The great bacon shortage ahead and why it’s a good thing

Beware, news stories are warning, this bacon-and-egg sandwich or these baby back ribs might be your last if you live in California. The reason? In 2018, California voters passed animal welfare laws that required chicken, veal, and pork sold in the state to be raised humanely by the beginning of 2022. Chicken and veal producers say that they’ve complied with the standards and will be allowed to continue selling in the state without interruption. …


It’s the one you probably forget about all the time

I’ve moaned and groaned here about how I sometimes wish writers needed more gear, just because I think it would be fun to have equipment and tools and stuff related to my job. Instead, all I really need is a computer, some reporters’ notebooks, pens, and index cards (the praises of which I’ve sung here previously) and that’s about it. No fun shopping for work gear for me, I’m afraid; no cool catalogues with writer stuff to browse through.

Ah, not quite so fast. I actually forgot the most important gear that writers need: Words. I’m not being facetious. Obviously…


As a native Clevelander, I feel duty-bound to comment on the renaming of the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Guardians.

  1. It’s about time.
  2. Sports teams’ names are not precious, legacy commodities. They are names of groups of people who are playing games. They are made up by humans and can be changed by humans. They do not arise naturally, organically; they are assigned and can be reassigned. So get over it.
  3. Brilliant move to preserve the “ians” part of the name. I am wondering if some merch can be reused. I, personally, would love a T-shirt that had the “In” of “Indians” crossed out and having a “Guar” scrawled above it.
  4. I grew up with Chief Wahoo, the ridiculous, bucktoothed…


The terrible truth about pets aging faster than you

I realized the other day, with a shock, that as of her last birthday, my dog is now older than I am. Obviously, I don’t mean in human years; if I did, this post would be headlined something like “Welsh Springer Spaniel is Miracle of Veterinary Science!” I mean that she is now, in dog years, a bit older than me.

The worst part of having a pet is the incontrovertible fact that unless you acquire a young animal when you’re in your twilight years, you will certainly outlive them. It’s a cosmic cruelty. Watching a lifespan unfurl in a…


Taking care of yourself is the first, and maybe only, rule

This is a sad story. Wait, let me start first with the happy part of the story, since that’s relevant to the sad part. The other day, quite unexpectedly, I got a large, thick envelope from Anthem Blue Cross, informing me that I had qualified for health insurance through the Writers’ Guild. Hallelujah! This caught me by surprise, to say the least. I’ve belonged to the Writers’ Guild for many years, but I had earned only a trifling amount on Guild-qualified projects (that is, screenwriting for film or television) so I had never reached the threshold for perks like a…


Simply put, they’re magic

Not to brag about being ahead of trends, but I started wearing a mask on airplanes four years ago, well before Covid even existed in humans. It’s not that I’m prescient. What happened is that winter after winter I had been struck down by bronchitis and sinus infections and even pneumonia, and I was worn out from it. As fall rolled around (the witching season, for my respiratory system) I decided I had to figure out a way to avoid getting sick. To make matters more urgent, I was about to leave on a twenty-city book tour, which meant flying…


You have to make an impressive exit or your story won’t swing

Everyone who watches Olympic gymnastics knows that even the finest performance of a double salto tucked with two full twists won’t win the gold if the gymnast doesn’t stick the landing. (See what I did there? I introduced the idea of ending a piece of writing without breathing a word about writing.) But in all seriousness, as dread as the prospect of beginning a piece may be, ending it is almost as intimidating. And it’s almost as important.

One of my formative experiences as a writer came when I turned in my first story for The New Yorker. Up until…


Good news/bad news

Today, three — yes, THREE — different drivers flipped me off because I had interfered with their right to 1)drive very fast on the wrong side of the road or 2)park their car in the active lane at a car wash or 3)fail to yield at an exit-only lane. I was thrilled. Finally, the pandemic is ending! Finally, the goodwill brought about by tragedy and disaster has worn off!

I’m not kidding. The warmest, most genuinely communal feelings I’ve ever been part of have all come amid disaster. Example #1: The Northridge Earthquake in Los Angeles, which I experienced because…


Don’t start by tearing off all your clothes!

I spend an inordinate amount of time writing the leads of my stories. If I were to clock it, I’d guess that I spend 25 or 30 percent of my time on a piece working on the first few sentences, and the remainder on the rest of it. This seems out of whack, since the real estate devoted to the first sentence or two is so small compared to the body of the story. But I think it’s the right proportion, considering the importance of the lead.

(I will interrupt myself here to say I refuse to spell “lead” the…


Why do I love the dark stuff so much?

Like most of the world, I just finished watching Mare of Easttown. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a murder/police procedural set in small-town Pennsylvania. The end of Mare gave me time to return to my ongoing show, Ozark, which is not a murder show per se, but the body count is reliably high. My favorite shows over the last few years have largely involved murders, too: Happy Valley (which really should have been named Unhappy Valley), Broadchurch, Spiral, Trapped, Homicide.

Before I fall asleep at night, I usually catch a few minutes of a murder podcast; my current one…

Susan Orlean

Staff writer, The New Yorker. Author of The Library Book, The Orchid Thief, and more…Head of my very own Literati.com book club (join me!)

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