The Party’s Here, and You’re All Invited

I said that I wasn’t going to write another post again–and for the most part I am keeping true to my promise–but for today I am making an exception.  And the occasion is truly exceptional. Next Saturday, August 25th, the staff of Hennen’s Observer, including myself, publisher Joshua Hennen, contributing writers, and friends of the magazine will gather at the High Point Public Library in High Point, NC at 4 p.m. to celebrate the official start of our writers and artists group in North Carolina. The meeting is partly a getting to know you session, part grand opening of the magazine. High Point library officials, including the library’s director, will be on hand to observe the event, and the public is definitely invited.

Light refreshments will be served.  The actual meeting is expected to last well over an hour, and will cover everything from fiction, creative nonfiction, and hard-news journalism (including our upcoming child abuse and neglect issue, which Alexandria Harris did such a smashing job contributing to). We are proud to be officially recognized by the community, but we are also honored to get to meet at least some of the cheerleaders and fans who’ve kept us going all these years–even when we wanted to throw in the towel. Hennen’s is more than a website or a magazine.  It is a social network, production company, sounding board, and digital watering hole for struggling and established writers both locally and internationally.

Writing is in our blood. Good writing that makes a difference is even more important to us. But more than that, being able to be part of a community that values the work we do is beyond luck. We feel blessed just to be able to pursue our craft, without interference or fear of offending someone.  We cannot express our deepest thanks to all those anonymous bloggers, writers, journalists and wannabes who read our blog and website every single day. It brings tears to our eyes that they choose to spend their precious minutes of downtime reading us instead of something else.

So climb into that car, buy that plane or bus ticket and come on down to High Point next weekend. Don’t worry–the coffee will be  fine.

For more information please consult:

Google Maps

@hennensobserver Twitter page

Hennens Observer Facebook page

…And this excellent post by crime writer Lee Lofland, describing a seminar he, novelist Jeffery Deaver (Roadside Crosses)  and several other well known authors attended in High Point circa 2010.. Lofland does a good job of giving a run down of what a typical writer’s group/meeting is like, plus a little ambience about the library itself.  As you can tell, the sky was overcast and gray, but we’re holding out for more pleasant weather and company! 

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The One That’s Not About Sports


By John Winn

I have a confession to make: I hate sports. I loathe sports. I never played basketball, baseball, participated in only a few dodgeball matches in grade school, even won a first place ribbon for (I think) the hundred yard dash. In fact, I still have my ribbons all framed in a patriotic tricolor of red-white-blue that suggests the wholesomeness of Middle America.   

I’m actually from the South, but this post isn’t about my supposed redneck upbringing (however genteel it might actually have been). It isn’t about sports at all.  But it is about the news, and literature.

When we started this blog, we intended for it to be a lighthearted companion to our main website. The slogan says it all: light and easy with a side of bacon.  Despite being humorically challenged, we managed to succeed in a way, chronicling the Internet’s obsession with bird-women, making ironic observations about our craft–which Alex has done with gusto–and generally trying to stay on the light side of life. Yet it’s not so easy to be topical and funny at the same time–take it from this hard news guy.

The Olympics seemed like the perfect launching pad. It is and remains one of the premier spectator events–everyone gets to see the triumphs and defeats, the unstuck landings, the runners who don’t quite make it past the finish line. The intimate nature of the games means that everyone can get into it without having to know the stats and the players’ backstories and all the things required of certain sports fans back home (I’m looking at you, NFL).

The Olympics also happens to be the one event that intersects with all others and for a guy like myself, that’s a dream. You can talk about the politics of sports, the human interest angle (Wieber’s fall from grace, Bolt’s dominance on the track, Phelps’ swan song to the sport he loves), even how the games pretty much overshadowed every other story in the news–even arguably, the ones that should have been above the fold instead.

That much we (and I) set out to do. But like a gymnast who can’t quite keep her balance, we made obvious errors in our coverage, and mistakes like those would get major deductions in a real newsroom–and by deductions, I  mean pink slips. Even Jordyn would agree on that one. I guess we had chutzpah, but chutzpah and calculated risks are two completely separate things.

So without further adieu, I step back behind the curtain and let Alex and Brennon share the spotlight once more–for now, at least.

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Racing to the Bottom: Gen Y Edition

By John Winn

As Brennon so thoughtfully pointed out today, ambitious young people (read: aspiring journalists) hoping to break into their field have run into some difficulty for some time.  The industry as a whole is rebounding, but one thing is dead certain: Gen Y is moving away from traditional print media as a career. It isn’t only aspiring journos running into trouble, so it’s worth it to look at Generation Y from the bottom rung: the entry-level job.

In the past, the words ‘drudgery’ and ‘work’ didn’t often go together in the minds of 18-29 year-olds. A booming economy, access to luxury goods, and the idea of a certain lifestyle fostered by shows like The Hills and Laguna Beach created the impression that if Joe or (increasingly) Joanna American was young, smart and witty that a dream job was in the offing.  This also coincided with a shift from a manufacuring to a knowledge-based economy, which influenced in no small part apiring journos’ dreams of becoming the next Arianna Huffington or David Pogue.

That dream is more or less over.  For those wealthy enough, or just lucky enough to grow up a few short years before the crash of 2008, scaling back simply means packing their bags and going to Europe, or taking on an internship at their dad’s-best-friend’s-newspaper-cum-website. Yet for the rest of us, it means the dreaded S-word: Settling.

 Not surprisingly, this has created some resentment not just among the generations, but within them as well.  It cuts across nationalities and classes, and is one of the main reasons why the OWS movement resonated with so many last year. Yet for many, just holding on to a job–any job–is considered enough of an achievement to brag about.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a crawfish plant or an auto dealership, aspring journos and non-journos alike are putting their dreams on hold sometimes permanently, telling themselves that they could come back to it later when the dust settles.

Like a lot of aspiring journos, writing and editing has been in my blood for some time. My brother works for Global Post.  My cousin writes press releases for a Montreal-based government relations company. Yet increasingly I count myself among those who have had their dreams deferred because of circumstances beyond my control.  A lot of my coworkers at the courier service where I work have had to do the same, and I know for a fact they won’t realize their dreams–ever.  I find my siblings’ obliviousness offensive, and resent their humblebragging in equal measure. I resent the talking heads and personalities who told us we were special, that we were guaranteed some Shangri-La $80,000 career and McMansion on the side. They’ve never walked an hour in my shoes–or in my case, ten.   

I curse their bones to the dust.

To those who are struggling in this economy: I stand with you.  To those who don’t understand–who will never understand–I hope you never have to choose between the life you want, and the life you can afford.  But you will never face that dilemma, will you?

Social Media Coordinator (and managing editor) John Winn is Hennen’s Twitterer in Chief.  In addition to writing for Hennen’s, His work has been featured in A Twist of Noir, Lightning Flash, Racket Magazine, and plenty of other online magazines.  He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.