Playing It Like the Duke

Here is a page displaying some of the key policy reports I’ve worked on for Carnegie Corporation over the last few years:

Carnegie Council for Advancing Adolescent Literacy

This type of work I call “writing media development” because it involves much, much more finesse and style than just “rewriting and/or editing.” How so?

It involves listening. It involves creative imagination. It involves “lateral thinking.” It involves being willing to go back and forth over the project on both the micro and macro levels until the result satisfies everybody who was ever involved in it completely.

Make no mistake, it’s an exhilarating challenge to streamline a sometimes sprawling assortment of written material into a tightly focused key policy report. After all, the point is to communicate important ideas. So the text must become almost invisible.

I’m not the idea person. I work with the idea people to make their ideas work as written media creations.

It’s like Hong Kong tailors say: the suit should look like it just dropped onto the body. Cutting and stitching disappear into the suave finished product. All this requires a quick, light touch and a cool head.

As Duke Ellington said about playing jazz, “First, cultivate an attitude of nonchalance.”

I am grateful to the redoubtable Andrés Henríquez, the heart and soul of these reports, not only for his passionate advocacy of adolescents in our schools but also for giving me the opportunity to do such interesting and consequential work.

Duke Ellington caught in a nonchalant moment