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Telling True Stories

Telling True Stories is a selection from five years of Harvard's Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism. More than ninety essays and short pieces take the reader from story idea through publication, and on to writing books and building a career as a narrative writer: 
  • Nora Ephron offers "What Narrative Writers Can Learn From Screenwriters."

  • Malcolm Gladwell challenges journalistic assumptions in "The Limits of Profiles."

  • Alma Guillermoprieto weaves together "Telling the Story and Telling the Truth."

  • Adam Hochschild, Jacqui Banaszynski and others debate whether "To Tape or Not to Tape?"

  • Adrian Nicole LeBlanc gives the secrets of "(Narrative) J-School for People Who Never Went"

  • Gay Talese shares insights from forty years of "Writing About Private Lives."

  • Tom Wolfe describes "The Emotional Core of the Story."

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About the editors
Mark Kramer was most recently director and writer-in-residence of the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University. He was writer-in-residence and professor of journalism at Boston University from 1991 to 2001, and taught at Smith College for a decade before that. He has written for many newspapers and magazines. His books include Three Farms, Invasive Procedures, and Travels with a Hungry Bear. He coedited the anthology Literary Journalism as well as narrative journalism textbooks published in Danish and Japanese.

Wendy Call
is a freelance writer and editor, currently writer-in-residence at Richard Hugo House, Seattle's literary center. She has been a Fellow of the Institute of Current World Affairs in southern Mexico, a Scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and a Seattle CityArtist. Her narrative nonfiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies in six countries. www.wendycall.com

About the contributors
Jay Allison, an independent broadcast journalist, has contributed to NPR's "All Things Considered," PRI's "This American Life," and other programs. He has received five Peabody Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Award, public radio's highest honor. He directs a public radio station for the Cape Cod region, where he lives.

Helene Atwan, born in Paris, began her publishing career at Random House in 1976. She has worked at Alfred A. Knopf, The Viking Press, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Simon & Schuster. She was named director of Beacon Press, an independent nonprofit publisher, in 1995.

Jacqui Banaszynski holds the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of Missouri and teaches at the Poynter Institute. She has been an editor at newspapers in Seattle, Portland and St. Paul. Her awards include the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing and she has served as a Pulitzer juror.

Bob Batz, Jr. has worked as a feature writer in Pittsburgh since 1986. He was part of the team that produced the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette special report "'All Nine Alive!' The story of the Quecreek Mine rescue," which was published as a book.

Kelley Benham is a features writer for the St. Petersburg Times. She won the Ernie Pyle award for human-interest writing in 2003 and the 2004 short feature-writing award from the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors (AASFE). She is a former high school journalism teacher.

Molly Bingham, represented by World Picture News, has worked as a photographer since 1994. From 1998 to 2000 she was the official photographer to Vice President Al Gore. She has photographed stories in Central Africa, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip, and was a 2005 Nieman Fellow.

Katherine Boo has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2003, and before that was a writer and editor for The Washington Post and Washington Monthly. She has received a Pulitzer Prize, National Magazine Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship. She lives in Washington, DC.

Donna Britt has been a columnist for The Washington Post since 1992. She has received numerous awards, including top honors from the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). She lives in suburban Maryland with her husband, journalist Kevin Merida, and their three sons.

DeNeen L. Brown is a feature writer for The Washington Post. She has also been the newspaper's Canada bureau chief, a general assignment reporter, and covered police, education, and government. She has won a 1999 ASNE Award, as well as a Knight Fellowship and a Post Media Fellowship at Duke University.

Maria Carrillo is managing editor of The Virginian-Pilot, and previously directed most of the newspaper's projects and oversaw a four-person narrative reporting team. Stories she edited have won awards from ASNE, NABJ and AASFE, and three serials have been expanded and published as books.

Roy Peter Clark is Vice President and Senior Scholar at the Poynter Institute, where he has taught writing since 1979. Before that, he was the St. Petersburg Times' writing coach. His most recent book is "Writing Tools: Fifty Essential Strategies for Every Writer."

Jim Collins is author of The Last Best League, an Attaché contributing editor, and former editor of both the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine and Yankee Magazine. During his tenure at Yankee, it received National Magazine Award nominations for general excellence and reporting. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children.

Ted Conover's books include Newjack, a Pulitzer finalist and winner of the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Award for 2001, Rolling Nowhere, Coyotes, and Whiteout. He has been a Guggenheim Fellow and Visiting Fellow at Harvard University, and teaches at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and at New York University.

Lane DeGregory's writing has earned her awards from ASNE, NABJ, and AASFE, as well as the 2001 Outstanding Media Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. She is a features writer for the St. Petersburg Times and author of "The Insider's Guide to North Carolina's Outer Banks."

