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Vegas Baby!

beneath the neon.jpgWe’ve all heard rumors of Vegas’ criminal underbelly, but what actually lies below the glitz and glam of the strip? In the summer of 2002, after a murderer used the tunnels under the city that Bugsy built to escape from the police, Matt O’Brien, managing editor at CityLife in Las Vegas, and his freelance writer friend Josh Ellis decided to find out. They explored half a dozen tunnels — discovering “a bowling ball, casino chips, mural art, people, and myth” — and penned a two-part series for CityLife.
O’Brien wasn’t done. “We figured there was a lot more down there,” he says. “Initially, we were going to co-write the book. But Josh was moving to San Francisco and we had slightly different visions.” So, after Huntington Press bought the idea, O’Brien took a sabbatical from CityLife and spent the summer of ’04 exploring the tunnels. The resulting work, Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas vividly details the lives of the homeless population that live in the tunnels. Through his exquisite reporting, O’Brien paints a starkly different portrait of the city then the one you get while playing the $25 table at the Bellagio.

Best of the Rest:

biglogo.jpgBecause we editors are experts at co-opting identifying others’ killer ideas, I’m adding to Noah’s great micro-series, and bringing you another How to Pitch-esque treatment of online outlet To learn why this site’s a great spot to place longer features and score repeat assignments, read on…

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Beach Books for Beach Week

mbToolbox 6.19 Image.jpgGoing on vacation soon? (I certainly am — in two weeks, actually.) Then you must be thinking of your “summer reading,” your “beach reading,” or whatever else you call that neglected list taped to the fridge door. Fretting you’ll show up with last season’s Michael Connelly novel? Let be of some assistance.
This summer is awash with new releases by media luminaries like Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown as well as tart little novels by some of the best fiction writers in the business. Don’t be afraid of a little sand between the pages, folks:

  • God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens (Twelve Books) — Our favorite liver-damaged pundit returns with another in a string of god-damning tomes (see Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, etc.).
  • The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown (Doubleday) — The controversial former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker takes a swing at the Princess Di tragicomedy.
  • A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Carl Bernstein (Knopf) — The first lady and presidential frontrunner gets a 640-page treatment from the journalist who helped break Watergate and take down Nixon. (See also Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Jeff Garth and Don Van Natta Jr. [Little, Brown and Company].)
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese) — Yes, it’s got “beach” in the title, but it’s also the latest novel by one of the best British writers of his generation. Here, the former Booker Prize winner uncovers sexual tension in pre-Beatles England.
  • Falling Man by Don DeLillo (Scribner) — A harrowing exploration of post-9/11 fallout by the author of White Noise and Underworld.

  • Rock Critic Seeking Clips? Look Online!

    mbToolbox 6.18 Image.jpgGetting your rock writing published can sometimes seem like an all or nothing proposition — a choice between a byline in a handmade zine or a rejection letter from Spin — oblivion or ubiquity. But if the hugely popular has done anything for music journalism, it’s demonstrated the immense clout an online-only publication can have, opening the floodgates to Web sites dedicated to music criticism and younger writers. While they may not be able to offer much in the way of financial compensation, sites like and can provide a wealth of writing opportunities. Writing for Prefix over the last couple of years, I’ve reviewed countless records and live shows, and scored face-time with artists I’d never have the chance to meet otherwise. I only needed to provide a sample review to start contributing, and within a couple months I was snagging Q&As with The Libertines and The Arcade Fire for an online publication less than two years old. While Pitchfork can be picky, most music sites will take on any hungry writer schooled in pop music’s diverse terrain. And with a .com byline, your readers will be more than just your buddies.

    Be the ‘Dopest Wordslinger in Town’

    spunk_cover.jpgOn the heels of the paperback release of his 2005 grammar guide, Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Contemporary Style, we put three quick questions to its author, Arthur Plotnik. He responded by playing favorites, copping to a Freudian daddy complex starring Strunk & White, and explaining why blogging shouldn’t be burdened by quality control.
    The newly-published paperback edition of Spunk & Bite boasts an appended study guide, in which you provide exercises to help writers craft prose with ‘bite.’ Which is your personal favorite and why?
    Choose one out of 30? You’re giving me abulia! But here’s a shorty that can have your readers noodling the time away instead of working:

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    Highlighting The How To Pitches

    chewbacca-pitching.jpgI spend a lot of time working on our How To Pitch section. Not to brag, but I’m probably the world’s foremost expert on them. If there was a How To Pitch-related disaster, the CDC would almost certainly call me.
    Still, as with any series of articles, some How To Pitches are better than others. So, without further ado, here are my top seven favorite HTPs, in no particular order:

  • How To Pitch: Best Life — Good memories from our first Video Pitch Slam. Also, EIC Stephen Perrine is a helluva nice guy.
  • How To Pitch: City — Managing editor Alex Garinger provided so much information about what to pitch, I feel like the article is almost written for you.
  • How To Pitch: Diverse — Of all the How To Pitches, this one was the most helpful to me when I was freelancing.
  • How To Pitch: Draft — Wait, there’s a magazine that’s going to pay me to write about beer?!?!?
  • How To Pitch: mental_floss — I have a soft spot for mental_floss because my dad once wrote an article for them. Also, I always feel like Mensa material after reading it.
  • How To Pitch: Paper — The thought of interviewing Mr. Mickey for this article makes me laugh every time.
  • How To Pitch: Penthouse — The first How To Pitch I wrote. Awwww.
  • Out of Towners Need Better Apply

    Here’s my pet peeve when receiving resumés, though you can surely see for yourself that it is not the only one. When a job candidate has an out-of-state (from where the job is) address on his resumé, why-oh-why would he not include something in the cover letter explaining that he is either a) living locally, but using, say, his parents’ house to get his mail; or b) planning to relocate soon. It’s so tedious to have to email a qualified candidate and ask if he or she is living in town.
    Just a note from the underbelly here in searching-for-a-new-assistant land.
    —Taffy Brodesser-Akner

  • Why You Didn’t Get the Job: The Cover Letter
  • Why You Didn’t Get the Job: The Resumé
  • Why You Didn’t Get the Job: The Interview
  • The Best Of The Rest:

    The sheer number of venues where writers can publish their work never ceases to amaze me. I find walking into a magazine store inspiring because there are so many options. Furthermore, the growth of the Internet has exponentially increased this number. Some of the outlets are covered in our excellent How To Pitch archives. (Self-promoting? Yes. Absolutely true? Certainly.) Others, for any number of reasons, are not. To rectify this situation, I’ll use this space to highlight venues for freelancers that might not otherwise see the light of day. It will be fun, I promise.
    On tap today,

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    ‘Til Someone Tells You to Stop

    There’s something I can’t get out of my head that came up during the video shoot for our Redbook Pitch Slam 1-on-1: We’d concluded the planned portion of our taping with would-be Redbook contributors and editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison, and dismantled the camera setup that had eaten up her office real estate for the preceding two hours. The pitchers had taken their leave and myself, our assistant editor Noah, and our freelance videographer Kelly were swapping impressions of how things went. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Kelly picked her camera back up and began roaming Redbook‘s halls, shooting. My first thought was, “We didn’t request permission to shoot this — this girl is going to get us bounced right out of Hearst Tower.”

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