Tag Archives: Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway on writing, Fraser at writing, counterfeit books, and a podcast: newsletter, June 28, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,7xx) on Friday, June 28, 2019.

The great satisfaction of a project nearing completion came for me this week with the arrival of proof copies of Loyal Mountaineers: The Civil War Memoirs of Will McTeer. McTeer left his home near the Great Smoky Mountains in 1862 and joined the Union army. He spent the next two and a half years fighting to preserve his country. I’ll have more to say about him and the book next week.

Meanwhile, the earth produces, and we harvest: potatoes, onions, cucumbers, dill, beans, tomatoes, and blackberries.

Be happy and safe this weekend as America gets ready to celebrate the Fourth.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,769 subscribers and had a 30.4 percent open rate; 7 people unsubscribed. A chart showing the percentage of newsletter recipients who opened the newsletter each month will appear in next week’s newsletter.


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Ernest Hemingway on writing

The spare writing style of Ernest Hemingway has been often analyzed — and too often imitated — by many writers, observers, and commentators.

It is unique. There is nothing like it in the English language, and when Hemingway emerged as an important and eventually well-known writer in the post-Great War era of the 1920s, the style was both praised and panned.

One of the techniques of Hemingway’s writing is the heavy reliance on the simple sentence — the subject-verb-predicate sentence without subordination. One study showed that 70 percent of Hemingway’s sentences were simple sentences.

Hemingway wrote like a reporter who was composing for a telegraph message that charged by the word. Every word had to mean something. Every word had to pull some weight. Lavish adjectives and adverbs were likely not only to waste time but to be inadequate for what the writer was trying to convey. What was important, Hemingway argued, was what was omitted, and he compared his writing to an iceberg:

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. (Death in the Afternoon)

Another device that Hemingway used was something the ancient Greeks knew about: polysyndeton. This is the technique of stringing together sentences or phrase with the use of “and” rather than what we would call the serial comma. For instance, Hemingway wrote:

“I said, ‘Who killed him?’ and he said ‘I don’t know who killed him, but he’s dead all right,’ and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights or windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside Mango Key and she was right only she was full of water.” (After the Storm)

This technique conveys an immediacy to the subject and allows the writer to juxtapose a startling image in the midst of a more mundane description. Many writers before Hemingway, such as William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, used it, and the technique is common in the King James Bible, particularly in the Old Testament.

And, as you might expect, polysyndeton has an opposite: the more commonly used and heard asyndeton. Remember this sentence from John Kennedy inaugural address:

We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardships, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

Hemingway was well aware of what he was doing and of the techniques he was using. His quest was to write “the one true sentence.”

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.

Book counterfeiting: it happened before Amazon came into existence.

What happens when you are a self-published author (as I am), and someone takes your books, republishes them on Amazon’s self-publishing site, and sells them at a higher price — depriving you not only of royalties but also very possibly creating ill-will among your readers?

This hasn’t happened to me — at least, not that I know of.

But it has happened to others, and the New York Times has published a long article about book counterfeiting that is pretty scary.

. . .  Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way.

That has resulted in a kind of lawlessness. Publishers, writers and groups such as the Authors Guild said counterfeiting of books on Amazon had surged. The company has been reactive rather than proactive in dealing with the issue, they said, often taking action only when a buyercomplains. Many times, they added, there is nowhere to appeal and their only recourse is to integrate even more closely with Amazon. Source: What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues – The New York Times

The article blames Amazon for not properly policing what it sells, and it quotes an Amazon spokesperson saying the right things:

An Amazon spokeswoman denied that counterfeiting of books was a problem, saying, “This report cites a handful of complaints, but even a handful is too many and we will keep working until it’s zero.” The company said it strictly prohibited counterfeit products and last year denied accounts to more than one million suspected “bad actors.”

Amazon could, and should, do a better job of policing what it sells, but blaming Amazon — and its dominance of the book market — for this situation, I think, is not particularly helpful.

