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Friday, February 16, 2007

Writers on writerly things

I know a lot of writers and aspiring writers come here, so I thought you might like to look over the shoulder of my morning coffee and me pondering some of the lessons from the writers' book of life.

Readers of [Tom] Bissell's new book will find themselves in another foreign place--Vietnam. Like "Chasing the Sea", "The Father of all Things" began as an article. In 2003, Bissell was sitting down for dinner with Devin Friedman--an editor at GQ who wanted him to write for the magazine--wracking his brain for story ideas. [snip] Then he started telling Friedman about his father and Vietnam, how it shaped him and affected his life and how he thought of going back there.

That, Friedman said, is what he should write about. So, on assignment from the magazine, Bissel and his dad returned to Vietnam later that year, where the two of them traveled from place to place. [snip] Along the way, Bissell tried to make sense of the time and place that made his dad who he is. It was a long, moving piece of literary journalism.

GQ killed it.

"When they killed it," Bissell remembers, "I was in total despair about the piece. I thought I had totally whiffed. So I sent it to Harper's really sheepishly. I sent them the third draft. I'd gotten up to eight drafts with GQ and it kept getting worse and worse. I just hated the whole process. It was awful. So I sent Harper's the third draft, which was the only draft I really liked and they said they'd run it as is."

"War Wounds" was published in the December 2004 issue of Harpers and Bissell says it generated a bigger response than anything he's ever written. It was chosen for The Best American Travel Writing 2005 and became one of the few nonfiction pieces ever read on NPR's Selected Shorts.
Funny how something you don't even intend to read turns out to be so en-pointe.

I read that in Poets & Writers Magazine, March/Arpil 2007, "All the Things he did Not Know" by Frank Bures. (not in the online ed.)

I'm in the library, reading an intervew in the paper edition (remember those?) learning that Larry Ferlinghetti came to San Francisco from Paris where he was getting his doctorate at the Sorbonne on the G.I. Bill (do I hear the clinking of irony maidens?). He's talking about how he considers himself the last of the Bohemians, not really a Beat poet. So much for those who say he's the last of the Beats.
I arrived in San Francisco four years before Allen Ginsberg and the Beats did. I was still wearing my French beret.
Two for the notes-book. Thanks for joining me.

// posted by Ellen @  09:21   //Permalink// 
Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.

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