Bruce DeSilva, worldwide writing coach for the Associated Press, has been a training consultant at 40 newspapers and a frequent speaker at journalism conferences. Stories he edited have won ASNE, Ernie Pyle, Batten, Polk and Livingston Awards, and he helped edit a Pulitzer winner.

Debra Dickerson has been a senior editor at US News and World Report, and a New America Foundation senior fellow. She is the author of "An American Story" and "The End of Blackness." She is the daughter of Great Migration sharecroppers and holds a doctorate of law from Harvard Law School.

Nora Ephron is a screenwriter, film director, author and journalist. Her books include "Crazy Salad," "Heartburn," "Wallflower at the Orgy" and "Scribble Scribble." She received Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay with "When Harry Met Sally," "Silkwood," and "Sleepless in Seattle." She lives in New York.

Jon Franklin won the first Pulitzer Prizes awarded for feature writing (1979) and explanatory journalism (1985). He has directed both a university creative writing program and journalism department, and currently teaches at the University of Maryland. His books include "Writing for Story," "Molecules of the Mind," and "Shocktrauma."

Thomas French has been a staff writer at the St. Petersburg Times since 1981. His serial narrative "Angels & Demons" won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. His books include "A Cry in the Night" and "South of Heaven," and he teaches in the MFA program at Goucher College.

Malcolm Gladwell has been a New Yorker staff writer since 1996. He has won the National Magazine Award for Profiles and both his books, "The Tipping Point" and "Blink," were New York Times number one bestsellers. In 2005 he was named one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People."

Cynthia Gorney, a former Washington Post reporter, teaches journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. She is author of "Articles of Faith: A Frontline History of the Abortion Wars" and a staff writer at The New Yorker. She has also written for Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, Sports Illustrated and other magazines.

Melissa Fay Greene is the author of "Praying for Sheetrock," "The Temple Bombing," "Last Man Out," and "There Is No Me Without You," about Ethiopia's AIDS orphans. Winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and two-time finalist for the National Book Award, she lives in Atlanta with her husband and seven children.

Alma Guillermoprieto is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and New York Review of Books, and author of "Samba" (finalist for the NBCC Award), "The Heart the Bleeds," "Looking for History" and "Dancing with Cuba." Her awards include a MacArthur Fellowship and the Polk Award. She lives in Mexico City.

David Halberstam has written nineteen books, including "The Best and the Brightest," "The Powers That Be," "The Amateurs," "The Children," "Firehouse," and "The Teammates." He was a reporter for The Nashville Tennessean and The New York Times, and won a Pulitzer for his coverage of the Vietnam War.

Tom Hallman, Jr. has written for The Oregonian since 1980, where he is currently senior feature writer. He won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for his series "The Mask." His other awards include the Ernie Pyle Award, two ASNE awards, and a Society of Professional Journalists award.

Walt Harrington was staff writer for The Washington Post Magazine for nearly fifteen years. His books include "Crossings," "Intimate Journalism," and "The Everlasting Stream." He has won awards from NABJ and Sigma Delta Chi, as well as the Lowell Mellett Award. He is head of the University of Illinois' journalism department.

Jack Hart is managing editor and writing coach at The Oregonian. Stories he edited have won two Pulitzer Prizes, as well as awards from the Overseas Press Club, ASNE, Scripps Howard, and Society of Professional Journalists awards. He is author of "The Information Empire" and "A Writer's Coach."

Emily Hiestand is a writer and photographer whose books include "The Very Rich Hours" and "Angela the Upside Down Girl." Her writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Georgia Review and The New Yorker, and has won a National Magazine Award, Pushcart Prize and Whiting Award. She lives in Massachusetts.

Adam Hochschild, a former newspaper reporter, co-founded Mother Jones magazine. His books include "Half the Way Home," "Finding the Trapdoor," "King Leopold's Ghost" (NBCC Award finalist), and "Bury the Chains" (National Book Award finalist). A Lannan Literary Award winner, he teaches writing at the University of California, Berkeley.

Anne Hull is a national reporter at The Washington Post. Before joining the Post in 2000, Hull was a reporter at the St. Petersburg Times. She has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist, won the ASNE Distinguished Writing Award, and was a 1995 Nieman Fellow.

S. Mitra Kalita is an award-winning business reporter at The Washington Post and past president of the South Asian Journalists Association. She is the author of "Suburban Sahibs: Three immigrant families and their passage from India to America." She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband and daughter.