The existence of this kind of counterfeiting is the result of current advancements in technology. These advancements have had many good and positive effects. But they also allow people who lie, cheat, and steal new ways to lie, cheat, and steal. Book counterfeiting is nothing new. It has a long and storied history, and what’s happening on Amazon now is another chapter in its history.

 

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


Antonia Fraser’s writing day

Fortunately for writer and historian Lady Antonia Fraser, she was pronounced as “uppity” when she was a girl attending convent school. The nuns, for reasons she doesn’t specify, didn’t like her.

They decided to punish by making her spend her Saturday mornings learning to touch type.

“In consequence,” she writes, “I’m a touch typist – actually the most useful skill I ever acquired; so much for uppishness.”

Fraser walls herself off for three hours in the mornings and writes “ferociously.” Then she stops, has lunch, exercises and does other things in the after. In the late afternoon, she edits and revises what she had done in the morning, but it’s at a much more languid pace.

The reason that this pattern of work-in-the-morning-only is something so deeply ingrained in me, is that I began trying to write history seriously when I had six children born in 10 years. I have actually written all my life, but history was It. So I devised a way of working like a bat out of hell, or anyway a bat out of the nursery, the moment I could cram the children into cradles, kindergartens, schools … with the wild hope they would stay there. (There are wicked stories of notices on my door saying “Only come in if you have broken something”, which I utterly deny.) Under the circumstances, I never ever suffered from writer’s block. Source: Antonia Fraser: ‘I was forced to learn typing as a punishment for being uppish’ | Books | The Guardian

All this information comes from a brief and delightful description that Fraser gave of her day to The Guardian a couple of years ago. If you are interested in how a good writer writes, you will want to read this.

Fraser is the author of many tomes of history (Mary Queen of Scots, Cromwell The Lord Protector, Marie Antoinette: The Journey, etc.), a couple of memoirs, and a detective series — among other works. She writes and gives her full powers to it.

Verse and Vision

For the second week in a row, my good friend and newsletter reader Vince V. suggested a poem for a video. Last week I read Alfred, Lord Tennyson‘s most famous poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade and did a portrait of the poet for a video. This week we drop back a couple of centuries to pick up To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace — the poem with the famous line, “Stone walls do not a prison make . . . ”

Here’s the complete list of videos I have made since the beginning of April:

Edgar Allen Poe

To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace: http://bit.ly/lovelace-toalthea 

The Charge of the Light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennysonhttp://bit.ly/tennyson-lightbrigade 

The House of Rest by Julia Ward Howehttp://bit.ly/howe-houseofrest

Lochinvar by Sir Walter Scotthttp://bit.ly/scott-lochinvar

Ole Bert: In His Own Words by Bert Garner: http://bit.ly/ole-bert

In the Highlands and Consolation by Robert Louis Stevenson: http://bit.ly/RLStevenson-2poems

To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvellhttp://bit.ly/Marvell-CoyMistress

Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer:http://bit.ly/Thayer-CaseyattheBat

The Old Clock on the Stairs by Henry Wadsworth Longfellowhttp://bit.ly/HWL-TheOldClock

Evening Star and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poehttp://bit.ly/NPM-Poe-AnnabelLee

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Grayhttp://bit.ly/gray-elegy

My Heart and I by Elizabeth Barrett Browninghttp://bit.ly/EBB-myheartandi

The Raven by Edgar Allan Poehttp://bit.ly/poe-theraven

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespearehttp://bit.ly/shakespeare-sonnet18

And more are on the way.

Podcast: Man in the Window

He became known as the Golden State Killer, but his crime spree was so long, so widespread, and so extensive that he went by many names: the Cordova Cat, the Visalia Ransacker, the East Area Rapist, just to name a few.

