In my twenties, I read Ed Sanders’ book, The Family, about the Manson murders. Sanders had founded The Fugs (a pre-Talking Heads, raunchy, literate folk-
rock band) and is a poet. He’d won deep access, and wrote, not in news-voice, but as a friend who’d gone and figured things out, who was present and human, out to comprehend that ghastly contortion of people and culture, who understood how to make that mayhem coherent and help readers come to know those involved. The book brought Sanders’ wry, factual, candid, ethical and non-official sensibility to a weird news story, and taught me the strength and authority possible with an independent, stylish, reflective voice. That understanding has infused my work as a writer and teacher, consultant, nonfiction conference founder, and program director.