Tracy Kidder is author of "My Detachment" (about his time as an Army officer in Vietnam), "Mountains Beyond Mountains," "Home Town," "Old Friends," "Among Schoolchildren," "House," and "The Soul of a New Machine." His awards include the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Award.

Louise Kiernan has been a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune since 1992. She wrote the lead article for a Pulitzer Prize-winning series in 2001 and was a Pulitzer finalist (also in 2001). She has worked for the Tribune's Sunday magazine, reported from abroad, and was a 2005 Nieman Fellow.

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc is author of the best-selling "Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx," a NBCC Award finalist. She has written for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Esquire, and The Village Voice. She teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism.

Nicholas Lemann joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 1999. Before that he was national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly and executive editor for the Washington Monthly. His books include best-sellers "The Promised Land" and "The Big Test." He is dean of the Columbia School of Journalism.

Jill Lepore's books include "The Name of War" (Bancroft Prize winner), "A is for American," and "New York Burning" (Anisfield-Wolf Award winner and a Pulitzer Prize finalist). Professor of history and chair of the History and Literature Program at Harvard University, she is also a contributor to The New Yorker.

Phillip Lopate is an essayist, novelist, and film critic. He is author of eight books, most recently "Waterfront" and "Totally, Tenderly, Tragically." He is editor of anthologies "The Art of the Personal Essay" and "Writing New York," and series editor of "The Art of the Essay." He lives in Brooklyn.

Victor Merina is a senior fellow at the University of Southern California's Annenberg Institute for Justice and Journalism. As a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, he shared a 1993 Pulitzer and was a 1997 Pulitzer finalist. He has taught journalism and essay-writing across the country and internationally.

Sonia Nazario is a projects reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Her 2002 series "Enrique's Journey" — now a Random House book — won more than a dozen national awards, including a Pulitzer and the Robert F. Kennedy Grand Prize. She grew up in Kansas and Argentina, and lives in California.

Stanley Nelson is a 2002 MacArthur Fellow, Emmy winner, and executive producer of Firelight Media, a nonprofit documentary company dedicated to social justice. His documentaries include the award-winning "The Murder of Emmett Till" and "Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice," which aired on PBS's American Masters Series.

Stewart O'Nan's novels include "A Prayer for the Dying," "Everyday People," "The Speed Queen," "A World Away," "The Names of the Dead," and "Snow Angels." His nonfiction books include "Faithful" (with Stephen King) and "A Circus Fire," and his articles have appeared in Outside, Oxford American and The Boston Globe.

Susan Orlean has been a New Yorker staff writer since 1992. Her books include "The Orchid Thief" (made into the film Adaptation), "My Kind of Place," "The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup," "Saturday Night," and "Red Sox and Blue Fish." She has been a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Vogue.

Lisa Pollak is a producer at the public radio program "This American Life." Before that, she was a features writer at The (Baltimore) Sun and The News & Observer, winning the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing in 1997 and the Ernie Pyle Award for Human Interest Writing in 1994.

Samantha Power's book "A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide" won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize and NBCC Award. From 1993 to 1996 she worked as a reporter in the Balkans. She is now a professor of human rights policy at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Gay Talese is the author of nine books, including "A Writer's Life," "The Gay Talese Reader," "Fame and Obscurity," and "The Kingdom and the Power," about the history and internal workings of The New York Times. His magazine writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, and other publications.

Geri Thoma is a partner and literary agent at the Elaine Markson Agency in New York, where she has worked since 1980. The authors she represents include journalists writing about politics, race, education, culture and food, as well as historians, biographers, sociologists, economists, and fiction writers.

Tomas Alex Tizon is a national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and a former staff writer at The Seattle Times, where he shared the 1997 Pulitzer for investigative reporting. He is a former Jefferson Fellow and holds degrees from Stanford and the University of Oregon.

Loung Ung is a survivor of the killing fields in Cambodia and author of the best-selling books "First They Killed My Father" (which has been translated into 12 languages) and "Lucky Child." She lectures widely and is National Spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine Free World.

Isabel Wilkerson, the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, has also won a Guggenheim Fellowship, a George S. Polk Award, and a Journalist of the Year award from the NABJ. She writes for The New York Times and is author of "The Great Migration."

Jan Winburn has been an editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant, The (Baltimore) Sun, and is currently at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Stories she edited have won Pulitzer Prizes and an ASNE Award. She is editor of the anthology "Shop Talk" and "War Stories: Journalists Examine Their Profession."

Tom Wolfe is the author of more than a dozen books, including the nonfiction books "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" and "The Right Stuff," and the novels "The Bonfire of the Vanities" and "A Man in Full." A native of Richmond, Virginia, he lives in New York City.