Now the folks who brought you the compelling podcast Dirty JohnWondery and the Los Angeles Times — have a new podcast series titled Man in the Window. Here is how they describe it:

In Man in the Window, Paige St. John, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter has uncovered never before revealed details about the man who would eventually become one of California’s most deadly serial killers. From Wondery and the LA Times comes a new series that traces his path of devastation through his victims’ eyes.Source: ‎Man In The Window on Apple Podcasts

It is hard to believe the evil of the man who committed the crimes ascribed to the Golden State Killer. The descriptions of his actions are chilling, especially since many of them come from the victims themselves. We had a brief item last year about the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, the man accused of being the killer, and it is worth reading before diving into this podcast.

Everything surrounding this story is strange and complex, and the podcast does an excellent job of shepherding you through it.

https://www.latimes.com/projects/man-in-the-window-podcast/

Reactions

Alice K.: It was nice to read Jennifer’s remarks about the role of a library in the community. (See the newsletter of June 7, 2019.)  She makes many good points, and who would know better than she does about the many people whose lives are touched each day at the library?  There is a quote attributed to Albert Einstein that says, “the only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London
 
Watch this watercolor being painted with a voiceover of me reciting To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace: http://bit.ly/lovelace-toalthea

Best quote of the week:

All men — whether they go by the name of Americans or Russians or Chinese or British or Malayans or Indians or Africans — have obligations to one another that transcend their obligations to their sovereign societies. Norman Cousins, author, editor, journalist and professor (1915-1990) 

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: A newspaper story becomes a famous poem, the domestic troubles of a famous poet, and a cure for our civil ills: newsletter, June 21, 2019


 
 

 

 

 

 

The man who wanted every book; the quintessential English detective; and the first American crime novel; and morenewsletter May 18, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,644) on May 18, 2018

 

A summer head cold attacked me this week, making life miserable for a few days, but I tried not to let it slow me down too much. The major woodworking project that I mentioned last week was completed and is explained below. It’s also been a week of interesting discoveries, and I have included a few of those in this week’s newsletter. Just a few. There are more to come later.

And it’s a pleasure to report that warm weather is here in East Tennessee, and the beehives (I had a peek inside some of these for the first time in several weeks) are roaring away. We will see what they produce.

Have a great weekend.


Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


 

The public, the press, and the detective — an uneasy relationship from the very beginning 

In late June 1860, Saville Kent, who resided with his family in a house in Road, Wiltshire, England, was murdered. He was three years old. His throat had been cut, and his body had been left on the floor of an outdoor privy used by the servants and tradesmen at the house. It was not at all clear who killed him or why.

The case quickly achieved international fame, and it produced the genre of the English country house murder. More importantly, it did much to give us the concept of the English detective — the clever man who, viewing things from the outside, can spot the inconsistencies, the hidden stories, the fear, and even the hate of the participants.

Except that’s not exactly how this case developed. I’m not going to include any spoilers here. If you’re interested, you can read Kate Summerscale’s excellent book, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing a Great Victorian Detective. She has all the details, and there are many.

The detective in question is Jack Whicher. He was a member of the first detective squad put together by Scotland Yard in 1842. By 1860, his fame had grown to national proportions because of an enthusiastic press and a general fascination with crime, particularly murder. Whicher’s cleverness and success made him the prototype for the English detective of both fact and fiction that would come down to us today.

But in reading Summerdale’s book, I found some interesting nuances that cloud the picture of the great English detective. I’m not talking about Whicher himself but about that image of the detective.

Read the rest of this short post on JPROF.com.

 

My latest woodworking project

A musical instrument of any kind is not easy to make, so I got some special satisfaction from the completion of my latest woodworking project: a mountain dulcimer. I completed the one pictured here at the end of the week last week, and it made its world debut at a meeting of my local dulcimer club on Wednesday. It’s all about the sound, of course, and this one sounds pretty good.

The dulcimer is made from pecan (body) and walnut (headstock, fretboard, and tailstock). There is no standard wood for a dulcimer, so that makes each one sound a little different.

