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Our Special Issue: FAQ

What on earth prompted you to choose the Seven Deadly Sins as the subject for a special issue?
We were sitting around a conference table last spring, batting around potential themes for this special issue and nothing was grabbing us. Entrepreneurism. Hmmmm . . . maybe. The Brain. Smart idea . . . I guess. Family? Transitions? Communication? Ummmm . . . The enervation was palpable.
   Then, out of nowhere: How about the Seven Deadly Sins — and why they're not always so bad? A collective pause . . . followed by . . . yes! Eyes lit up. Slouching bodies sat up straighter. Imagine the possibilities! What Hopkins reader wouldn't want to read stories about lust and gluttony and greed? And boy, wouldn't they be fun to report and illustrate. Within minutes, we had three staffers vying to interview Medicine's sex doctor, Leonard DeRogatis, and two others duking it out to write about competitive eater (and Hopkins alum) "Crazy Legs" Conti. We knew we had our theme.

Was it difficult to get your essayists on board with the project?
Actually, we were amazed how easy it was, especially since our budget allowed for only a paltry honorarium.
   First we made a "wish list" of some of our favorite writers with Johns Hopkins connections — faculty, alumni, former fellows. In some cases, we knew exactly which sin we wanted a particular essayist to tackle. Alumna Cari Lynn, for instance, had just finished a book based on her experiences "inside the trillion-dollar boys' club" of commodities trading. She'd have a few insights to share about avarice, we figured. But mostly we kept the assignment open: Call dibs on the sin that most inspires you — then let your muse take you where it will.
   Art director Shaul Tsemach took a similar strategy with the seven award-winning artists he approached to illustrate the issue (see "Contributors").

How could you find an "up" side to Deadly Sins? They're not called deadly for nothing!
Well, sure, it's hard to put a positive spin on subjects like corporate greed and heart disease bred from anger. And for the ultra-serious among you, there's plenty in this issue to keep you happy (or should I say, somber?). In our section on Lust, for example, we've looked back at the injustices experienced by Japanese "comfort women," or sex slaves, during World War II. In Gluttony, we examined the negative impact Americans' overconsumption of meat has had on the environment.
   But there's cause for celebration in these pages, too. For women recovering from breast cancer surgery, oncology nurse Lillie Shockney's counsel on regaining their sexuality is a healing balm like no other. And how can you not smile at the sight of a bleacher full of students in blue body paint, proclaiming their Blue Jay pride?

Which sin was most fun to write about?
You had to ask? I'll give you a hint: It's one of the seven that's a four-letter word (not envy!).

How did your interview subjects react when you told them you planned to include their work in an issue about the Seven Deadly Sins?
Only a handful hung up on us.

What will you do for an encore?
I guess there's always the Seven Virtues. But somehow, a whole issue of stories based on Meekness, Chastity, Moderation, and the like lacks a certain . . . zing.

How will you know if the issue's been a success?
Your response is our best measure! So, please — write, call, or e-mail and let us know what you think.

-Sue De Pasquale

Return to September 2005 Table of Contents

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