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Knitter, English teacher and Johnstown, Pennsylvania's self-appointed ambassador to Brooklyn, Shannon Reed is also an accomplished playwright whose plays have appeared in prestigious regional festivals. "Currently at work on a play about fairies, vicars and princesses," as she tells us, Shannon graciously laid down her quill for a moment to share these terrific thoughts on playwriting and related books:

Writing plays is a tricky business because you're writing text that will need to be brought to life. Thus, it's worth any beginning playwright's time to read the text of a play they have seen and enjoyed. You might start by watching the movie of The Crucible. The 1996 version has a powerful screenplay by Arthur Miller that skews remarkably closely to his searing playscript. Then read the play itself, an American classic.

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Sometimes you read a journalist's account of a place, person or situation that draws you in so deep you forget you're reading "news." They're more than just stories: The real-life scenes immerse you in a way that not only sticks, sometimes forever, but gives you meaning. To your humble editor, the absolute lion of this kind of journalism -- literary journalism -- was a legendary Polish reporter named Ryszard Kapuscinski, who sadly passed away last month. He was a hero, too, to a Canadian journalist named Deborah Campbell. Besides writing about the Middle East, Cuba and Russia and other places for leading publications, Deborah teaches literary journalism at the University of British Columbia. We had a fascinating conversation with her about this genre:

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Jon Franklin is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning writer and distinguished journalism professor at the University of Maryland, and the author of the classic writing book Writing for Story. He's a pioneer in applying the literary techniques of fiction to nonfiction stories. We had a fascinating conversation with Jon about writing creative nonfiction.

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Books we love

Storytelling

In anticipation of the annual Neiman Conference, a gathering of narrative journalists that took place this past weekend at Harvard University, the newspaper reporter's blog Gangrey ran a month of entries they called "Days to Neiman." In these posts, the authors highlighted writers and books that exemplified the narrative craft. Here are a few of the books:

American Stories by Calvin Trillin

The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup by Susan Orleans (see introduction)

The New New Journalism by Robert Boynton

Off Ramp by Hank Steuver (see preface)

Sports Guy by Charlie Pierce (see preface)

The Gay Talese Reader by Gay Talese (see "Origins of a Nonfiction Writer")

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Writing coaches always tell you to read other writers to unlock the secrets of their particular mojo. Author Marilyn Johnson found inspiration in an unlikely place: The obituary column. "Good obit writers can bring someone -- well, to life," she explains. "It's a demonstration of great writing and I was very interested in how they did it." She was so interested, in fact, she started writing obituaries herself -- and then wrote a book on the subject called The Dead Beat. We spoke to Marilyn about the obit genre:

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I came across this list of terrific writing books as a sidebar to a Detroit Free Press article on storytelling. To read the article, please click here. [Editor]

William E. Blundell, The Art and Craft of Feature Writing. "The Wall Street Journal's Bill Blundell is one of the great feature writers of our generation. He's also a fine teacher. Not surprisingly, this book, derived from the Wall Street Journal Guide, is a prize."

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What makes a story so compelling you can't shake it from your mind? To find out we called up veteran public radio broadcaster and award-winning storyteller Tony Kahn, a special correspondent on the news magazine The World, and the creator of Morning Stories, a weekly feature on WGBH Boston radio and web where people tell true tales in their own voice -- tales that stick.

Tony has honed his storytelling skills by writing, producing, narrating and hosting over 50 radio and TV programs and series for PBS, NPR, Nickelodeon and others. In an interview we read on the online Transom Review, he says:

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1 2 3 Displaying 8-14 of 16 Articles