“It’s kind of like the Internet is everybody’s dad.”
“I think of research as this open-ended, beautiful thing.”
“Research is this vehicle that allows you to follow your interests however long you want to follow it.”
“If you can’t love the grind, you’re doomed.”
For Episode 80 of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction, I spoke with Rachel Wilkinson, a writer and research based out of Pittsburgh, PA.
Her essay, “Search History,” won Best Essay for Creative Nonfiction Magazine’s Science and Religion contest for Issue 65. It’s Google as religious experience, how the very act of asking questions is very faith-based, and, if we’re getting grim and dystopian, how this technology, which is getting increasingly sentient, might supplant us some day. #spitoutthebone (Metallica reference for all y’all.)
In our conversation we talk a lot how she crafted this essay and how it hangs on a big idea rather than sheer character drive, David Foster Wallace, The War of Art, the fun of research, embracing failure, and trusting—yes, trusting—self-doubt.
Self-doubt is my spirit animal.
Hey, are you digging the show? I’d love it if you subscribed to the show, shared it with a fellow CNFer. Leave an honest review on iTunes and I’ll give you an editorial consult on the house. Just send me a screenshot of your review and I’ll reach out.
“I don’t think I followed a very traditional pathway and just did what I felt like doing.”
“11 o’clock in the morning is an optimistic time.”
“I love to work. I love being completely absorbed in something else.”
It’s the Creative Nonfiction Podcast where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction. Leaders in the worlds of narrative journalism, personal essay, memoir, radio, and documentary film come here to talk about their origins, inspirations, and work habits so that you can apply their tools of mastery to your own work. Continue reading “Episode 80—The Wild Life of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas”
Working with Prolematic Writers and How Not to be One
And what she learned working with New Yorker editor David Remnick
How she organizes her titanic feats of research and much more
People are taking advantage of my free hour of editorial work and coaching, about a $50 value. Want in? All you have to do is leave an honest review on iTunes and have it postmarked by the end of December. Send me a screenshot of your review and you’ll be on your way. Reviews validate the podcast and increase its visibility so we can reach more CNFin’ people. I’m not even asking for a 5-star review, merely an honest one because that comes from a more authentic place.
All right, enough of my stupid face, time to hear from Louisa Thomas, thanks for listening.
I also have a monthly newsletter where I send out my book recommendations and what you might have missed from the podcast. Head over to brendanomeara.com to subscribe. There you’ll also find show notes to all the episodes of the podcast. Once a month. No spam. Can’t beat it.
“Those stories that can’t seem to get away from you. You keep thinking about them. I always try to pursue these when that’s the case.”
“I think one criticism book editors will give magazine journalists is that their book proposal sounds like a magazine article. With the North Dakota book, I wanted more of those through lines.”
“I love the reporting process even though it’s a lot of hard work. Getting into great conversations with people, that’s what it domes down to, coming home from an interview and feeling really excited about the material.”
“For me, the first draft is pretty awful. It’s like pulling teeth every single day getting it down.”
“I think I’ve seen that talent is only a small part of the equation especially with journalism because good reporting is good writing.”
“The ordinary can always become extraordinary if you give them enough time. Everyone can be a fascinating character if you peel back enough layers.”
For episode 77, I welcome Blaire Briody, that’s @blairebriody on Twitter. Sheis a freelance journalist who has written for The New York Times, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Fast Company, Glamour, among others. Her first nonfiction book, The New Wild West: Black Gold, Fracking, and Life in a North Dakota Boomtown. The book was the 2016 finalist for the Lukas Work-in-Progress Award from Columbia Journalism School and Harvard University, and she received the Richard J. Margolis Award for social justice journalism in 2014.
Ted Conover, author of several books and immersion journalist of the highest order, judged the contest, you can also hear him back on Ep. 50 of The Creative Nonfictoin Podcast, and here’s what he had to say about Blaire’s gold-medal piece:
This vivid portrait of a woman trying to work oil fields during the fracking boom rings totally true—we seldom meet people like Cindy Marchello in narrative journalism, but I don’t doubt for a second they’re here. I love the frankness and the matter-of-factness. Both Blaire Briody and her subject won my heart, and admiration.
Speaking of being thankful, reviews and ratings have been flowing in and I want to extend a big, big thanks to those who are doing that and taking advantage of my editing offer as a result. What’s this? In exchange for an HONEST—it doesn’t have to be a good one, just an honest one—review on iTunes, I’m offering an hour of my time to work with you on a piece of writing. All you have to do is leave your review and when it posts, email me a screenshot of it. As long it’s postmarked any time between Nov. 2017 and the end of Dec. 2017, the offer stands. Reviews are the new currency and your help will go a long way toward building the community this podcast sets out to make, to empower others to pick up the pen or the camera or the microphone and do work that scratches that creative itch.
The first half of this interview had to be completely cut out.
Why? There were some nasty internet gremlins wreaking all kinds of havoc with our connection. It sounded like an old, old Apple computer chugging in the background with some heavy thumps thrown in, maybe an aquarium’s aerator. I mean, it was weird, but more than that it was extremely distracting, so instead of putting you through that, fair listener, I’m going to sum up that first part of the interview in a few hundred words, then we’ll get to the second half that I recorded through a different connection and that sounds just fine.
“I don’t need to hear another story about how you went to the baseball game with your dad.”
“We wanted to have that feeling of experience of how people experience baseball over a lifetime.”
“How do you set up your story and how do you make it move?”
“There’s so much great real stuff happening that it seemed dumb to make up anything.”
“You have to write every day and you have to ask every day.”
This week I welcome Chris Arvidson for Episode 75 of The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction, leaders in narrative journalism, radio, essay, memoir, and documentary film and try to tease out their stories, habits and routines so you can improve your own creative practice.
Chris co-edited along with Diana Nelson Jones The Love of Baseball: Essays by Lifelong Fans published by McFarland. It’s a beautiful book and we talk about its genesis, what makes for good baseball writing vs. horrible baseball writing, what’s the most important thing for Chris when developing a story, the organic nature of building a network, favorite books on writing, and much more.
Chris also edited the anthologies Reflections on the New River and Mountain Memoirs. You can find more about her and her work at chrisarvidson.com.
It’s The Creative Nonfiction Podcast, the show where I speak with the world’s best artists about creating works of nonfiction, leaders in the world of narrative journalism, documentary film, essay, memoir and radio and try to deconstruct how these masters go about the work so that you can improve your own.
True Story is a 5,000-10,000-word stand-alone piece in chapbook or digital form. It’s pretty rad.
In this episode we talk about:
What makes the green-lit pieces pop
What the rejected pieces have in common
And also some of the goodies you can expect with a pledge.
I hope after listening to this you’ll head over to the Kickstarter campaign and pledge some hard-earned dough so they can keep doing the work they’re doing on True Story.
Full disclosure, I don’t get any kickbacks of any kind.
What a guy.
It would be nice if you shared the episode and even left a nice review over on iTunes to help validate the podcast so I can keep doing this thing. I’d hate for the business office to come down and slam the door shut on this enterprise. Keep the reviews coming so I can keep the doors open at CNFHQ.