Craft Lessons, Uncategorized

How happy are you with your writing voice?

When I interview writers for Chip’s Writing Lessons, they often bring up the subject of voice.

“A story, reported deeply and written with an authentic writer’s voice, has the power to move readers.”

-DeNeen L. Brown

“Even if I am the narrator, or the lead storyteller, every character has a story, every person in the room has a voice.”

-Valerie Boyd

“I think you can apply this to any artistic endeavor, not just writing. It’s a quote from the jazz pianist Thelonious Monk : ‘“A genius is the one most like himself.”
Not saying I’m a genius or anything, but this struck me as important when I read it, and to me it says something important about voice and integrity, and how that translates onto the page.”

-Sean Tanner

“If I began a short story or worked on a novel in the evening at home I drifted into trance states and couldn’t push through, couldn’t continue and finish. I had writer’s block before I became a writer. Nor was the quality of what I was writing even close to what I wanted it to be. I wrote Joycean or Faulknerian pastiches; when I tried to write in my own voice I overworked my sentences to the point of affectation. I was three hands clapping. I was too tight.’”

-Richard Rhodes

Voice deeply interests my friend Anne Janzer, a prolific author of several excellent books on writing (“Writing to Be Understood;” “The Writer’s Process,” “Get the Word Out” and “33 Ways Not To Screw Up Your Business Emails.”)

Anne writes about the science and mystery of writing. Right now, she’s conducting research into that elusive idea of writing voice—including how easily we can shift it and how we feel about it.

Help her explore the topic by answering this short, six-question survey. 

Your responses will be private, and she’ll share the responses when the survey is done.

Taking this survey got me thinking about my own writing voice. It should be fascinating to see how a larger community of writers responds.

Link to survey:


Black Friday deal for writers


Hello, my journalist friends and all others who embrace the writing life,
For Black Friday, my latest book, 33 Ways Not To Screw Up Your Journalism. is just $2.99 for the Amazon Kindle edition. That’s 40 percent off the regular $4.99 price. The offer is good through Friday. 


Buy now!

The book is a succinct, authoritative and encouraging handbook that Dan Rather called “excellent for journalists of all ages and experience.” It features 33 tools, techniques and values needed more than ever in our fractured and fact-tossed democracy. They include:

  • treating sources with respect
  • being aware of your biases
  • plagiarism
  • fabrication 
  • ethical decision-making 
  • not letting fear stop you
  • combatting writer’s block 
  • step-by-step guides to the writing process, interviewing, and revision

Happy Thanksgiving!

We have liftoff! And the first ride’s free


My new book, “33 Ways Not To Screw Up Your Journalism,” is now available on Amazon from Networlding Publishing.

To get it in the hands of as many readers as possible, the Kindle version is at no charge today and tomorrow.

For the following three days, it will cost 99 cents. After that, it returns to the regular $4.99 price. The paperback is $12.99.

It’s a succinct, authoritative handbook that delivers 33 essential tools, techniques and values at a time when democracy needs principled, quality journalism more than ever.

33 Ways is a survival manual for journalists and students, regardless of age, job, or level of experience, and their teachers.

Please feel free to share the link—…/dp/B0B3QY3K64/

— with your family, friends, students, aspiring journos and colleagues.

“Chip Scanlan has all the journalism tools at his disposal–including a screwdriver. Grab it!”

– Roy Peter Clark, “Writing Tools,” The Poynter Institute.

Your opinion counts, too. Love it or not, leave a review on Amazon, please.

Many thanks.


PS. Apologies for the earlier mixup. The free book was supposed to be available yesterday, but for a scheduling mixup on Amazon. Here’s a screenshot showing the free price now.

Get my new book for free!


Because you’re a subscriber to Chip’s Writing Lessons, I wanted to give you advance notice that on Thursday, June 16, the ebook edition of my new book, 33 Ways Not To Screw Up Your Journalism, will be free for the first two days of publication. 

For the following three days, the price will be 99 cents. Then it returns to the regular sales price of $4.99, which is what it costs to pre-order before Thursday. (The paperback is $12.99.)

I’m doing this to get it quickly in the hands of as many readers as I can. I believe this succinct, authoritative handbook is a survival manual that’s needed by journalists and students, whatever their age, job, or level of experience, now more than ever in our democracy. 

Please feel free to share the link— — with your friends and colleagues. 

Your opinion counts. Love or hate it, leave a review on Amazon, please.

