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Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University

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Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University Cover

ISBN13: 9780452287556
ISBN10: 0452287553
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Inspiring stories and practical advice from America’s most respected journalists

The country’s most prominent journalists and nonfiction authors gather each year at Harvard’s Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. Telling True Stories presents their best advice—covering everything from finding a good topic, to structuring narrative stories, to writing and selling your first book. More than fifty well-known writers offer their most powerful tips, including:

Tom Wolfe on the emotional core of the story

Gay Talese on writing about private lives

Malcolm Gladwell on the limits of profiles

Nora Ephron on narrative writing and screenwriters

Alma Guillermoprieto on telling the story and telling the truth

• Dozens of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalists from the Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and more . . .

The essays contain important counsel for new and career journalists, as well as for freelance writers, radio producers, and memoirists. Packed with refreshingly candid and insightful recommendations, Telling True Stories will show anyone fascinated by the art of writing nonfiction how to bring people, scenes, and ideas to life on the page.

Synopsis:

Twenty of America's bestselling authors share tricks, tips, and secrets of the successful writing life.

Anyone who's ever sat down to write a novel or even a story knows how exhilarating and heartbreaking writing can be. So what makes writers stick with it? In Why We Write, twenty well-known authors candidly share what keeps them going and what they love most—and least—about their vocation.

Contributing authors include:

Isabel Allende

David Baldacci

Jennifer Egan

James Frey

Sue Grafton

Sara Gruen

Kathryn Harrison

Gish Jen

Sebastian Junger

Mary Karr

Michael Lewis

Armistead Maupin

Terry McMillan

Rick Moody

Walter Mosley

Susan Orlean

Ann Patchett

Jodi Picoult

Jane Smiley

Meg Wolitzer

Synopsis:

Twenty of America's bestselling authors share tricks, tips, and secrets of the successful writing life.

Anyone who's ever sat down to write a novel or even a story knows how exhilarating and heartbreaking writing can be. So what makes writers stick with it? In Why We Write, twenty well-known authors candidly share what keeps them going and what they love most—and least—about their vocation.

About the Author

Mark Kramer is director and writer-in-residence of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University.

Wendy Call is a freelance writer and editor based in Seattle. She has been a Fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs in southern Mexico and a Scholar in Nonfiction at the Bread Loaf Writer‛ Conference.

Table of Contents

Telling True Stories

Acknowledgments

Preface

Part I: An Invitation to Narrative

Stories Matter by Jacqui Banaszynski

Delving into Private Lives by Gay Talese

The Narrative Idea by David Halberstam

Difficult Journalism That's Slap-Up Fun by Katherine Boo

Part II: Finding, Researching, and Reporting Topics

Introduction by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

Finding Good Topics: A Writer's Questions by Lane DeGregory

Finding Good Topics: An Editor's Questions by Jan Winburn

Reporting for Narrative: Ten Overlapping Rules by Mark Kramer

To Tape or Not to Tape? by Adam Hochschild, Jacqui Banaszynski, Jon Franklin, and Gay Talese

Interviewing: Accelerated Intimacy by Isabel Wilkerson

The Psychological Interview by Jon Franklin

Participatory Reporting: Sending Myself to Prison by Ted Conover

Being There by Anne Hull

Not Always Being There by Louise Kiernan

Reporting Across Cultures by Victor Merina

Reporting on Your Own by S. Mitra Kalita

Field Notes to Full Draft by Tracy Kidder

Doing Enough Reporting? by Walt Harrington

From Story Idea to Published Story by Cynthia Gorney

(Narrative) J School for People Who Never Went by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Part III: Name Your Subgenre

