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Ann Hagedorn

Nonfiction Presenter Ann Hagedorn

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Renowned author Ann Hagedorn will be talking about nonfiction at Retreat to the Springs! October 26 to 28, 2018, in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Q: What is the difference between creative nonfiction and “regular” nonfiction?

 

Actually, I call the genre of my books “narrative nonfiction,” which uses storytelling to deliver current issues and sometimes complex histories to the general reader in a compelling way. These are true stories, meticulously researched, that are told by applying the art of literary techniques, such as descriptive scenes, character development, story structure, suspense, and climax. I think of creative nonfiction as being more about memoirs. But, whatever the terminology, the goal for both is to utilize the very best tools of fiction writing and nonfiction research.

 

Q: Do you have to finish a nonfiction book before you can pitch it to an agent or publisher?

 

No, but you must write a substantial book proposal that shows the significance, scope, do-ability, research sources (such as people to interview, documents to uncover) and the literary potential for your book idea. Also, in the proposal, you must describe your vision for the story structure, which is effectively an artist’s sketch for how you think you will tell the story.

 

The better the proposal, the more confidence — and enthusiasm! — an agent and an editor will have in you and your book. I’m a great believer in writing proposals no matter how many books you’ve written or how solid the idea seems. While you’re writing it, you’ll be able to identify the strengths and potential flaws in the storyline.

 

Q: Do you have a “trademark” or something that distinguishes your work?

I’ve written five narrative nonfiction books — am now in the midst of the sixth — and each focuses on a different topic, but my reasons for choosing particular topics, my methods of research, and my use of literary techniques give them all common ground. For example, whether the stories I select are out of the past or in the present I choose them because they have potential for being significant to us all; because they are stories brimming with what I call “human constants,” meaning my readers may identify with the challenges and triumphs depicted in each of them; and because they are often stories in danger of slipping through the cracks of time and public awareness.

 

And, no matter what the topic may be, my research process always includes digging deeply for as many primary sources as I can find, traveling to the places where the narrative took place, using chronologies as organizational tools and story structure devices, and trying to re-trace the footsteps of the main players in the story.

 

Q: When you get an idea for a book, do you “bounce” it off people, like your agent or editor?

 

Sometimes I do, but typically not until I’ve narrowed it down to three ideas. Usually during the time between books, I come up with a new idea every time I discover an untold story or a significant issue that must be brought alive through nonfiction storytelling or an unknown detail from a story we all know. But I try to refrain from sharing all of my ideas with my agent and editor and explore the numerous possibilities first.

Q: Do you outline your books?

 

No, I don’t like the restraint of outlines; I think they can smother creativity. But one of my favorite parts of writing narrative nonfiction is to study the various possibilities for ways to tell the story, to experiment with story structure sketches, and then to choose one that becomes a flexible guide for the research and can change as the details of the story surface. There’s the saying, “Art flies if held too lightly and art dies if held too tightly.” I think it was Ray Bradbury who said it. [Yes, he did — based on an Oscar Wilde poem.] An outline is too tight; no sketch at all is death to the project; but a good sense of the story’s components and a sketch of how they might unfold is a map for the writer and also lots of fun to figure out.

Typically I use five parts or “acts,” so to speak, and a prologue and epilogue. With the current book, I’m dividing the narrative into three parts because the drama works best in three “acts.”

Q: How long does it take you to write a book, from research to publication?

 

For me, it’s usually about three and a half years from the day I begin the research for the proposal and the day I do the book launch and first booksignings. That includes fact-checking, source notes, edits, press packets, etc. Some of my books have flown quickly through the process: one was very early but another one was late because it was a current topic that kept evolving. They each have had different lives!

Q: Which of your books are you proudest of?

 

To honestly answer that, I will have to steal a line from author Tom Clancy who once said, “My books are like children; I have no favorites.” However, a few of them have main players whose wisdom and foresight had such an impact on me that they could rank as favorites, but I won’t go there!

 

Q: Do you have a few favorite pieces of advice for writers?

 

Yes, I do. Read. Read. Read. And … Write. Write. Write. Set up a routine. Carry a notebook with you at all times. And teach yourself how to walk the delicate line between discipline and creativity.

 

Q: Any favorite quotes from writers about writing?

