Penn State

Russell B. Frank - Associate Professor of Journalism, Penn State University Park

Book Title: The Literary Journalists

Author: Norman Sims

Book Description:

I wanted to be a writer from the time I was 12 years old. But writing, real writing, meant fiction and poetry. Even when I went to graduate school to study folklore and mythology I did so with the idea that this kind of knowledge would help me become a better poet. But folklore students are required to do field research. My thesis, based on interviews with California gold miners, was my first foray into writing about real people. A couple of years later, I began writing about real people full-time, as a newspaper reporter. Around the same time, I picked up Sims' anthology of literary journalism. There I discovered that some enormously talented writers were writing about real people. Literary journalism, as practitioner Mark Kramer puts it in the introduction, holds 'all the art I can put into it.' Sims' book taught me that I didn't have to be a poet or a novelist to be a real writer. I could be a literary journalist.

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