Episode 78—Louisa Thomas on Problematic Writers, Mercenary Work, and Picking Up the Phone

Louisa Thomas is the author of two books and a recent honoree of the Best American Sports Writing.

By Brendan O’Meara

Tweetables from Louisa Thomas (@louisahthomas)

“For me, I’m thinking about the writing from the very first second I get an assignment. I’m thinking about tone, and texture, and influences.”

“Sometimes you just have to write things. You do the best you can. You turn it in and you turn the page.”

“A lot of reporters can’t wait to pick up the phone. I will do everything to avoid picking up the phone.”

“I still get off on a great sentence. It’s as simple as that.”

Louisa Thomas joins me this week. She recently made the big book for The Best American Sports Writing for her piece Serena Williams, Andy Murray, and a Political Wimbledon.

In this episode we talk about

  • Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams.
  • Working with Prolematic Writers and How Not to be One
  • Mercenary Writing
  • 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.

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Books by Louisa

Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family—a Test of Will and Faith in World War I
Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams

Episode No. 14—Glenn Stout on Combining the Things You Love, Effort, and the Poem That ‘Knocked Him on his Ass’

Glenn Stout is the author of several books and the series editor for Best American Sports Writing.

Written by Brendan O’Meara

“Nothing about doing this makes any logical sense. It doesn’t. It didn’t then. It doesn’t now.”—Glenn Stout

“You can only control one thing: And that’s your effort. There’s one thing you can control. You can’t control anything else…anything else.”—Glenn Stout

Glenn Stout is sort of a demi-god among writers because of his ability to coach the best of them. He’s also a GREAT writer and we delve into how he got his start, reading poetry in a baseball uniform outside Fenway Park while taking swigs from a bottle of bloody Marys.

Here’s the link to Apple to subscribe to the podcast. Working on Android…patience please!

As always, thanks for listening.

Pullouts from Glenn Stout Talk in the Village

By Brendan O’Meara

Being in the orbit of NYC gives me access to things that being in Upstate New York doesn’t. Specifically there was a talk by Glenn Stout, series editor of the Best American Sports Writing anthology, at Le Poisson Rouge.

I took some notes (I appeared to be the only one taking notes, this in a room full of reporters) and I was the only one who wasn’t drinking beer (this makes me the freak in a room full of reporters. This reporter doesn’t have $10 for a pint of Guinness. Plus I’m slow-carbing it. ANYWAY.)

Here’s some great quotes from the great Glenn Stout.

On what makes a great story:

“Thorough reporting, you can’t have a story without thorough reporting, even if you’re working on memoir.”

“Leave them [the reader] some place they haven’t been before. Stories are made of stories. You need scenes.”

“It’s written from within. They’re confident from the first word as if every word is destiny.”

“You miss the words and you feel immersed in the experience. It’s like walking into water that is body temperature.”

“It unfolds and answers question. Creates a three-dimensional picture, plays to and involves the senses. We’ve got five senses, use a couple of them.”

“Every story has a sound, singular, emerge transformed like you have forgotten to breathe.”

“You’d better give them something at the end.”

“Every story I put forward is because I want to read it again.”

“The best written stories sound well. it’s gotta stick. It’s the one you want to share.”

“Long form refers also to the time spent reporting.”

So, that’s a chunk of what the talk was about. Good stuff. Share those quotes with someone you love.