Hail the Burberry Trench Coat

Who doesn’t love a trench coat? It’s never out-of-style. But the story behind it is an ad creative’s (or journalist’s) dream. In 1879, Thomas Burberry, a London-based draper-turned-clothing-designer, was mainly interested in outfitting English gentlemen fond of hunting and fishing. His eureka moment was inventing gabardine, a tightly-woven fabric that was tough, waterproof, & breathable. […]

Emma Smith By the Seine

The street photographer Robert Doisneau was walking around Paris in the summer of 1948 on an assignment from Paris Match. He was looking for images reflecting the hopeful post-war mood when he saw a young woman sitting by the Seine at the Ile de la Cite typing on a manual typewriter. She turned out to […]

The Tao of Interviewing

There is so much of value in Paul McLaughlin’s excellent interviewing book, Asking the Best Questions. It is, as the cover blurb puts it, “a comprehensive interviewing handbook for journalists, podcasters, bloggers, vloggers, influencers, and anyone else who asks questions under pressure.” In his preamble, he points out the biggest weaknesses that we, as interviewers, exhibit. […]

Roy MacGregor on Co-writing/Editing Stephen Harper

Roy MacGregor’s amusing reminiscence of the time he helped Stephen Harper write his book on the history of hockey. Beware the  use of the word, “narrative.” https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-remembering-the-time-i-helped-stephen-harper-with-his-hockey-book/  

James Baldwin on Success as a Writer

“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.” From a 1989 anthology called The Writer’s Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the 20th Century’s Preeminent Writers, edited by Paris Review founding editor George Plimpton. […]

#octothorpe

      Most of my life, I called it the “number sign.” But it was also known as the “pound sign.” And, today, almost universally thanks to Twitter, the “hash mark” or “hash sign” or “hash tag.” The backstory isn’t very clear. Some historians think it grew out of a crudely handwritten symbol that […]

Where It’s @

Talk about a revival story. The @ symbol — aka, asperand, ampersat, arobase, strudel, arrobase (French), arroba (Spanish), snail (Italian), monkey tail (Dutch) —  went from near obscurity  to ubiquity thanks to the digital revolution. But I’d been using it before I owned a computer. As a young journalist, I devised my own form of […]

An Elite Athelete turns Whistleblower

When elite runner Kara Goucher wanted to write a memoir about her experiences with her coach, Alberto Salazar, she met with a number of potential co-writers. At the time, in 2019, the media was filled with stories about an anti-doping investigation involving Salazar and the elite Nike Oregon Project, where Goucher had been a star. […]

Voss Typewriters were Boss!

Isn’t this a beauty? From the early 1950s, a body made of metal and green Bakelite. The background on Voss I learned from Australian Robert Messenger’s wonderful Oz Typewriter blog. Ernst Friedrich Voss, who had worked for Remington Rand before World War II and then ran a typewriter repair shop, founded the Wuppertal factory (in […]

Mary Roach on Writing and Science

Mary Roach’s wry, self-effacing approach to her creative nonfiction has brought her great success. He memorably-titled books include: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife; Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex; Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (on digestion), and her most recent, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the […]