“I've been writing and publishing nonfiction for twenty years, but I think I've learned more about the craft of writing essays and articles from my short time working with Mike Graff at Our State than in all those years I foundered along in the dark. Mike is a tremendous editor. His suggestions are precise and exact, he's encouraging but honest in his appraisal of what's not quite working, and he understands how sentences are not only our access road -- a vehicle for story -- but astral plane -- a way of communicating the story behind the story. Some brilliant editors turn out to be not-so-great writers, but Mike excels at both. His own work holds itself to the high standards he expects of others, his prose is sharp and crisp and often wry, and his eye and ear seem to me unfaltering. Perhaps the mark of a great nonfiction writer is the ability to approach a story -- any story, even a story in which the writer has not the slightest bit of curiosity or interest -- and turn it into something of great interest to the reader. I've never read anything of Mike's that did not make me feel as though he was born deeply curious and fascinated by his subject. He could write copy for a vacuum cleaner instruction manual and it would likely make me want to take my Hoover apart just to put it back together again.”

– Michael Parker
Freelance writer, Our State, Oxford American, New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and author of six novels and two collections of short stories.

“Working alongside Mike Graff during our days together at the Fayetteville Observer was truly a fulfilling and inspiring experience. Graff is not only one of the most talented writers I know, he is also an inquisitive reporter who views the people and events he covers through a unique lens – a microscope really. Mike sees the littlest details of every story he works on. Yet he has a knack for understanding how to include only the most compelling and poignant particulars of what he has discovered. That is a skill so few in our industry have. I've always loved Mike's long-form writing for its distinguishable style. His pieces consistently provide enlightening perspective to whatever subject matter he is chronicling. Yet while it's easy to become absorbed with Mike's elegant and fun-to-read writing, it's also worth remembering his curiosity and persistence in reporting are what inject his stories full of meaning.”

– Dan Wiederer
Chicago Bears beat writer, Chicago Tribune. Former ACC basketball writer, Fayetteville Observer.

“Traditionally, one of the photojournalist's favorite pastimes is complaining about writers amongst his more visually inclined friends. I am neglected that opportunity when working with Mike Graff on a story for Our State magazine. He has a calm demeanor (the best antidote to a sometimes frantic photographer), and extraordinary patience when things haven't yet fallen into place. I read his stories with the interest of a novice, even if I was present for all of the reporting. Without embellishing, he opens my eyes to things I hadn't seen, and I come away with a new perspective on subjects I thought I already knew. His writing is not only visual, it is thoughtful in a way that I want my photography to be.”

– Travis Dove
Freelance photojournalist, Our State magazine, National Geographic, New York Times, and more.

“The thing I loved most about Mike Graff was not his skill -- though he obviously has an abundance of that. No, for me it was Mike's desire to do great things. Long piece, daily piece, whatever he was doing, Mike always wanted to Make It Great. I never once saw him mail something in. They used to say one of the things that set Pete Rose apart from other great hitters was that he never gave away an at-bat. His team could be down 7 runs in the ninth, but Pete would treat that at-bat as if it were a tie game in the World Series. Mike brings that same desire to his work. And as one of his former editors, I saw how it elevated those around him. He made my job that much easier.”

– Brian Tolley
Executive editor, Jackson (Miss.) Clarion Ledger. Former executive editor, Fayetteville Observer.

“When he's acting as an editor, Mike Graff has the air of a co-conspirator embarking with his writer on a grand adventure. I've worked with him on a variety of stories during his tenure at Our State. One of the more challenging features of the publication is a monthly town profile, in which the magazine seeks to provide readers with a portrait of a community's soul. This is no small challenge. But Graff is a blue highways kind of guy. He doesn't forget the back roads, and he never treats any community as just another place. Interview possibilities and site visits are given the reverent attention of landmarks on a tattered old treasure map. Graff has, on more than one occasion, nudged me to take creative risks that proved to be invaluable in the quest. He has the potential to make a story better, even before a single word is put on the page.”

– Leigh Ann Henion
Freelance writer, Our State, Washington Post Magazine, Southern Living, Smithsonian, and more.
© Michael Graff. No part may be used without permission. Photo by Travis Dove.