Introduction by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

Profiles by Jacqui Banaszynski

The Ladder of Abstraction by Roy Peter Clark

Every Profile Is an Epic Story by Tomas Alex Tizon

The Limits of Profiles by Malcolm Gladwell

Travel Writing: Inner and Outer Journeys by Adam Hochschild

The Personal Essay and the First-Person Character by Phillip Lopate

First Personal Singular: Sometimes, It Is About You by DeNeen L. Brown

Columns: Intimate Public Conversations by Donna Britt

Writing About History by Jill Lepore

Adventures in History by Melissa Fay Greene

Narrative Investigative Writing by Katherine Boo

Public Radio: Community Storytelling by Jay Allison

Part IV: Constructing a Structure

Introduction by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

What Narrative Writers Can Learn from Screenwriters by Nora Ephron

To Begin the Beginning by DeNeen L. Brown

Narrative Distance by Jack Hart

Hearing Our Subjects' Voices: Quotes and Dialogue by Kelley Benham

Hearing Our Subjects' Voices: Keeping It Real and True by Debra Dickerson

Weaving Story and Idea by Nicholas Lemann

Endings by Bruce DeSilva

Part V: Building Quality into the Work

Introduction by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

Character by Jon Franklin

Details Matter by Walt Harrington

Developing Character by Stanley Nelson

Reconstructing Scenes by Adam Hochschild

A Reconstructed Scene by Adam Hochschild

Setting the Scene by Mark Kramer

Handling Time by Bruce DeSilva

Sequencing: Text as Line by Tom French

Writing Complicated Stories by Louise Kiernan

How I Get to the Point by Walt Harrington

The Emotional Core of the Story by Tom Wolfe

Telling the Story, Telling the Truth by Alma Guillermoprieto

On Voice by Susan Orlean

Part VI: Ethics

Introduction by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

The Line Between Fact and Fiction by Roy Peter Clark

Toward an Ethical Code for Narrative Journalists by Walt Harrington

Playing Fair with Subjects by Isabel Wilkerson

Securing Consent by Tracy Kidder

Truth and Consequences by Katherine Boo

Dealing with Danger: Protecting Your Subject and Your Story by Sonia Nazario

A Dilemma of Immersion Journalism by Anne Hull

Ethics in Personal Writing by Debra Dickerson

Taking Liberties: The Ethics of the Truth by Loung Ung

The Ethics of Attribution by Roy Peter Clark

What About Endnotes? by Sonia Nazario and Nicholas Lemann

Part VII: Editing

Introduction by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

On Style by Emily Hiestand

A Writer and Editor Talk Shop by Jan Winburn and Lisa Pollak

Revising--Over and Over Again by Anne Hull

Transforming One Hundred Notebooks into Thirty-five Thousand Words by Sonia Nazario

How to Come Up Short by Tom Hallman

Narrative in Four Boxes by Jacqui Banaszynski

Serial Narratives by Tom French

Care and Feeding of Editors and Writers by Jacqui Banaszynski

Part VIII: Narrative in the News Organization

Introduction by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

Beginning in Narrative by Walt Harrington

A Brief History of Narrative in Newspaper by Jack Hart

Nurturing Narrative in the Newsroom by Jack Hart

A Storyteller's Lexicon by Jack Hart

Narrative as a Daily Habit by Lane DeGregory

Building a Narrative Team by Maria Carrillo

Two Visions, One Series: A Writer and an Editor Talk About What They Do by Jacqui Banaszynski and Tomas Alex Tizon

Team Storytelling by Louise Kiernan

Photographer as Narrative Storyteller by Molly Bingham

Subversive Storytellers: Starting a Narrative Group by Bob Batz Jr.

Part IX: Building a Career in Magazines and Books

Introduction by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call

Making It as a Freelancer by Jim Collins

Not Stopping: Time Management for Writers by Stewart O'Nan

Lessons from the Jury Box by Jack Hart

Working with an Agent by Melissa Fay Greene

What Makes a Good Book? by Helene Atwan

From Book Idea to Book Contract by Jim Collins

Your Book and the Marketplace by Geri Thoma

Crossing Over: From Advocacy to Narrative by Samantha Power

A Passion for Writing by Susan Orlean

Suggested Reading

Web Sites and Internet Resources

About the Editors

About the Contributors

Index

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 4 comments:

JoyTipping, January 3, 2008 (view all comments by JoyTipping)
From my review in the January 2008 newsletter of the American Society of Journalists and Authors:

In nearly 100 short essays, this book offers an unbelievable wealth of excellent advice and information, from 51 contributors such as Tom Wolfe, David Halberstam, Susan Orlean, Tracy Kidder, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc and Gay Talese. It's like attending a "who's who" conference on nonfiction writing, all for the price of a trade paperback. The book is helpfully divided into categories; you don't have to read the whole thing (although you'll be a better writer, guaranteed, if you do). Categories include finding topics, settling on your sub-genre, structure, building quality into your work, ethics, editing, narrative in news and building a career in magazines and books. The best parts of the book are the tidbits of insight dispersed by pros who have had decades of experience to figure out what makes them so good at their jobs. Gay Talese talks about his decision to spend more time "with people who were not necessarily newsworthy . . . that the role of the nonfiction writer should be with private people whose lives represent a larger significance." Katherine Boo reveals that she finds her stories "because I never learned to drive. . . . I take the bus. I walk around. By being out there -- not the driver of my story but the literal and figurative rider -- I have the opportunity to see things that I would never otherwise see." S. Mitra Kalita offers the startling -- but obvious on contemplation -- observation from her colleague Mirta Ojito at The New York Times, that "the more you know, the less they tell you." This is a book you'll speed through and quote to your friends, read over and over, and find new insights on each pass through.

