Nieman Notes

As you may recall, I spent many hours over the past few days at the Nieman Narrative Nonfiction Conference. Here are a few personal program highlights:

1) Calvin Trillin’s keynote address. I’ve loved his work for years. He’s as funny in person as he is on the page.

2) A new “discovery”: Connie Schultz. I feel a bit silly declaring her a “discovery,” since she’s a Pulitzer Prize winner (2005, for commentary). But I did not know the work of this columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer before I heard her read on Friday. Then I attended her Sunday morning session on “Pulpit or Porch: Tuning the Tone of Your Column.”

Actually, Schultz has been on leave from her paper since last winter. She has spent the past many months on the campaign trail with her husband, U.S. Senator-elect Sherrod Brown (D-OH) (who accompanied her to the conference). Her next book, …And His Lovely Wife, is a campaign memoir scheduled for release in June 2007. In the meantime, you can get to know this writer through the pieces collected in Life Happens.

3) Hearing Samuel G. Freedman talk about “Braiding Character, Event, Theme and Place.”

I was also very happy to meet Wendy Call, a practicing writer with whom I’ve corresponded via e-mail in the past. Among her accomplishments, Wendy is co-editor (with Mark Kramer) of Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers’ Guide From the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, forthcoming in January. I look forward to reading that book soon!