Grant Wahl is senior writer at Sports Illustrated and the author of The Beckham Experiment.

“I said to Balotelli, ‘I know you’re into President Obama. There’s a decent chance that he might read this story.’ He kind of perked up. I don’t think I was deliberately misleading him. There was a chance!”

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Brooke Gladstone is the host of On the Media and the author of The Influencing Machine.

“I'm not going to get any richer or more famous than I am right now. This is it, this is fine — it's better than I ever expected. I don't have anything to risk anymore. As far as I’m concerned, I want to just spend this last decade, decade and a half, twenty years, doing what I think is valuable. I don’t have any career path anymore. I’m totally off the career path. The beautiful thing is that I just don’t have any more fucks to give.”

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Venkatesh Rao is the founder of Ribbonfarm and the author of Breaking Smart.

“I would say I was blind and deaf and did not know anything about how the world worked until I was about 25. It took until almost 35 before I actually cut loose from the script. The script is a very, very powerful thing. The script wasn’t working for me.”

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Doug McGray is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of California Sunday and Pop-Up.

“Your life ends up being made up of the things you remember. You forget most of it, but the things that you remember become your life. And if you can make something that someone remembers, then you’re participating in their life. There’s something really meaningful about that. It feels like something worth trying to do.”

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Kliph Nesteroff writes for WFMU's Beware of the Blog. His book, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy, was released in November.

“Well, comedy always becomes stale. Whether it’s offensive or not offensive, it has an expiry date, unfortunately. A lot of people don’t want to hear this because that means a lot of their favorite comedians suddenly become irrelevant. But that’s the history of comedy: the hippest, coolest guy today—whoever that is to you in comedy—50 years from now, the new generation is going to say, ‘That guy’s not funny, and he’s square.’ And they’re going to say, ‘This new young guy is funny.’ But in another 50 years that guy becomes the square who isn’t funny. And it’s not that they weren’t funny and everybody was wrong; it was that that person was relating to their time.”

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Adrian Chen is a freelance journalist who has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and Wired. His latest article is "Unfollow," about a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church.

“Twitter and social media get such a bad rep for being full of hate and trolls. And, you know, a lot of the stories I’ve written have probably bolstered that stereotype. I think a lot of people have a lot of anxiety and ambivalence about social media even though they love it—they’re on it all the time—and they’re kind of thinking of it as a vice, as something they should be ashamed of, as bad. But this is a very clear win. It's not some abstract thing you could never measure. No, it’s like, [social media] really did cause her to leave the church.”

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Aleksandar Hemon is a writer from Bosnia whose fiction and non-fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and Granta. His books include The Lazarus Project, The Question of Bruno, and The Book of My Lives.

“For me and for everyone I know, that's the central fact of our lives. It's the trauma that we carry, that we cannot be cured of. The way things are in Bosnia, it's far from over. It's not peace, it's the absence of war. It's always there as a possibility. There's no way to imagine anything beyond a society defined by war.”

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Chip Kidd is a book designer and author. His most recent book is Only What's Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts.

“The curious thing about doing a book cover is that you're creating a piece of art, but it is in service to a greater piece of art that is dictating what you're going to do. I may think I've come up with the greatest design in the world, but if the author doesn't like it, they win. And I have to start over.”

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. His latest book, Between the World and Me, just won the National Book Award.

“When I first came to New York, I couldn't see any of this. I felt like a complete washout. I was in my little apartment, eating donuts and playing video games. The only thing I was doing good with my life was being a father and a husband. That was it. David [Carr] was a big shot. And he would call me in, just out of the blue, to have lunch. I was so low at that point. ... He said, ​I think you're a great bet. ... He was remembering people who had invested in him when he was low. That more than anything is why I'm sad he's not here for all of this. Because it's for him. It's to say to him, ​you were right​.

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Kurt Andersen is the co-founder of Spy Magazine, the author of several books, and the host of Studio 360.

“As a young person, I never thought of myself as a risk-taker. Then I did this risky thing that shouldn't have succeeded, I started this magazine. And it did encourage me to think, ‘Eh, how bad can it be if it fails? Sometimes these long shots work. So fuck it, try it.’”

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Ed Caesar is a freelance writer based in England whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, British GQ, and The Sunday Times Magazine. He is the author of Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon.

“That was a really horrific situation. People were being killed in the street in front of us. People were firing weapons in all directions. It was really chaotic and quite scary. It freaked me out. And I thought, ‘Actually, there's not a huge amount more of this I want to do in my life.’”