Many thanks. Chip

Free book offer


Personal/Professional News: I’ve got a new book coming out, “33 Ways Not To Screw Up Your Journalism,” as soon as next month. As I prepare for the launch, I’m trying to build up my list of followers and influencers who would be willing to help me promote it.

To attract them, I’m offering two things: 

1. a free PDF copy of my most recent book, “Writers on Writing,” a collection of interviews with leading journalists and nonfiction authors with a smattering of fiction writers and poets

.2. A sample chapter from the new book.

In exchange, all I’d like you to do is follow me on Twitter @chipscanlan, and retweet this message. If you’re interested in writing tips from the likes of @susanorlean, @DanBarryNYT, @LaneDeGregory, @JohnBranchNYT @BronwenDickey @bmarimow65 @thallmanjr

and are interested in this offer, just email me at with the subject line “33 Ways”

I hope my friends @StevePadilla2 @RoyPeterClark @KimhCross @Karen_E_Bender @IUMediaScotProf @janwinburnCNN  & my other followers will also spread the word with a retweet

This is the reality of book publishing today. Even with a  publisher–mine is @networlding, a boutique firm for indie authors–the author must shoulder the burden of marketing, a lesson I learned from @AnneJanzer Many thanks and I hope you can join my “buzz team.” Chip

Data Journalism: Making Numbers Pop

Craft Lessons, Uncategorized

Mention the word data and many journalists look like a deer caught in the headlights. We’re word people, we say. Data is for geeks. 

That attitude denies your audience information in computer databases that reveal hidden secrets and compelling stories. It can cheat you of the chance to do the most exciting and important work in your career. 

“Data journalism matters because we live, increasingly, in a data-driven world,” Casey Frechette, who teaches and researches data journalism at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus, told me. “The digitization of society means the emergence of limitless troves of information about how businesses operate; how citizens lead their lives; how governments run. In this sea of data, it’s easy to find ourselves adrift. Data journalists help us make sense of it all.”


  1. Acquire. The Washington Post used newly released tract level census data for an interactive database that shows, by typing in your address, how the racial makeup of your neighborhood has changed since 1990. 
  2. Query. The data journalist probes the stockpile of information, looking for story ideas in spreadsheets or to confirm key facts from traditional sources, like an interview with a public official. 
  3. Analyze. Using basic math and at times advanced statistics, data journalists find averages, establish ratios and crunch percentages. Sophisticated calculations can  establish correlations between two variables, such as tenant evictions and rising rents. 
  4. Visualize. “It’s vital.” Frechette says, “to enable people to understand what data means. That’s where visualization comes in, turning statistics into interactive maps and visual worlds.” 

Wall Street Journal reporters Joel Eastwood and Erik Hinton achieved that with an algorithm to compile lyrics from the Broadway musical hit Hamilton that enabled them to show how Lin-Manuel Miranda tapped rap and hip hop’s imperfect, internal rhymes to make musical history. It’s very cool.


Behind every statistic is a human being. Data journalists who don’t find them fail to connect their findings with their audiences. 

Numbers numb, according to psychologist Paul Slovic, who co-authored a 2015 study “The More Who Die, the Less We Care.” It concluded that “as numbers get larger and larger, we become insensitive; numbers fail to trigger the emotion or feeling necessary to motivate action.”  

About 700 women die in America every year from pregnancy or delivery complications, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, making it the nation with the highest level of maternal mortality in the developed world. 

But how to illustrate the problem when most of these deaths are kept hidden by authorities? 

ProPublica and NPR reporters solved it by creating their own dataset of victims by scouring public posts on Twitter and Facebook and the crowdfunding sites, GoFundMe and YouCaring, and then using obituaries and public records to verify the women’s basic information. Working with student journalists from New York University, they reached out to family members.

“Lost Mothers,” the series they produced, features a gallery of 134 women who died giving birth in 2016 and 16 feature obituaries. It’s a heartbreaking example of how data journalists succeed by putting a human face on the numbers their computers churn out.

Keep Sending Things Out: Four Questions with Patrick Holloway

Interviews, Uncategorized

Patrick Holloway

 Patrick Holloway is a writer of stories and poems. He is the recent winner of the Molly Keane Creative Writing Award. He won second place in The Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and was the winner of HeadStuff Poem of the Year. He’s been published by Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, Carve, Overland, The Irish Times, The Moth, Southword, among others. His story ‘Counting Stairs’ was highly commended for the Manchester Fiction Prize. He has been shortlisted for numerous other prizes including: Bath Short Story Prize, Moth Poetry Prize, Moth Short Story Prize, Bath Flash Fiction Prize, Dermot Healy Poetry Prize, Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award (for both fiction and poetry) and the Alpine Fellowship for Fiction.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as a writer? 

