. Adrianne and I weren't incredibly close, but we shared a theater arts class and talked a bit. She confided in me about her own troubles, and I listened. A month later, she was gone. It wasn't until after graduation that we discovered she was murdered by one of our classmates David Graham and his girlfriend Diane Zamora. I collected everything I could find about the murder. I needed to know what happened. Most newspaper reports stuck to the bare facts and little more. People magazine offered the most scandalous and absurd aspects, but they missed the heart of it. Then I read Skip Hollandsworth's article in Texas Monthly. The story was a little over 9,000 words. Filled with disturbing and painful details, it was difficult to read. I had to put the magazine down at several points. I don't know how others closer to Adrianne responded to Hollandsworth's account, but I felt as though a necessary story was finally told. I marveled at how powerful a magazine could be. I was able to grieve on the side of the road where Adrianne's body was abandoned.
Facts are a slippery thing, and certain truths can be revealed in a narrative that are lost in a report. I love the idea that a writer can invest himself or herself so thoroughly in a subject that he or she becomes more than a tourist. They carry the burden of the story.
Magazines can surpass the literary merit of novels and the journalistic merit of newspapers. They can be more entertaining than movies and absolutely essential in helping us to understand complex issues. The format is capable of so much. The New Yorker, Atlantic, Writer's Digest, Creative Screenwriting, D Magazine, Texas Monthly, Time, Mental Floss, Just Labs, Slam, Maxim, and any one of April's "women's magazines" that I read when she's not looking -- my favorite gift is a gift subscription.
Yes, I will still write comics, but I plan to improve as a writer and contribute more to magazines in the next few years. At least, that's the hope.