Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University

Front Cover
Mark Kramer, Wendy Call
Penguin, Jan 30, 2007 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 352 pages
5 Reviews
Inspiring stories and practical advice from America’s most respected journalists

The country’s most prominent journalists and nonfiction authors gather each year at Harvard’s Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. Telling True Stories presents their best advice—covering everything from finding a good topic, to structuring narrative stories, to writing and selling your first book. More than fifty well-known writers offer their most powerful tips, including:

Tom Wolfe on the emotional core of the story
Gay Talese on writing about private lives
Malcolm Gladwell on the limits of profiles
Nora Ephron on narrative writing and screenwriters
Alma Guillermoprieto on telling the story and telling the truth
• Dozens of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalists from the Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and more . . .

The essays contain important counsel for new and career journalists, as well as for freelance writers, radio producers, and memoirists. Packed with refreshingly candid and insightful recommendations, Telling True Stories will show anyone fascinated by the art of writing nonfiction how to bring people, scenes, and ideas to life on the page.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Nazgullie - LibraryThing

Whether you write non fiction or fiction, this book is quite useful in pointing out things about the industry, as well as giving helpful lessons in writing. It's a bit dry in some parts, which is to ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - TimBazzett - LibraryThing

I've been sampling stuff from this book, TELLING TRUE STORIES, off and on for more than a year now. It makes a great "in-between-books" book, because the essays herein are all about writing - of all ... Read full review


Settling In
The Glimmer
Funnel Discovery
CradletoCurrent Profile
Paragraph Profile
Your subject is as complicated as you are
Your subject carries a burden as heavy as yours
Caring for Editors
Early Editor Involvement
Information Management
Clear Review Process
Talk to strangers
Eat lunch alone

Camera and Microphone Control
Emotional Weight
Study the natural sequence first
Report and write along a clear simple line
Zoom in
Slow down
Learn to crescendo
All right here goes but I feel as if my petticoat is showing
Restore wornout words
Use concrete detail
Cultivate your own style
Celebrate losers
Work holidays
Think of a story idea that only you can write
Basic Skills
The Art of Writing
Anthologies of Narrative Nonfiction
Critical Issues in Narrative Nonfiction
Works of Memoir and Personal Essay
Works of Fiction and Poetry

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About the author (2007)

Mark Kramer was writer-in-residence in the American Studies Program at Smith College (1980-1990), writer-in-residence and a professor of journalism at Boston University (1990-2001), and writer-in-residence and founding director of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University (2001-2007). He's written for the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, The Atlantic Monthly, and many other periodicals. He's co-author of two leading textbook/readers on narrative nonfiction: Telling True Stories and Literary Journalism. He's written four additional books: Mother Walter and the Pig Tragedy, Three Farms, Invasive Procedures, and Travels with a Hungry Bear. He's currently at work on a book about writing narrative nonfiction. His website is

Wendy Call is author of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy, winner of the 2011 Grub Street National Book Prize for Nonfiction. She co-edited Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide. Wendy has served as Writer in Residence at 20 institutions, five national parks, four universities, a public hospital, and a historical archive. She writes and edits nonfiction, translates Mexican poetry and short fiction, and works as a teacher at Richard Hugo House and Goddard College. Before turning to full-time word-working in 2000, she devoted a decade to work for social change organizations in Boston and Seattle. The daughter of a middle-school math teacher and a career Navy officer from Michigan, Wendy grew up on and around military bases in Florida, Pennsylvania, southern California, and southern Maryland. She lives and works in Seattle.

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