“The only vampire I ever met was in Natchez, Mississippi.” That’s the opening line of a story* I’ve told hundreds of times both to entertain and teach. It’s simple. But it’s a hook I crafted through many drafts and rounds of audience feedback. Why’s it great? And how can you make your own hooks great? I’ll dissect.
Thoughts rumble around in my head like rocks. Boulders, stones, pebbles. They’re rough ideas, starter concepts and floating phrases. And I can hear them crashing, crunching and bumping into each other. This is the beginning of my writing process.
Stylized, Sexy, Provocative and Decadent. Everything You Would Expect from a Grandmother’s Recipe. At 13 years old, Maya Erickson was working in a professional kitchen, tasked primarily with filling cookies and wrapping tuiles. She shrugs this detail off now, as if it’s simply a throwaway line unworthy of her bio. As if most newly-turned teenagers must surely have been like her—resisting the temptation to toggle among their screens and choosing, instead, a highly disciplined path.
When Gerald first saw her, he quickly clocked her as one of the Top 5 best looking girls at the party. Not #1, but not #6 either. She was noted. 15 minutes later—or one beer, whichever came first—she was walking past him on her way to the kitchen, and he cooly, casually broke from his conversation to say hello, then cooly, casually resumed. He was noted.
Noel likes to wait until the very end of the night to sing Beyonce. Before then she's too busy doling out Buds and little bags of Classic Lay's. But by about 1:45, the ten customers at Nick's Lounge, which does karaoke every night of the week, have all sung at least once, and Noel glides out from behind the bar, tells Steve the DJ to cue up a deep track--"'Single Ladies' is so overdone!"--and kills. I mean, she really kills.
Jimmy clicked the volume down a few levels. I could sense him spot-glancing me in his rearview mirror before he finally said, “So, it’s kinda been a tough afternoon.”
I was overnighting in L.A. for work on a Thursday and using Uber to get place to place.
Chef Hugh Acheson is a two-time James Beard Award winner and one of the most celebrated and influential chefs in the country. I interviewed him about his Canadian roots and philosophy on American food.
The only vampire I ever met was in Natchez, Mississippi. Natchez is one of the oldest towns on the Mississippi River—settlers were there in the 1600s. And when you look at it on a map, it’s as if the river actually bends toward the town, as if Natchez has this mysterious magnetic pull. It’s a town full of transients—Mark Twain slept there. It’s a town full of characters. I was there to find those people: to write a story about the most interesting locals.
Preeminent Southern folklorist Bill Ferris has spent the last 40 years documenting the South in print, photography and film by interviewing some of the region's most influential people.
In our food-obsessed culture, we likely never think about what's on the menu at an eating disorder clinic. A couple of chefs bring their inventive cuisine and gregarious personalities to a treatment center in rural Alabama.
Bostic, North Carolina, is a sleepy little town in Rutherford County nestled in the shadow of the mountains. There’s a town hall, a post office, some churches and stores. There’s also the Bostic Lincoln Center. Lincoln. As in Abraham Lincoln. The center’s whole purpose is to tell the controversial and disputed story that our 16th president was born in North Carolina.
James “Ooker” Eskridge is a waterman who has lived on Tangier Island, Virginia, his whole life. In my interview with him, Ooker talks about being the Chesapeake Bay island’s mayor (population 450), the dwindling interest in working in the seafood industry, and the island’s distinct Cornwall, England-tinged accent.