Dona Munker: Writing a Biography

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

WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? Lucy Knight on the Importance of "Firsts"

November 16, 2012

Tags: Good ideas, Louise W. Knight, Richard Holmes

Louise (Lucy) W. Knight is the author of two biographies of Jane Addams and principal of Knight Consulting, a non-profit consulting firm.

"WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?" invites published biographers and writers of nonfiction to discuss the ideas and insights that have been important to them or helped them solve one of the many challenges of writing, research, and the nonfiction writer's life. Has something helped you as a biographer or nonfiction writer? Send in a comment.


    I think a lot (and by "a lot" I mean all the time) about the life of my subject and how I'm telling her story. My friend Louise (Lucy) W. Knight, who's written not one but two fine books about the great social worker Jane Addams, recently told me about an epiphany she once had about telling the story of a life, an epiphany that came from reading the first volume of Richard Holmes' biography of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It both deepened her thinking about Jane Addams' life story and increased her confidence as a narrator. I've asked her to describe it here.           —Dona Munker    (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…)

          Managing the Writing Life, 1: The Daily Grind

          July 31, 2011

          Tags: Charles J. Shields, Good ideas, The writing life

          What's the best idea you've had for coping with a major challenge of the writing life?

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

              Charles J. Shields: "Chop Wood, Carry Water."

                  A student seeking enlightenment asks the master, "How shall I go about it?"
                  The master answers, "Chop wood, carry water."
                  "And then when I achieve enlightenment—what then?"
                  "Chop wood, carry water."

              I take this advice to mean that there's nothing but the work. I find I can't (more…)

                  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.

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                Sidebar Photo Credit: Elephant Country Web

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