 

I haven’t read a lot of books by writers about their writing, but I did read Stephen King’s book On Writing, which is excellent, by the way. And his quote is one of the best imaginable; I’ve actually memorized it and here it is, as I remember it:

“On some days writing is a pretty grim slog. On others, I feel that buzz of happiness, that sense of having found the right words and putting them in a line. It’s like lifting off in an airplane: you’re on the ground, on the ground, on the ground … and then you’re up, riding on a magical cushion of air and prince of all you survey. That makes me happy, because it’s what I was made to do.”

 

Retreat to the Springs! is a roaming writers’ workshop. In 2018, it will be held October 26 to 28 in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Go here for more information and registration.

 

 

 

 

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Hey folks! The monthly Writing Workshop Workshop for April will be on Sunday, the 19th, at 2 p.m. As always, we will meet at Allyn’s Café in Cincinnati’s beautiful Columbia-Tusculum neighborhood.

Here’s why we had to move the date: on April 12, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County will be holding the Ohioana Library Association reception to recognize Hamilton County authors. Both Richard O. Jones and I will be participating. The event, held from 1:30 to about 4 in the main branch of the library, will include both presentations (including one to Kevin Grace, Head Archivist at the University of Cincinnati) and opportunities to talk with local authors and buy their books. Follow the link to learn more.

I hope to see you on the 12th and/or 19th!

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Mind and Matter: Interior Writing in an Exterior World

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Presented by

Wendy Hart Beckman and Tina Neyer

This one-day workshop will help you:

  • Get in touch with your inner writer,
  • Organize your thoughts,
  • Craft, mine, and polish your writing, and
  • Explore avenues for publishing.

Wendy Hart Beckman is a published author of seven books and experienced presenter on how to effectively edit and publish.

Tina Neyer is a writer and mediator working with a diverse population to aid in the telling of personal stories.

Workshop Date: Saturday, September 13, 2014

Time: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Location: Friars Studio, 1605 Main Street in Cincinnati

Price: Only $100 for a full day of instruction and lunch

Limited to 30 people!

Box lunch provided by Venice on Vine

For more information, contact Tina at tina.neyer@gmail.com or Wendy at beckcomm@fuse.net.

Registration:$100.00 covers all instruction and lunch
Wendy Beckman and Tina Neyer are your workshop leaders.

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Sunday, March 23, at 2 p.m. will be another of our great Writing Workshop Workshops. As usual, we’ll be gathering downstairs at Olive’s in Cincinnati’s Clifton Gaslight District.

Bring seven minutes’ worth of your writing to read, $5 for the kitty, your books to sell, any publishing or writing questions you’d like to ask, and a friend or two. I hope I will have a big announcement for you!

Head’s up for April: on Sunday, April 27 (same time, same place), at our Writing Workshop Workshop, we’ll be joined by Carol Topp, CPA, author of Business Tips and Taxes for Writers. It’s too late for your 2013 filing, but Carol will have lots of great advice for your 2014 return on how to be a professional writer, in terms of what’s deductible and what’s not.

So put April 27 on your calendar, and in the meantime I hope to see you Sunday, March 23, at 2!

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Hey everybody! If you’re looking for a warm place to gather and share your writing with a great group of people, join us Sunday for this month’s Writing Workshop Workshop. We’ll be meeting at Olive’s on Ludlow Ave. in the Clifton Gaslight District.

We officially start at 2 p.m., but if you’d like to order from the breakfast buffet, you might want to get there at 1:30. Just tell them you’re with the writing group.

Bring seven minutes’ worth of writing, $5 for the kitty, money for munchies, and a friend or two who might be interested in writing.Those of you who have recently published books might want to bring them, too. 😉

I hope to see you there!

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Hey writers! If you’re a beginner looking for a nurturing environment in which to share your writing, or you’re a seasoned professional looking for a new source of feedback, please consider joining us. We’ll be at Olive’s on Ludlow at 2:00. Bring about seven minutes’ worth of material to read, $5 for the kitty, and more money if you plan to eat.

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Friday, July 20, at 7 p.m., at the Wild Fig Bookstore in Lexington, Kentucky, I’ll be reading from my unpublished novel. I’ve been working on it for about 20 years and it is just about done. If you come, you’ll be the first people outside my writing group to hear the tale. River City Talent Showcase is the story of Sandy McKinley who, after being laid off, moves to Ohio and joins an all-women’s singing group whose sole purpose is to make its members sing the same, look the same, dress the same, act the same and think the same. In the middle of all this sameness, Sandy struggles with who she is and what her priorities should be. While she’s figuring out who she is, her father (who has Alzheimer’s) is forgetting who she was. (more…)

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