In 1973, Tracy Kidder was a young freelancer, looking for his first assignment at the prestigious The Atlantic Monthly in Boston. Fortuitously, Kidder was paired with editor Richard Todd to guide his story about a murder trial — a story Kidder naively thought of as the next In Cold Blood but other editors were ready to dismiss — from early drafts to publication.
I do a good bit of book-related freelance writing outside my day job and this blog. I’m currently a contributor to Book Riot, and before I moved from Madison I was a regular contributor to The Capital Times (you can find links to some of those stories on my About Me page). By no means am I am expert about how to go about getting paid exclusively to write about books, but I have a little bit of advice if you’d like to try and make a little money on the side or use freelancing to gain exposure for your blog.
The host for our August nonfiction discussion is Amy of Amy Reads, who asks:
How did you get into reading nonfiction? Do you remember your first nonfiction book or subject? If so, do you still read those subjects?
It probably won’t surprise anyone reading this post that I’ve almost always wanted to be a writer of some kind. When I was in elementary school, I imagined that I’d be a novelist… not because I had great stories to tell, but because that was the only kind of writing I could wrap my brain around. As I got older, through middle school and high school, it dawned on me that I didn’t have the imagination to write fiction. I loved the techniques of fiction — strong characters, well-imagined settings, dialogue, plot, and conflict — but just couldn’t invent stories to save my life.
Writers in the Real World
A friend from college, Ben, has been blogging about his experiences in an MFA writing program. He’s had a couple really thoughtful posts recently about the idea of casting nets widely, or read broadly to experience different types of books. His second post is a little more formal look at the idea and some of the short stories that helped him read widely this semester.
Anthony Bourdain came to Madison a few weeks ago, and my friend Lindsay wrote up her impressions of his speech. I got to go too, and will have some thoughts about it soonish… I hope!
The Art of Time in Memoir: Then, Again by Sven Birkerts is a book of literary criticism looking at the role of time in memoir (duh, I guess). It also explores why memoirs are important and gives a defense of memoir against some of its common criticisms.
As Birkerts explains it, most memoirs have at least one thing in common:
They all, to greater or lesser degree, use the vantage point of the present to gain access to what might be called the hidden narrative of the past. Each is in its own way an account of detection, a realized effort to assemble the puzzle of what happened in the light of subsequent realization.
One of my goals in the last two years has been to take good notes while I read. I’ve found having notes helps when I start to write reviews because I have ideas, quotes, and impressions jotted down already.
A few people have mentioned they can’t seem to take notes while they read, so I wanted to write a post with five easy tips on how to get in the habit.