Dulcimers are popular all over the world — thanks in great part to the late, great folksinger Jean Ritchie — but they used to be confined to certain parts of southern Appalachia. A well-played dulcimer can be magical.

It takes as much patience as skill to make one of these, and I have to thank my friend Bruce M. for giving me lots of help and direction.

 

Giveaways

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/

The Amazon gift card raffle that we included in the newsletter for the last couple of weeks has ended, but I haven’t been notified about the winners yet. When I have their names, I will publish them. We’ll likely be doing another raffle like this one next month.

 

The first American crime novel — actually, a sensation novel — had a female author

Metta Victoria Fuller Victor authored and published The Dead Letter in 1867. It is thought to be America’s first full crime novel. (Edgar Allan Poe’s stuff was short stories.) In its day, it was known as a sensation novel.

But it’s not America’s first detective novel.

The Dead Letter has a crime, of course. There is evidence. There are clues. The novel has a police detective — a clever one — and he had a daughter who is also clever in a different way. The detective has a backstory that explains why he’s there.

The problem, as LeRoy Lad Panek points out in his book, The Origins of the American Detective Story, is that the crime is not “solved” by the detective (or his daughter). It’s solved by an accidental discovery. Panek notes that in the pre-detective novel era of crime fiction or sensation novels, it wasn’t necessarily up to the detective to solve the crime. Something else was going on.

That something has a lot to do with the views of and attitudes toward criminals and justice that lie under these kinds of books. Crime and justice in a sensation novel depend on faith in a universe that is eventually and inevitably just and governed by providence: this goes back to the sure knowledge that “murder will out” that serves as the basis for what happens in century upon century of Western literature from Chaucer’s “Prioriss Tale” to MacBeth and Hamlet. (pp. 13-14)

It is the concept of “inevitable justice,” Paneck points out. Victorians and people before them did not need detectives. Truth, providentially, would always take over.

If you are interested in reading The Dead Letter, you can do so here at Project Gutenberg.

Tom Wolfe, the reporter with the right stuff

Few journalists manage to do what Tom Wolfe did, both with his words and his approach.

Wolfe, who died Monday (May 14, 2018) at age 88, pioneered in the 1960s an approach to journalism that became known as The New Journalism. What that involved was intensive reporting — not a five-question interview with a couple of ready sources, but a commitment of days, even weeks, talking and observing.

Then there were the words.

As the New York Times obituary says of him:

His talent as a writer and caricaturist was evident from the start in his verbal pyrotechnics and perfect mimicry of speech patterns, his meticulous reporting, and his creative use of pop language and explosive punctuation. Source: Tom Wolfe, Pyrotechnic ‘New Journalist’ and Novelist, Dies at 88 – The New York Times

Wolfe never ceased being a reporter, even with the novels he wrote. Like a good reporter his curiosity was never in question and never satisfied.

RIP, Tom Wolfe.

 

The man who tried to get every book in the world

Hernando Colón (1488-1539), the illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus, spent much of his life traveling around Europe — and later America — amassing what was then the largest private library in the world.

His goal was to collect all of the knowledge of the world into one place (Seville, Spain, as it turned out) because he believed Spain would one day rule the world. It needed an extraordinary base of knowledge to do so, and Colón was determined to make that happen.  Colón was wrong about that, but the error does not detract from the man’s amazing achievements.

Those, indeed, were numerous.

He created Europe’s first botanical garden, gathering specimens from many of the places where he traveled.

He wrote a dictionary.

He helped created the first modern maps of the world.

He seemed to know everyone who was anyone during his age, including Albrecht Durer, Thomas More, and Erasmus.

He gathered the largest collection of printed images in the world.

He had the largest collection of musical scores in the world.

And with so many books, where do you put them? How do you put them? According to Edward Wilson-Lee, author of a recently published biography of Colón titled The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Young Columbus and the Quest for a Universal Library:

“In essence, he invents the modern bookshelf: row upon row of books standing upright on their spines, stacked in specially designed wooden cases.”

