instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

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

DEPARTMENT OF CURRENT EVENTS

Beverly Gray
This trenchant comment on the Petraeus affair just in from film biographer Beverly Gray:

"So David Petraeus is resigning because he slept with his biographer. I'd say here's a case where she got a little too close to her subject."
Be the first to comment

AND NOW, A WORD ABOUT FILING. AGAIN.

One of the occupational hazards of writing biography is that you may develop an intense preoccupation with—well, with filing.

This is a sort of dirty professional secret akin to wanting to know about the inner workings of mechanical clocks. All any normal person who isn't a clockmaker really wants to know is  Read More 
Be the first to comment

DO YOU HAVE TO "LIKE" THE SUBJECT YOU PICK?

Deirdre Bair. What does "like" mean?
Biographers are often asked whether they "like" the person they've chosen as a subject, or some version of that question. The implication is that if one is going to be stranded on the desert island of research with another human being for years on end, one had damn well better be able to enjoy his or her company, and be able to make the reader enjoy it for five hundred pages, too. Read More 
Be the first to comment

HELLO AGAIN....

If you looked at the date of my last post for October and noticed that there's a year missing between it and the first post for November, it's not you; it's me.

I was away doing other things, including a bit of recalibrating of my own Elephant, a.k.a., SARA AND ERSKINE,  Read More 
1 Comments
Post a comment

FOLLOWING UP FOR A LITERARY GIANT

Paul Reid.
What could be more daunting for a writer than standing in for one of the twentieth century's most admired and popular biographers, especially when the biographer was an idol and a close friend?

Chosen to write the third and final volume of The Last Lion, the late William Manchester's biography  Read More 
1 Comments
Post a comment

JAMES MCGRATH MORRIS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF BIOGRAPHY

James McGrath Morris
Worth reading: An interview with journalist and biographer James McGrath Morris takes a look at the current publishing scene in biography. Morris, the founder of Biographers International, is the author of Pulitzer: A Life in Politics, Print, and Power and The Rose Man of Sing-Sing. (Thanks to blogger Beverly Gray for the pass-along.)  Read More 
Be the first to comment

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

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,  Read More 
    3 Comments
    Post a comment

    WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA? Managing the Writing Life, 3: 10 TIPS FROM A FILM BIOGRAPHER


      "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. Read More 
        8 Comments
        Post a comment

        • Lyndall Gordon on the Purpose of Biography

        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.)  Read More 
        1 Comments
        Post a comment

        • Stacy Schiff on the Perfect Biography Subject

        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.
         Read More 
        Be the first to comment