By Nora Ankrum, Fri., Dec. 9, 2005
Best AltWeekly Writing and Design 2005
edited by Ruth Hammond and La Shonya NcNeil
Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, 254 pp., $19.95 (paper)The best writing is often characterized by the quality of its surprises not O. Henry-type twists, necessarily, but an unexpected word choice here or there or an eye-opening turn in narrative direction. This year's Best AltWeekly Writing and Design is full of these kinds of surprises: surprise, for instance, that you could give a damn about fermented cabbage in an article as silly-sounding as "Kraut in the Act," or surprise that you can mourn the dwindling numbers of elderly retirees who pass their time as trial buffs at a Chicago courthouse. These stories illustrate what separates workaday journalism from craft; they're the kind that inspire you to take out your highlighter. Comprising the 40 first-place winners (out of 1,300 submissions) of the 2005 AltWeekly Awards Contest, Best AltWeekly includes judges' comments both positive and negative about the winners in every category, from arts criticism to feature writing to editorial layout, and has a full-color section devoted to the design winners. This is the gift for the writer or journalist on your shopping list, to be kept on the reference shelf next to the OED and the Chicago Manual and the most recent Best American Magazine Writing, but you won't find it at a bookstore, so order it online, soon, at: www.aan.org/2005awardsbook.