In its description of Wilson-Lee’s book, University of Cambridge writes:

“Colón had an extraordinary memory and an obsession with lists,” says Wilson-Lee, whose research on Colón was funded by the British Academy. “Each time he bought a book, he would meticulously record where and when he bought it, how much it cost and the rate of currency exchange that day. Sometimes he noted where he was when he read it, what he thought of the book and if he’d met the author. As pieces of material culture, each is a fascinating account of how one man related to, used and was changed by books.”

So why have we not heard more about this extraordinary man? Read the rest of this post on JPROF.com.

 

Reactions

Shakespeare

Jean T.: The censor who reviewed all Shakespeare’s plays was still operating as the censor of British Theatre until 1968  – the Lord Chamberlain- when the role of the official censor was abolished by the Theatres Act 1968. The Lord Chamberlain’s Office is still working in the Royal Household. They plan State visits, Royal Garden Parties, the State Opening of Parliament, Investitures, Royal Weddings and funerals. Not sure if they are doing much about Harry and Meghan’s wedding though – if what the celebrity mags say is true. 

Libraries

Don M.: Living 50+ miles from the nearest library, makes MY Kindle Tablet my library…😀….that way I’m not limited to 3 books only and save time and expenses… traveling back and forth…time I spend reading on my Kindle. Many of us live in villages without a public library. … .😕

Good point. Try openlibrary.org.

Mary Wollstonecraft

A.J.N.: Your portrait of Mary W. reminds me of a current “feminist” writer, Rita Mae Brown. I love Rita Mae Brown’s “Mrs. Murphy” mystery series, and her “Sister Jane” mystery series that revolves around a group of modern-day foxhunting enthusiasts (who really do fox chasing from horseback, NOT actually hunting, as the greatest care is taken NOT to kill the fox!).

 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Hemingway and cat

A friend asked for some caricatures of 20th century American writers for her business. No. 1 on the list, of course, is Ernest Hemingway. Thought I would have some fun with this one.

Best quote of the week:

To me, the great joy of writing is discovering. Most writers are told to write about what they know, but I still love the adventure of going out and reporting on things I don’t know about.” Tom Wolfe, journalist (1930-2018)

Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who need our help. It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here). When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org)is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: The first feminist, the power of the story, Golden State Killer followup, Shakespeare, and more: newsletter, May 11, 2018

 

 


Point Spread’s latest review
A very kind reader (David P.) has left the following review of Point Spread on Amazon. Thanks, David.

Point Spread by Jim Stovall

Interesting premise told from a teenage girls point of view and I think Stovall totally nailed it. I loved the way the plot unfolded bit by bit having you trying to guess what comes next. It’s about doing something wrong for a good reason. It’s a look into life in the 60’s in a small town, about moral dilemma, determination and solving a mystery. It is full of a cast of characters that you can relate to and seem very real. It is extremely well written and a very enjoyable read. It kept me involved and interested in the story from the first page to the last. More Please!


Unsubscribe | 2126 Middlesettlements Road, Maryville, Tennessee 37801 

 

 

Lillian Ross, reporter and precursor of the 1960s New Journalism movement

Lillian Ross

Was she the mother of the New Journalism movement of the 1960s — the movement that showcased the deep reporting of people like Truman Capote and Gay Talese?

Many people thought so.

Lillian Ross, who died Sept. 20, 2017, at the age of 99, was doing that kind of reporting and writing for the New Yorker magazine in the 1940s and 1950s and undoubtedly influenced a bevy of writers of her era.

Ross pioneered what some called “fly-on-the-wall” reporting, but she never liked that term. “A reporter doing a story can’t pretend to be invisible, let alone a fly; he or she is seen and heard and responded to by the people he or she is writing about. A reporter is always chemically involved with a story.” (This quote is from David Remnick’s forward to Ross’ book Reporting Always.)