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Jazmine Hughes is an associate editor at The New York Times Magazine. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and The New Republic.

“You hope that one day when you’re the editor-in-chief of Blah Blah Blah that you’ll wake up and be like, ‘Okay, I deserve my job.’ But so far I haven’t met anyone who has told me that they feel that way. But, I will say, I don’t talk to white men a lot.”

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Lena Dunham, the creator and star of HBO's Girls, is the co-founder of Lenny and the author of Not That Kind of Girl. A special episode hosted by Longform Podcast editor Jenna Weiss-Berman.

“Writing across mediums can be a really healthy way to utilize your energy and stay productive while not feeling entrapped. But at the end of the day, the time when I feel like life is most just, like, flying by and I don't even know what's happening to me is when I'm writing prose. It's such an intimate relationship that you're having. When you're writing a script, you're making a blueprint for something that doesn't exist yet. But when you're writing prose, the thing exists immediately. And that's really satisfying. It's the best place to go for my deepest and most in-the-now concerns.”

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Matthew Shaer is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York, GQ, and The Atavist Magazine.

“I could not turn off the freelance switch in my head. I could not not be thinking about these different types of stories. My Google Alert list looks like a serial killer's.”

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John Seabrook is a New Yorker staff writer and the author of The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory.

“Whether or not the piece succeeds or fails is not going to depend on whether I’m up to the minute on the latest social media spot to hang out or the latest slang words that are thrown around. It’s going to be the old eternal verities of structural integrity. So much of it is narrative and figuring out the tricks—and they are tricks, really—that make it go as a narrative. And that’s really the most interesting thing. Because you never ultimately have a formula that goes from piece to piece; it’s always going to have to be rediscovered every time you work on a long piece. And that’s kind of fun.”

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Karina Longworth is a film writer and the creator/host of You Must Remember This, a podcast exploring the secret stories of Hollywood.

“For me the thing that’s exciting about it is that it’s research, and it’s reportage, and it’s criticism. But it’s also art. It’s creatively done. It’s drama. It consciously tries to engage people on that emotional level.”

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Jessica Hopper is editor-in-chief of the Pitchfork Review and the author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic.

“I have an agenda. You can’t read my writing and not know that I have a staunch fucking agenda at all times.”

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Ira Glass is the host and executive producer of This American Life.

“You can only have so many questions about feelings, I think. At some point people are just like alright, enough with the feelings.”

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Peter Hessler is a staff writer for The New Yorker.

“It may have helped that I didn’t have a lot of ideas about China. You know, it was sort of a blank slate in my mind. …I wasn’t a reporter when I went to Fuling, but I was thinking like a reporter or even like a sociologist: try to respond to what you see and what you hear, and not be too oriented by things you’ve heard from others or things you may have read. Be open to new perceptions of the place or of the people.”

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Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has written for The New York Times, Newsweek, and Harper's. Her latest book is Negroland: A Memoir.

“One of the problems with—burdens of—‘race conversations’ in this country is certain ideological, political, sociological narratives keep getting imposed. This is where the conversation should go, these are the roles we need. In a way, this is the comfort level of my discomfort. ... Maybe we’re all somewhat addicted—I think we are—to certain racial conversations, with their limitations and their conventions.”

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Renata Adler is a journalist, critic, and novelist. Her latest collection of nonfiction is After the Tall Timber.

“Unless you're going to be fairly definite, what's the point of writing?”

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S.L. Price is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

“The fact is, if you write about sports and people think they're just reading about sports, they'll read about drug use. They'll read about sex. They'll read about sex change. They'll read about communism. They'll read about issues they couldn't possibly care about, issues that if they saw them in any other part of the paper they would just gloss over. But because it's about sports—because there's a boxing ring or a baseball field or a football field—they'll be more patient and you can get some issues under the transom.”

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William Finnegan is a New Yorker staff writer and the author of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.

“I suppose in retrospect I was just trying to find out what the world held that nobody could tell me about until I got there. I was a big reader and had a couple of degrees by that point, but there was something out well over the horizon that I wanted to get near and record and understand, and I even felt like it would transform me.”

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Tim Ferriss is the author of The Four-Hour Workweek and The Four-Hour Body.

“If you have a fitness magazine, you can’t just write one issue, ‘Here are the rules!’ ... My job, conversely, is to make myself obsolete. The last thing I want to be is a guru, someone people come to for answers. I want to be the person people come to for better questions.”

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