Dona Munker: Writing a Biography

      ~ Writing a Biography ~
      About Writing Biography and Imagining a Life

The Perils of Writing about a Living Subject. Especially a Big Subject.

October 25, 2011

Tags: Living subjects

Steve Jobs and Walter Isaacson (Credit: Getty Images)
        For two weeks I've been trying desperately to find time to pull together two articles I've sworn to post: the follow-up post I promised on organizing research (no, haven't forgotten) and a version of a lecture I gave on 10/17/2011 about using detective work to reconstruct crucial events and scenes.

        Till then, if you need an excuse to avoid writing for an hour or so, you can listen to the original here, including a Q&A session that raised some of those tough questions I think are the best way to get valuable feedback and hone one's writing skills. (Hot tip: Never ask your mother to read the first draft. Whatever she says, it's not going to be what you need to hear.)

        If you need a different or shorter excuse, (more…)

      Managing the Writing Life, 3: 10 TIPS FROM A FILM BIOGRAPHER

      October 12, 2011

      Tags: Beverly Gray, Good ideas, Interviewing

        "WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?" invites experienced biographers and narrative nonfiction writers to hold forth, whether in an article or just in a couple of sentences, on a useful solution they've found for coping with any major challenge of the writing life. What resonates with you? Tell the rest of us by posting a comment.

          Beverly Gray, a film biographer, shares her list of ten things to remember when writing a biography.

          Ten Tips for Writing Biography:

          •     In starting out, scour your life for a subject you are in a unique position to explore. When writing a biography, consider making your own relationship with the central figure a part of the story. My first book delved into the life of a movie producer who had been my longtime boss. A few anecdotes drawn from our interaction over the years effectively shed light on key aspects of his psyche. (more…)

          • Lyndall Gordon on the Purpose of Biography

          October 5, 2011

          Tags: Lyndall Gordon

          Lyndall Gordon

              Lyndall Gordon is known for literary biographies that focus on her subjects' inner lives and creative impulses. (Disclosure: Gordon's most recent book, LIVES LIKE LOADED GUNS: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds, is about the poet who was responsible for enabling my subject, Sara Bard Field, to finally discover her own poetic voice.) (more…)

          • Stacy Schiff on the Perfect Biography Subject

          October 1, 2011

          Tags: Stacy Schiff

          Stacy Schiff

             Looking for a subject? Read CLEOPATRA biographer Stacy Schiff on the perfect biography subject. Her next project: the Salem witch trials. Wow. Talk about a tough bunch to interview.

              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.

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              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.

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          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

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