- Feature Stories
- News Flash
- Making Noise
- The Fence
- Beyond the Cut
- Inspire Innovation
When I received, via email, the first draft of this issue’s cover story from the writer, Nicholas Ducassi, it was 3,297 words. Taking into account that the article had to fit into a five-page, 2,500-word space, I knew Nick and I would be having multiple conversations during the next week or two. He realized it, too, as his email noted:
Please consider this what it is: a first draft, and by no means a final version. Yes, it’s way long, but I know you’ll give me guidance on what can go (and I’m sure a lot can be condensed).
I’ve been working with Nick since his senior year at Carnegie Mellon. An acting major, he earned his degree in 2010, and he is still waiting to be discovered. But as a writer, consider him discovered. He has a gift for accurately chronicling engaging stories without sacrificing any relevant information. Anyone who read last issue’s “Broadway Bound” feature about The Book of Mormon stars knows what I mean. I keep telling Nick, as I do to several of the magazine’s other contributors, to start making story pitches to The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and other respected magazines. Their writing, in my opinion, is that good and a big reason why Carnegie Mellon Today has won 57 editorial awards since 2007. (Glance over to the adjoining masthead to view the current awards.)
The cover story assigned to Nick was meant to be a quasi-profile of School of Music student, Jamie Burrows. The intention was that while telling her story, Nick could weave in why the School of Music—in the midst of celebrating its 100th anniversary—is such a special place.
With my red pen handy, I printed out the story’s first draft and got to work. A few minutes later, I reached the end. There wasn’t a red mark on the pages. The only things with a touch of red were my eyes, trying to hold back tears. Nick had told a tale filled with aspirations, with sadness, with triumphs, with hope. Here is perhaps the most telling line:
No one would ever question the school’s academic prowess; now, no one would question its heart.
Of course, I let Nick know what a great job he did. We worked together to find a way to get the piece down to 2,500 words, 2,498 to be exact, and then I handed it over to the magazine’s creative director, Tom Kosak, who always does a masterful job of complementing the words with the design (which is another reason Carnegie Mellon Today has won so many awards).
As delighted as I am with the end result of the cover story, “Duet” (I recommend having tissues nearby before reading), I’m just as pleased with the powerful, moving content in this issue’s other stories—from the features to the News Flash briefs. You can read about everything from medical breakthroughs on the cusp [“Biological Wonder”] to the impact of today’s technology on how we discover our favorite musicians [“Last Word”].
All in all, I believe it’s another job well done by Nick and the rest of the issue’s contributors, three-quarters of whom are Carnegie Mellon students, alumni, or faculty. As always, let me know what you think.