24 05

WJI 2021, Day 7 PM - Every Word Matters

It’s been a wild (and heavily caffeinated) ride, but the 2021 WJIers have reached the end of the first week! As I sit typing this, trying to be quiet so as not to disturb my sleeping roommate, half a dozen WJIers are celebrating by hanging out in the dorm kitchen swapping stories about live concerts. Quite a few others are celebrating by going to bed early – many of us have early alarms coming tomorrow morning as we spread out across local towns to profile some of Northwest Iowa’s most interesting characters. We also ran across some interesting characters this afternoon in our latest writing workshop.

If you happened to be hanging out in the science building at Dordt University this afternoon, you would have seen an unusual sight: a couple dozen college students curled up in comfy chairs or seated at tall tables reading picture books and taking notes. Today, we deviated briefly from our rigorous schedule of interviewing, research, video editing, and of course, rewriting, to spend a couple of hours reviewing children’s books. After a hectic week, it was delightful to find a sunny corner and page through a book of beautiful illustrations of happy woodland creatures.

Not to say that this writing workshop wasn’t challenging. We’ve heard variations on the phrase “If you have time, write short, if you don’t, write long” frequently over the past few days. The children’s book review assignment drove this point home. We had 95 words to explain the plot or theme of the book and analyze the author’s treatment of the theme and apparent worldview in an insightful manner. If that sounds easy to you, go try it for yourself and get back to me. Not so easy? I didn’t think so. (Note: If you found this easy, you have a rare gift for brevity and should seriously consider applying to WJI).

As a fellow WJIer said to me a few minutes ago, the book review exercise was the first writing assignment she has ever done that proved to her that every single word must have an essential purpose, or it doesn’t belong in an article. I hear that WORLD allows reviews of books for adults a generous 125 words. Imagine trying to distill Crime and Punishment and the essence of what it reveals about Dostoevsky’s worldview into 125 words! (Again, if you can do that, please apply to WJI and then teach me your ways).

Don’t think that we’ve been hanging around flipping through picture books all afternoon, though. We also had workshops on lighting (with and without light kits), a primer on shooting video interviews, our nightly news huddle, and a chance to “meet” the awesome WORLD writer Sophia Lee via Zoom, to name a few.

With the first full week drawing to a close, WJIers are looking forward to finding out which tracks they’ll be joining for the next week. Thankfully, the weekend schedule is too packed to allow anyone time for anxiety on that point.

- Neva Piombino