To keep sending things out. I remember when I first started, a rejection meant the writing wasn’t good, so I’d stop sending that specific poem or story out. With time I realized the importance of researching where I was sending my work. Also, being kind to myself in terms of my writing. Being tough with what was on the page but by no means taking away its worth. 

What has been the biggest surprise of your writing life? 

How difficult it can be. How, especially when you are not a full-time writer, you have to sacrifice other things in order to write. That can be challenging on relationships and on yourself. Difficult in terms of the craft, in terms of being disciplined and dedicated. Difficult in terms of rejections and self-doubt. Littered among the difficulties though are the joys of writing well, of surprising myself by winning some writing awards and seeing my words among those of brilliant writers I admire.

If you had to use a metaphor to describe yourself as a writer, what would it be and why?

It’d have to be tennis-related — my other passion. Especially writing a novel now, I see it like watching a 5 set grand slam final. There are so many ebbs and flows, lots of layers, lots of backstory, tension, rivalry and conflict. The points themselves are the sentences, some are hard and fast, others full of finesse. Games are chapters. I suppose the win is getting a publisher. 

What’s the single best piece of writing advice anyone ever gave you?

I think a huge shift in how I saw writing and my relationship to it came when I was in the U.S and I had a class with Karen. E. Bender. She told me after to think about doing an MFA. It suddenly made writing something altogether different, gave it stature. Also, I suppose, it gave me the belief I didn’t know I was lacking. 

Holiday wishes and holiday books



Happy New Year! May 2022 bring safety, good health, and lots of reading and writing.

After a week’s holiday, I’m looking forward to starting the New Year by sharing new Four Questions with… interviews, Craft Lessons, Readings to Savor, and much more. Tomorrow’s interview is with award-winning New Yorker staff writer and author Paige Williams who discovers the universal by tracking the granular.

I hope the holidays brought you the best writer’s gift: books.
For Christmas, I got Jonathan Franzen’s acclaimed novel “Crossroads.” I’m looking forward to diving in.

Please consider two writing advice books that I just published.  Both are available on Amazon in paperback and ebook editions through my author page or the direct links below.

Writers on Writing: Inside the lives of 55 distinguished writers and editors.  It’s an anthology of interviews drawn from two years of reaching out for Chip’s Writing Lessons to best-selling authors Susan Orlean and David Finkel, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Lane DeGregory, John Branch, Diana K. Sugg and Thomas French, acclaimed poet Patricia Smith, Edgar Award-winning mystery writer Bruce DeSilva, powerhouse narrative editor Jan Winburn and 46 others that you first met here. 55 writers. Hundreds of Writing Insights. 111 journal writing prompts make it an interactive writing workshop.

“By asking four questions to 55 of our finest writers and editors, Chip Scanlan has hosted one of the greatest writing conferences you will ever attend.” – Roy Peter Clark, author of “Writing Tools”, “The Glamour of Grammar,” “Murder your Darlings.” 

“A marvelous book for writers, people who have a passion for writing, or simply, who want to become writers. Yet what strikes me about this book is that it is not just for writers only.” – The Blogging Owl 

Writers on Writing: The Journal” is a companion or standalone volume with 55 coaching tips, 55 inspirational quotes, like the ones you find here in the “Writers Speak” feature, and the 111 writing prompts drawn from the first book, along with three blank pages after each chapter. Here’s the place to start your day with reactions, stories, dreams. 


In this piece for Poynter Online, Roy Peter Clark wrote a tribute to writers who write about their writing and included the foreword to my first book, along with his Four Questions interview. 

And ICYMI, here’s my story behind the self-publishing journey that produced these two books and also provides a wealth of information for anyone considering that route to bring their books before the public.

My New Year’s resolutions for 2022: Never a day without a line. Publish more. Visit my local independent bookstore, Tombolo Books, in St. Petersburg, Fl. Support the independent bookstore in your community.

What are yours?


Please spread the word to sign up for Chip’s Writing Lessons.

Interested in personal coaching? Reach out to me at

Browse the newsletter archive. To find earlier issues, scroll to the end of the archive page, where you will find arrows that help you toggle back and forth between them.

Question? Comment? Suggestion? Email me at or send a reply to this newsletter.

May the writing go well, and may you be well.

Nulla dies sine linea / Never a day without a line

Black Lives Matter