Dona Munker: Writing a Biography

      ~ Writing a Biography ~
      STALKING THE ELEPHANT:
      A Blog about Writing Biography and Imagining a Life

MANAGING YOUR RESEARCH: A "DEEP CHRONO" TIMELINE CAN HELP

June 26, 2013

Tags: Telling the story, Research

I know I promised to get back to the subject of organizing primary research in biography, and I'll return to talking about data files and headnotes soon. Before that, however, I'd like to pass on an idea that comes to us courtesy of—get ready—the CIA.

*

First, a brief but relevant digression. In a post last year, I discussed the essential "red thread" of narrative and how important it is to keep an eye on it at all times. (more…)

DEALING WITH BLACK HOLES, 1 (TBC, June, 2013)

June 19, 2013

Tags: Black holes, TBC articles


        Last month, I heard a subject discussed that should interest anyone who has ever discovered that a chunk of the story is missing—meaning, of course, every biographer. (more…)

    GETTING ORGANIZED, 4: LOCKING IN THOSE THRILLING DISCOVERIES

    June 11, 2013

    Tags: Research

    Call me a hopeless nerd, but for sheer mental excitement, I've never found anything better than discovering something new about my characters or finding a clue to their story. To me, that's what archival research is all about.

    In my first and second posts on organizing research, I discuss using MS Word to set up a chronologically-based folder system (more…)

    GETTING ORGANIZED, 3: WRITER-FRIENDLY SOFTWARE.

    June 4, 2013

    Tags: Research

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away—the one where I convinced myself that I could write a biography and still have time to blog regularly—I promised to continue with the subject of how to set up a seat-of-the-pants filing system for storing, retrieving, and keeping track of research (more…)

    PREDICTING BIOGRAPHY'S FUTURE: EVERYTHING CHANGES, EVERYTHING STAYS THE SAME (TBC, March, 2013)

    March 15, 2013

    Tags: TBC articles

    At the invitation of the NYU Biography Seminar, three veterans of New York publishing got together at New York University in February to talk about the current and future market for biography. The three were Jonathan Galassi, a long-time trade editor and the president of Farrar, (more…)

    BEFORE THE APOCALYPSE, SOME WRITING ADVICE TO MYSELF

    December 21, 2012

    Tags: The writing life

    (Image: National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
    I love this time of year. I've pretty much given up making New Year's resolutions, but late December is when I'm allowed by custom—no, obligated—to kick back and think about making a good start in 2013.

    Of course, given the date of this post—December 21, 2012—thinking about next year could be a (more…)

    ROBERT MASSIE: BIOGRAPHY'S KEY INGREDIENTS (TBC, October 2012)

    December 6, 2012

    Tags: Telling the story, Robert K. Massie, TBC articles

    Robert Massie: Storytellers have "three ingredients" to think about. (Photo © Alex Remnick)
    Robert K. Massie, the journalist and historian whose gift for vivid narrative has made him the preeminent American biographer of Russian royals, makes his job sound easy. “I am a storyteller,” he explains modestly, adding that he writes biography because “telling stories about people in the past is important to everyone trying to understand (more…)

    CREATING A WRITING ROUTINE THAT WORKS

    December 3, 2012

    Tags: The writing life

    We often hear that one of the most important things when writing a book is to establish a regular writing routine. That's true whether you teach, spend your days in an office, or work at home. But for most of us, it's one of the hardest things to learn how to do. (more…)

    STAYING ON TRACK: THE RED THREAD OF THE NARRATIVE

    December 1, 2012

    Tags: Red Thread, Telling the story, Writing process

    To stay on track, keep an eye on the red thread of your story. (Image via photos-public-domain.com)
    As my favorite literary parable suggests (see sidebar), telling the story of a life is a lot like carving an elephant from a block of stone. The "elephant" is the story of someone else's life in potentia, while the block of stone is the mass of unprocessed research in which the story is hiding. Here and in future posts, I want to discuss the creative process of rendering the elephant visible, not only to the eye of the reader but in the mind of the writer. (more…)

    THE WRITING LIFE: BIOGRAPHY AS RORSCHACH TEST

    November 26, 2012

    Tags: Stacy Schiff, The writing life

    Rorschach Inkblot No. 9 (Wikipedia)
    Usually on Sunday morning I open the New York Times and go straight to the Styles section, where the "Social IQs" column is. "Social IQs" gives advice to the socially perplexed, and reading it gives me hope of becoming the polite, perspicacious, socially intelligent human being I imagine its author, Philip Galanes, to be. Yesterday, however, (more…)

    On March 27, 2014, I will be in Los Gatos, California talking about "Sara Bard Field and 'The Cats,'" the extraordinary California woodland retreat that she and Charles Erskine Scott Wood built in the 1920s. For more details about this event, including a link to a video of The Cats on YouTube, go to EVENTS.



        The disciple of a famous sculptor came upon his master carving an elephant from a huge, shapeless chunk of stone. "Master," cried the disciple, "What splendor! What realism! What insight! How do you do it?" "Simple," replied the sculptor. "You just cut away everything that isn't elephant."

        Stalking the Elephant is a blog about creating an elephant from a chunk of stone, a.k.a. writing a biography.

        It's also about the biographer's writing life (well, mine, anyway) and a work in progress, SARA AND ERSKINE, AN AMERICAN ROMANCE. This is an intimate reconstruction of the life of SARA BARD FIELD, a World War One-era minister's wife, suffragist, and poet, and her extraordinary affair with an outspoken attorney, philosophical anarchist, and Renaissance man CHARLES ERSKINE SCOTT WOOD.

    Subscribing is easy.

        This couple takes up a lot of time (not to mention a lot of oxygen), and since I don't have a regular posting schedule, the best way to receive updates is to sign up to be notified when I post something new.

         Here's how: On the blog page, click on the RSS button of your browser. (In Firefox: Go to the Bookmarks menu and select "Subscribe to This Page.") You can then check to see if there's been an update in the RSS feed of your browser's toolbar.




    Visit the RESOURCES page and take advantage of a growing list of links, blogs, and books for anyone interested in biography and writing lives.


      Sidebar Photo Credit: Elephant Country Web


      Notice of Copyright: All material on this website copyright © 2005-2014 by Dona Munker, except where expressly stated or contributed by others. Copying, altering, or reproducing this material in any form without written permission is prohibited by law and may be prosecuted regardless of the venue or purpose of the copying.