Nonfiction News

Research, Write and Review: the Biography

“Life is just one damned thing after another.”

—Elbert Hubbard, who died when the ship, Lusitania, sank in 1915

writing a biography
Writing a biography: research, write, review

Biographical material ranges from brief encyclopedic snippets to book-length tomes. Sometimes the material is groundbreaking, revealing information about a person for the very first time; in other instances, the biographer is adding his or her unique spin on a frequently debated public figure. Regardless of specifics, a biography should, at a minimum, provide precise facts about another person’s life; ideally, it should also supply a sense of that person’s essence, and place his or her life in the context of the era in question. To publish such a biography, you must research, write, and then review.

 

 

Nonfiction News

Nonfiction News

I’ve been busy blogging at Loconeal Publishing — and here are some snippets of recent posts:

ethics matter
You know which way to go!

Ethics Matter

“If the best journalists in the world lack credibility then they are nothing. All we have is our credibility. We aren’t granted ‘journalist’ status by earning a certain college degree or being issued a government license. We earn it by reporting responsibly.” (Society of Professional Journalists President David Cuillier, April 2014 issue of Quill)

Maybe you consider yourself a journalist – or a blogger or a magazine writer. No matter how you self label, when you write nonfiction, it’s crucial to report responsibly and to navigate ethical tightropes as carefully as possible.

Historical writing

Remember the Ladies! Getting Women on the Road

Black-and-white retro style depiction of a woman in typical style of the 1920s or 1930s. She's fashionably adorned in black lace, pearls, evening gloves and a pearl-accented wrap-around headpiece. A hand flutters to her chest, as she offers an alluring, sideways glance.
1920s: increasing numbers of women began driving.

When cars began dotting the dirt roads of America, the drivers were almost all men – and the roads . . . well, they stunk. Although “modern” roads certainly existed before the 20th century in the United States – after all, horse-drawn wagons and bicyclists needed a path to follow – the existence of roadways was erratic and nothing to be counted upon. In 1904, for example, only one-sixth of public roads in rural locales had any kind of surfacing whatsoever. Everything else was just plain mud.

Historical writing

Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (Allan Gurganus)

Confederate uniforms - American Civil War 1861-1865

The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All is a 718-page historical fiction novel written by Allan Gurganus and published by Ivy Books in 1989. Written as if dictated to someone who visited ninety-nine-year-old Lucy Marsden when she lived in a nursing home, it tells the story of Lucy who, at the age of fifteen, married fifty-year-old Confederate veteran Captain William Marsden around 1900 and had nine children with him. This book explores issues of race through the lens of the Confederate South, and serves as a journey of self-discovery for Lucy, and it stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for eight months, winning the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This was Gurganus’s first novel, selling more than four million copies.

Historical writing

Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple Series

 

Antique desk with his pen and old books
Miss Jane Marple appears in 12 books and 20 short stories over a period of about 50 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was invited to write an encyclopedia entry on Agatha Christie’s amateur detective, Miss Jane Marple — and, as a huge fan, I was thrilled. And . . . the encyclopedia project got canceled. So, I thought I would share what I wrote here, with sub-headlines added.

Who is Jane Marple?

Jane Marple is a fictional character created by English mystery novelist Agatha Christie. She appears in twelve books and twenty short stories, starting in approximately 1926 and lasting through 1976; the last was published posthumously. Miss Marple, as she is generally called, is portrayed as an elderly spinster woman of Victorian sensibilities – typically one of the oldest characters in each story where she appears – who has lived her entire life in the small village of St. Mary Mead. She happens upon murder cases in each of the amateur detective stories and can solve them because of her close observation of human nature throughout her long life, outwitting characters much younger than herself.

Spiritual Writing

Unique Spiritual Gifts: Uncover Them Through Writing

Faith LetterpressSince we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12: 6-8)

I have been teaching monthly spiritual writing classes, where people can work on identifying the specific gifts that God has given them and where we can support one another in the journey. What’s amazing about these classes is that people who don’t necessarily identify themselves as writers find meaning in what we do. The biggest challenge, really, is defining what – for the purposes of our classes, anyhow – spiritual writing really is.

I’ve found three ways to explain it that seem to help. Hopefully, they’ll help you, too!

Uncategorized

Sharing Your Spiritual Stories

prayer to heaven - faith conceptI’ll be leading a series of spiritual writing workshops, free and open to the community. The workshops will be held at Heritage Presbyterian Church (intersection of Route 58 and 2 in Amherst, Ohio) on the second Monday of each month from September 2014-May 2015 from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Each month, please bring paper and a pen, along with one to two cans or boxes of non-perishable foods for distribution through Heritage’s food ministry program. Dates of the seminar are:

September 8

October 13

November 10

December 8

January 12

February 9

March 9

April 13

May 11

If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below or email me at kbsagert@aol.com or call me at 440-670-6624. I hope to turn the materials I’m creating for this class into an ebook.

Uncategorized

Creative Writing Exercise

 

Pink waterlilyI was fortunate enough to take a creative writing class from master instructor Eva Shaw and, as one exercise, she had us write as if we were a color — meaning writing in first person.

I got the nicest compliment from Eva about my submission, which made me smile: I think you’ve just created the ultimate essay on pink, Kelly. So dramatic and filled with excellent visual cues. I’m never going to think of pink the same way again—fresh and thoughtful prose.

Here’s my freewriting:

I am strawberry sherbet pink, the color of the carpet Grandma chose after Grandpa died and she could finally throw out all of the dingy grays, grimy browns and muddy greens.

I am the tinge in a young woman’s cheeks when she realizes that, yes, he really does care about her, after all. I am the color that is more modest than fire engine red, more even-tempered than Scarlett O’Hara – and yet I am more audacious than hushed Melanie, and too vibrant for funerals or Amish gatherings.

I am the hue of confidence but not of arrogance. I am the tint of healthy self-esteem but not of raging ego. I am the color of joy, but not mania. I am the shade of restraint but not limitation. I am the color of life well-chosen after years of ping-ponging between dusky shame and blood congealing into scabs.

I am the eau de fearlessness but not of recklessness. I am the color of pride but not a shade that condemns others or compares our songs. I am pink. Strawberry sherbet pink swirled with just a touch of cream, rich cream, luscious cream.

I am the healthy color of a baby’s bottom after a warm bath, the color of a mother’s nipples after breastfeeding. I am pink. I say it decisively – I am pink – without any need to shout over your colors.

I am pink. Strawberry sherbet pink. Lovely, illuminating, life-affirming pink. Praise God, praise God, praise God. I am finally truly pink.

If you were doing this exercise, what would you write?