There are a couple of songs in Hamilton that I would rather skip. (Yes, Lin Manuel-Miranda devotees. Have at me.) Frankly, “It’s Quiet Uptown” is too painful for me to hear. As a father of two, I wouldn’t dare to imagine the pain of that loss.
And the other song? “Hurricane” just sounds so… meh. It’s an ominous, somber tune that heralds the coming of scandal in Hamilton’s life and career. By design, it’s one of the sadder melodies in a play packed with infinitely more memorable tunes. Whenever I listen to “Hurricane,” I try to find some redeeming quality that justifies two minutes of my attention.
Now, I may have just found it.
You see, the lyrics to “Hurricane” establish one of the main themes of Hamilton. Of course, any aficionado of the play will tell you that legacy, death, nation-building, and love are the musical’s backbone. The theme underscored in “Hurricane,” though, is a little closer to home—a humbler concept compared to those sublime motifs.
It’s writing. Yes, you heard that right. Hamilton—with all its duels, cabinet meetings, and sexual innuendos—is all about writing.Continue reading
When I first started on my writing journey, my mentor offered me a few books on writing. One of them was this tiny gray book I’d never heard of before: The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. When my mentor handed it to me, he warned me that it could be pretty dense.
The Elements of Style is a book with a certain … notoriety. Do your own quick Google search, and you’ll find no end to people who hold it up as a holy text of the craft and just as many who admonish it as an abomination.
As it is with many things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. But whether you’ve never heard of the book before or you already have a strong opinion about it, here are four lessons every writer can learn from this little gray book.Continue reading
On June 24, 2020, the New York Times published one of my essays on their website for the first time.
Soon after “All We Can Do Is Sudoku” appeared online, an executive editor from Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, followed me on Twitter. As a writer of nonfiction seeking representation, I was thrilled. I’d written the memoir To Have and to Hoard: How I Found Treasure in My Husband’s Trash and planned to query agents soon.
Publishing in a goal publication is a confidence-booster. But even reaching for your goal pub can increase your confidence and improve your writing—whether or not your piece is accepted. I didn’t know that when I dove in, so I want to help other memoirists and novelists use their time wisely.Continue reading
Anthony Bourdain was the rock ‘n’ roll star of the culinary world. He made his name in the white-hot hell of New York kitchens, and was known for his cavalier style and love of French cuisine.
He also loved to write. He found it therapeutic, a way to gather his thoughts and ideas away from the gleaming knives and fiery threats of the cookhouse.
But his passion for the kitchen also glowed through his writing. He treated words the same way as he handled ingredients—with a deep respect for their flavor, but a commitment to simplicity over fuss.
Writing the way he spoke, his style was no-nonsense and to the point, almost aggressive. After his death in 2018, he was hailed as the “Hemingway of gastronomy” and it’s easy to see why: Both men wrote honestly and directly, and had little time for nonsense.Continue reading