Ross had the knack of finding the telling detail or the essential action that was necessary for a good story or a good character study. Her writing is easy to read, straightforward, absent of analysis or flourish. But stories like hers are not easy to write. They take time, thought, starts and stops, rewriting and reframing, and occasionally tears of frustration.

The New Yorker magazine gave her time, and then it gave her a forum on which to display her talents and her hard work and an audience to read what she produced.

She amply repaid bother her magazine and her audience with stories about the rich and famous, stories about the poor and obscure, stories about New York and Hollywood, and people and places in between.

She was always a reporter who wrote about her subjects, not herself. Yet, she was there, a presence in everything she wrote.

In 1949 she reported on the Miss America contest for the magazine. The draft of her  story had the following lead paragraph:

There are thirteen million women in the United States between the ages of eighteen and twenty-eight. All of them were eligible to compete for the title of Miss American in the annual contest staged in Atlantic City last month if they were high-school graduates, were not and had never been married, and were not Negroes.

In this time before the modern Civil Rights movement began, it was a courageous and far-sighted statement. Harold Ross, the famous editor of the New Yorker, objected, arguing that the writer had injected her views into the story. Lillian Ross (no relation) insisted to her editor, William Shawn, that the paragraph be published unchanged. It was.

There are views, and there are facts. The facts spoke for themselves. Ross just gave them a voice.

In a 2015 profile of her, New York Times writer Michael Kaufman said:

Throughout her long career, Ms. Ross has been both praised and pilloried for her drive and for her survival skills; for being, as one former New Yorker editor put it recently, a very ambitious journalist of the wrong sex.

Journalism needs a few more reporters with the eye, the ear, the persistence, and the courage of Lillian Ross.

 

Source: Lillian Ross, Acclaimed Reporter for The New Yorker, Dies at 99 – The New York Times

Ross, Lillian. Reporting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1964.

Ross, Lillian. Here but Not Here: A Love Story. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 1998.

Literary journalism, explained

Excerpt from Writing for the Mass Media (9th edition), Allyn and Bacon, 2014.

Literary journalism is reporting and writing that pulls journalism several steps beyond the long-form structures.

Literary uses the techniques of the fiction writer to tell a true story. Those techniques include metaphors and similes to describe what the writer sees and knows and plotting and pacing carry the story forward. Scenes are drawn and colored with detail. Characters are developed and act with consistency to the characterization in the story. Quotations become dialogue. The writer may even enter the story if that contributes.

But, if it is to be literary journalism, the writer must be a journalist, not a fiction writer. That is, the writer cannot make anything up. The facts, descriptions, and quotations must be true. They must be things that happened. Sometimes, for the sake of the story, writes create “composite” scenes or characters. If they do so, the writer is obligated to tell the reader that this has happened. Ultimately, however, such fictionalizing is unsatisfactory to the true journalist who is dedicated to the factual presentation of information.

Dr. Paul Ashdown, University of Tennessee, talks about Literary Journalism (produced by Jim Stovall on Vimeo).

Literary journalism requires enormous time, effort and skill from the journalist, both with the reporting and the writing. The journalist must often persuade sources to allow access into their lives at a level reserved only for close relatives or friends. The journalist must practice depth reporting or immersive reporting, which means devoting large amounts of time to observing actions and interviewing characters.  Then there is the writing, which can be confusing and frustrating particularly if the journalist does not have a clear idea about how to develop a story.

Stephan Crane

Stephan Crane

Students who want to practice literary journalism – and many do – face a daunting task. They are well-advised to do as much of the standard reporting as possible to develop their reporting and writing skills. They should also read works in this genre. Literary journalism has a long history and has appeared under various names, such as the New Journalism of the 1960s.

Well-known writers such as Mark Twain, Stephan Crane, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, James Agee, Truman Capote, and Gay Talese have practiced literary journalism in various forms. Students should be familiar with the work of these and other writers if they seek to continue this tradition. Then, students have to find a story that is worth the time and effort it will take to report and develop it properly.