I have a system when I'm reviewing books of putting Post-It notes on the edges of pages that seem especially cogent, well-written, etc. I usually have 8 or 10 Post-Its on a book that's finished, but on this one, I had so many it looked like the book had sprouted its own little line of prayer flags!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(8 of 15 readers found this comment helpful)
taxel, June 1, 2007 (view all comments by taxel)
I am a working journalist and think this is a superb book. I keep wanting to send quotes from it to all my journalist friends. Reading it is sometimes affirming, often provocative, and occasionally frustrating (if only my editors would let me work this way!). I learned somethig new from each essay and often felt like jumping up from my seat and shouting yes, Yes, YES, that's just what the writing experience is all about.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(8 of 16 readers found this comment helpful)
run19ec, March 5, 2007 (view all comments by run19ec)
Want to write true stories that will still be readable five, 10, 20, 50 years from now? Ever talk to someone who told you something that touched your heart, whether it's an experience they had or just a good yarn that you'll think about long after the conversation's over?

These are the kinds of stories this book will show you how to write. The authors won't tell you exactly. That's a path you'll have to find out for yourself. But they'll give you guides, practical tips to learn how to talk and write like you're having a conversation with a reader who wants to know more about your story.

As a working journalist for a mid-sized newspaper in Southwest Virginia, I've read countless of books discussing the techniques of narrative writing. This one ranks high above them. Many of the authors break down the elements of telling good stories. For example, listen to Susan Orlean talk about having voice in your stories: "You can't invent a voice. And you can't imitate someone else's voice, though trying to can be a good exercise. It can lead you to begin to understand the mechanisms that convey the voice. Read your stories out loud so you can hear how you tell stories. As you read, ask yourself: Does it sound real? Would I have said it that way?"

The editors of the book offer nice introductions to each section and tell you who you'll be reading in the next few pages. It reminds me of a book by Stanley Cavell called "Cities of Words," which is presented as a series of lectures in a classroom.

The way this book is put together is similar. It reads like you're in class waiting for a lecture from folks such as Tom Wolfe, Susan Orlean, Tracy Kidder and others. There is no shortage of ideas, approaches to reporting and writing stories and you can't help but think how you would have tackled a famed writer's story if you were in their position. (Probably, not very well. But better, I'm assuming, than those who don't read this book.)

Writing true stories is not the easiest way to spend your time. It can get very frustrating and confusing. That's why this book is important. It has given me a new perspective on how to approach these kinds of stories and that's why I recommend it.
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(9 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780452287556
Author:
Kramer, Mark
Publisher:
Plume Books
Editor:
Call, Wendy
Author:
Maran, Meredith
Author:
Call, Wendy
Subject:
Writing Skills
Subject:
Composition & Creative Writing - Nonfiction
Subject:
Composition & Creative Writing - General
Subject:
Composition & Creative Writing
Subject:
Reference-Writing Nonfiction
Subject:
Reference/Writing
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20070231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 12
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
7.98x5.36x.73 in. .63 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects


History and Social Science » Journalism » General
Reference » Writing » General
Reference » Writing » Nonfiction

Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University Used Trade Paper
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Product details 256 pages Plume Books - English 9780452287556 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
Twenty of America's bestselling authors share tricks, tips, and secrets of the successful writing life.

Anyone who's ever sat down to write a novel or even a story knows how exhilarating and heartbreaking writing can be. So what makes writers stick with it? In Why We Write, twenty well-known authors candidly share what keeps them going and what they love most—and least—about their vocation.

Contributing authors include:

Isabel Allende

David Baldacci

Jennifer Egan

James Frey

Sue Grafton

Sara Gruen

Kathryn Harrison

Gish Jen

Sebastian Junger

Mary Karr

Michael Lewis

Armistead Maupin

Terry McMillan

Rick Moody

Walter Mosley

Susan Orlean

Ann Patchett

Jodi Picoult

Jane Smiley

Meg Wolitzer

"Synopsis" by ,
Twenty of America's bestselling authors share tricks, tips, and secrets of the successful writing life.

Anyone who's ever sat down to write a novel or even a story knows how exhilarating and heartbreaking writing can be. So what makes writers stick with it? In Why We Write, twenty well-known authors candidly share what keeps them going and what they love most—and least—about their vocation.

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