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~ Writing a Biography ~ STALKING THE ELEPHANTAbout Writing Biography and Imagining a Life

WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? Managing the Writing Life, 1: The Daily Grind

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  Read More 
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      ARTICLE POSTING: "FINDING OUR VOICE'"

      "Voice" is the instrument with which a writer tells the story. For a biographer, as for other writers of narrative, feeling confident that one has found "the right voice" is vital for having the authority and conviction necessary to narrate the life story of another human being.

          But voice is hard to define. It's not  Read More 
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      ROBERT CARO AND THE POWER OF PLACE

      Robert Caro.

            Speaking of the power of place, no one knows more about that than Robert Caro, who appeared at the 2011 Compleat Biographer Conference luncheon to accept this year's BIO Award for his contributions to the art and craft of biography in his books on  Read More 
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        THE POWER OF PLACE: ISTANBUL SHUTS OUT AMHERST

        Istanbul at sunset. (Photo: qmannola)

              It's never smart for anyone working on a biography to underestimate the power of place. Especially when the writer is reading someone else's work.

             &nbspWhen I went on vacation two weeks ago, I brought along Lives Like Loaded Guns, the biography of Emily Dickinson by Lyndall Gordon, to read on the transatlantic leg of a trip to Istanbul. Read More 
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          ELEPHANT STALKERS ARE ORGANIZED, PART 2: Setting Up a Filing System

          From orderly tablets, serenity—my desk before I went on vacation.

              Since a number of people who attended the Compleat Biographer Conference in May requested it afterwards, in this post I'll cover the glamorous subject of filing—that is, physically organizing your research. Every project is different. Still, any good filing system will do  Read More 
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            WHAT I'M READING NOW: Lyndall Gordon's "Lives Like Loaded Guns"

            Emily Dickinson (Amherst College Library)

                  Just as my husband and I are about to go on vacation--a trip to Istanbul in honor of a Big Birthday--I've become caught up in Lyndall Gordon's Lives Like Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds. My justification is that Sara Bard Field, who belonged to the generation after Dickinson ( Read More 
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