Esquire writer-at-large Chris Jones talked to us about his work, the qualities of a good storyteller and what makes him come back to Romania for the third time. He is currently covering the World Cup in Brazil for ESPN.
This is your third visit to Romania. What makes you come back?
Well, the easy answer is: I have a great time. I always do. This conference and my Romanian friends have become an annual way for me to recharge my batteries, to remember how many good people and writers there are in the world and that what we write and read matters. Bucharest is like one big church for me.
What are the qualities one needs in order to be a good storyteller?
Curiosity — a genuine need to know the answers. Empathy. Open eyes and ears. A belief that stories are worth telling well. Industry. A feel for the rhythm of people and language.
How do you want to leave the readers feeling after reading your stories?
I’m not picky about what my readers might feel. I just hope at least a few of them feel something: happiness, sadness, anger. I guess I hope my stories are inspirational in some way—no matter how they leave someone feeling, I like to think that, for a few mysterious readers out there, reading something I wrote inspired them to do something good. That probably doesn’t happen very often, but I like to imagine that it does.
You’re covering the World Cup this summer and you wrote a lot about sports. Why do you think sports stories are important?
My sports stories… How do I explain this? They’re almost not about sports, or sports are only in the background of them. Sports are a microcosm of society in a lot of ways; we can use sports as both a window and a mirror, and that’s what I try to do with my sports stories. Plus, it’s really, really fun to watch people do incredible things. Sports still give me gooseflesh all the time.
Chris Jones talked about fear in the creative process at the Power of Storytelling on October 17-18. Watch his keynote and this exclusive interview on the future of narrative and his advice for young journalists.