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Michael Pollan on Research

Posted in Creative Nonfiction, Research, Writing | Comments Off on Michael Pollan on Research

  Michael Pollan came to New Haven March 30th to talk about his new book, Raw.  While most of his conversation with journalist Jack Hitt focused on our food culture, at one point he spoke about how he researches his projects.  I thought his experience might be useful for anyone out there feeling stuck and wondering just how to start writing more popular pieces. Mr. Pollan’s process begins, he said, with books.  For Raw, he bought and read all kinds of books.  He read recipes. History. Next, he looks for local people who know something useful, and asks them if he can come in and learn by doing— “Can I work here for a day or two?” He said people are generally happy to have a little free labor, so volunteer your services. Then, he looks for experts, whether...

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Online Resources for Creative Nonfiction

Posted in Creative Nonfiction, Writing | Comments Off on Online Resources for Creative Nonfiction

Defining it, discussing how to write it, warning what not to do when attempting to write interesting, true feature stories. A University of Idaho definition of creative non-fiction and guidelines for writing it. A collection of online research sources for historical storytelling. A master writer of literary nonfiction on how to write it. A warning about getting TOO creative, quoted below, but found here: Writers are warned to not be too creative with weaving their stories, however. If you add characters, dialogue, invent scenes and alter facts, you moved to the realm of historical fiction, a noble genre but still, fiction. Reynolds cautions writers to be wary of being too creative. “The author who does not treat the genre with respect can easily convey erroneous impres­sions. Creative nonfiction requires even more careful research than straight exposition, as so much more...

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writing/research software

Posted in Research, software, Writing | Comments Off on writing/research software

a variety of academic software programs that might help you on your way.  Some are PC, most mac or both.  If you search for reviews of these, you’ll probably pull up related software that you might like better. Nota Bene Devonthink Tinderbox Mellel Bookends...

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New Yorker pieces written by a professional historian

Posted in Children's Literature, Creative Nonfiction, Government, History, Parenting, Research, Sex ed, Writing | Comments Off on New Yorker pieces written by a professional historian

These are written by Jill Lepore, who has written academically about King Philip’s War and slavery in 18th-century Manhattan, among other topics.  She started an English major, went into American studies, and is now the chair of History and Literature at Harvard.  So she’s as academic as you can get – but also is a great example of how historical research training can allow you to comment well on a host of other topics in the non-academic world.   Note how these pieces aren’t precisely history – they use history to illuminate a interesting topic. on Tea Parties, Boston and otherwise On writing about George Washington On the invention of parenthood On sex education On children’s...

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Nonfiction writing

Posted in Creative Nonfiction, History, Writing | Comments Off on Nonfiction writing

Historians, perhaps more than many kinds of academics, often find themselves in the role of public intellectual, needing to translate ideas gained from their scholarship to others.  Having studied our nation’s development and character, historians get asked to lend perspective on current events.  Whether this happens in flagship publications or in conversations over a family BBQ, the study of history lends itself to non-academic conversation.  You’re likely to need to develop your skills communicating your understandings of the world with non-historians; you might even find you enjoy using your skills in this way.  Many of us came to history in part because we loved the stories of our past; historians tend to love narrative.  This assignment helps you retain your instincts for story – which I can tell from your writing that all of you have – while developing...

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New Yorker Article example

Posted in Activism, Creative Nonfiction, History, Social Media, Writing | Comments Off on New Yorker Article example

Although you can browse around in the reporting and essays section for more examples of the kind of article we’re talking about, this week’s essay by Malcolm Gladwell uses history to ask questions about modern social activism, Facebook, and...

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