- Paperback: 317 pages
- Publisher: Plume; 1 edition (January 30, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0452287553
- ISBN-13: 978-0452287556
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 80 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University 1st Edition
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“Tantalizing essays… Ultimately this is a book about why stories matter and how journalists can and should master the craft of storytelling, whether they work in newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television, or film… [B]rims with wisdom on how to get to the emotional core of nonfiction stories. It contains useful advice on everything from how to get people to open up… to how to distill all the material you have gathered into a polished story that glues readers to the page… This is the kind of book that any aspiring storyteller can dip into and learn from, no matter what the stage of his or her career.”—Alison Bass, Harvard Review
“Tips spill from every chapter of the book… Every page—and I mean every page—contains important wisdom for every journalist. Telling True Stories is the relatively rare guide that offers value to veteran journalists, to novices, to investigative journalists and to beat reporters.—Steve Weinberg, The IRE Journal
“A virtuoso collection of essays by writers on writing non-fiction; these remarkable insights into the craft were collected at Harvard University and includes selections from such notable veteran scribes as Tom Wolfe, Tracy Kidder, Susan Orlean, David Halberstam, Nora Ephron and Malcolm Gladwell.”—The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Practical advice for writers on how to get published, write a memoir, and more.”—Boston Magazine
“Provides advice from 51 nonfiction writers, including notables Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, and Nora Ephron… Writers coming to this book should not expect one clear-cut path for producing strong nonfiction; instead, the book provides pointed but wide-ranging advice on writing-a good illustration of the creativity behind nonfiction and the individuality of the writing process. There is enough variety for almost any nonfiction writer to find inspiration and guidance. Topics include interviewing techniques, storytelling, using tape recorders and notebooks, developing characters and scenes, and editing. The section titled ‘Building a Career in Magazines and Books’ will especially help new writers.”—Library Journal
About the Author
Mark Kramer was writer-in-residence in the American Studies Program at Smith College (1980-1990), writer-in-residence and a professor of journalism at Boston University (1990-2001), and writer-in-residence and founding director of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University (2001-2007). He's written for the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, The Atlantic Monthly, and many other periodicals. He's co-author of two leading textbook/readers on narrative nonfiction: Telling True Stories and Literary Journalism. He's written four additional books: Mother Walter and the Pig Tragedy, Three Farms, Invasive Procedures, and Travels with a Hungry Bear. He's currently at work on a book about writing narrative nonfiction. His website is www.tellingtruestories.com.
Wendy Call is author of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy, winner of the 2011 Grub Street National Book Prize for Nonfiction. She co-edited Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide. Wendy has served as Writer in Residence at 20 institutions, five national parks, four universities, a public hospital, and a historical archive. She writes and edits nonfiction, translates Mexican poetry and short fiction, and works as a teacher at Richard Hugo House and Goddard College. Before turning to full-time word-working in 2000, she devoted a decade to work for social change organizations in Boston and Seattle. The daughter of a middle-school math teacher and a career Navy officer from Michigan, Wendy grew up on and around military bases in Florida, Pennsylvania, southern California, and southern Maryland. She lives and works in Seattle.
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Then prepare to be inspired, educated, and guided by the pros. Every aspect of "the story" is covered here, from managing relationships with editors and subjects to--above all--getting to the emotional heart of the story. I am not a journalist but something of a memoirist and this book is inspiring me to do more researched, investigative work. I feel like I have a master's course on my bookshelf, but these writers are so good, you sometimes feel as if you sitting and talking shop with them over drinks.
Kudos to the editors for pulling the best work out of these former conference presentations, too. It's no mean feat to transpose the oral presentation to a piece that runs well on paper. Just an excellent book any writer can use for years to come.
Mark Kramer and Wendy Call have assembled 91 chapters of advice about writing from 51 working authors and editors. This advice is backed up by the contributors' hard-won experience and by a generous bibliography of books and web sites that contain exemplary writings and yet more writing advice. It is presented in the easily-digestible form of brief chapters that focus on one or two aspects of reporting and writing. Kramer and Call briefly introduce each of the book's nine sections then stand aside so we can hear the contributors' voices. Readers will differ in what helps them the most--there is much to choose from.
Five contributions that I found particularly valuable:
Mark Kramer speaks as a writer in "Reporting for Narrative: Ten Tips." He describes how to balance background research between the extremes of too little and too much.
Isabel Wilkerson's "Interviewing: Accelerated Intimacy" teaches how to establish rapport with sources and hear their stories--while maintaining enough distance to report them.
Roy Peter Clark's "Ladder of Abstraction" shows how to describe concrete details of people's lives, connect them to larger themes, and avoid the deadly region of "middle abstraction" that alienates readers.
Jack Hart's "Narrative Distance" illustrates how to psychologically "place" the viewpoint of a story's narrator--and shift this perspective to guide the reader through a story.
Susan Orlean's "On Voice" describes the self-analysis and authenticity necessary to each writer's unique verbal style. Its development cannot be rushed--or faked.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who writes to an audience and wants to do it better. It is dead-on-target for you if you work in narrative journalism. If you do not, there are still lessons to improve your writing. Kramer and Call remind us that "[w]riting well is difficult, even excruciating, and demands courage, patience, humility, erudition, savvy, stubbornness, wisdom, and aesthetic sense--all summoned at your lonely desk." I like writing at my lonely desk--and I like having this book so I don't have to learn everything the hard way.