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

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

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,  Read More 
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BEFORE THE APOCALYPSE, SOME WRITING ADVICE TO MYSELF

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  Read More 
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ROBERT MASSIE: BIOGRAPHY'S KEY INGREDIENTS (TBC REPORT)

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  Read More 
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CREATING A WRITING ROUTINE THAT WORKS

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.  Read More 
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STAYING ON TRACK: THE RED THREAD OF THE NARRATIVE

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.  Read More 
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THE WRITING LIFE: BIOGRAPHY AS RORSCHACH TEST

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,  Read More 
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Interview: DEIRDRE BAIR ON STEINBERG, CAPONE, AND CHOOSING A SUBJECT (TBC INTERVIEW)

This week, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday will publish Deirdre Bair's Saul Steinberg: A Biography, the first biography of the New York artist whose beloved, ferociously funny New Yorker cartoons are now icons of American satire. (Think "View of the World from 9th Avenue," his famous 1976 map of the United States as seen by parochial New Yorkers.) I interviewed Bair for the monthly newsletter of Biographers International. An adapted version of that conversation appears here.  Read More 
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GETTING ORGANIZED, 2: AN EASY PATH TO YOUR FILES

This is the second of two posts about setting up an online filing system to store primary research findings.

In my last post, I discussed how I organize MS Word for  Read More 
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WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? Lucy Knight on the Importance of "Firsts"

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.

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    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    Read More 
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GETTING ORGANIZED, 1: WE BRING ORDER TO CHAOS


    Whether you're writing your first biography or your tenth, a simple yet flexible filing system can make storing and accessing information simpler, help you remember things, and generally make writing a book a lot easier. This post is the first of two about setting up a computer filing system for primary research in a biography. Or, as the Borg Queen on Star Trek might say, it's about bringing order to chaos.  Read More 
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