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The Secrets of First Person Writing

Featuring Susan Shapiro and editors from the top markets for essays and memoirs

2. Highlight from the Panel

Table of Contents

  1. Crib Sheet (PDF) PDF
    Download this outline and use it to take notes. Includes resources and other information.
  2. Highlight from the Panel FREE!
  3. Introductions (9:20) 9:20 FREE!'s Carmen Scheidel welcomes moderator Susan Shapiro. In signature form, Sue introduces the panelists while laying out juicy details and gossip.
  4. Fact or fiction? (10:39) 10:39 FREE!
    The panel tackles the repercussions of first-person writing (divorce, lawsuits, disownment) and discusses the touchy nuances of pseudonyms and potentially libelous writing in the post-James-Frey environment.
  5. The Pitfalls of Truth-Telling (10:12) 10:12 FREE!
    The panelists cover common mistakes in first-person essays, such as clichés, weak structure, and plain-old poor writing.
  6. More Pitfalls (8:46) 8:46 FREE!
    When John Glassie submitted to the "Lives" column in 1994, the editor told him, "Sorry, we have a moratorium on dead father stories." He and the other panelists delve into common errors they see in submissions.
  7. Advice to Writers (12:20) 12:20 FREE!
    Tips on how to improve your writing. Gael Greene: "I wouldn't tell people to write about sex. It's very hard to write about sex. I just can't help it because it's one of my interests. Choose the thing you are passionate about, and tell it. Don't hold back."
  8. How to Submit (9:14) 9:14 FREE!
    Procedures for submitting to agents and publications can vary. Panelists present different views on cover letters, e-mail etiquette, and how to catch an editor or agent's eye.
  9. Following Up, Pitching, and Proposals (9:38) 9:38 FREE!
    While discussing how long a writer should wait to follow up on a submission, Elizabeth Kaplan tells the ugly, honest truth: if an editor or agent hasn't responded, they probably do not want it.
  10. Audience Questions (9:13) 9:13 FREE!
    Topics include what the panelists want from a pitch, how to target Jane magazine, multiple submissions, word count, and pay.
  11. More Audience Questions (11:09) 11:09 FREE!
    The questions initiate a discussion of publications that run first-person essays, editors' rejection rates, and the (often unusual) paths the panelists took to their current positions.
  12. The Path of a Writer (12:01) 12:01 FREE!
    The panelists continue to discuss their career paths and conclude the panel by answering the burning question of how writers can contact them.

Video Details

Telling first person stories is an American phenomenon expanding by the minute. With all the competition from well-known writers, Iraq war survivors, and celebrities, how does an unknown novice stand a chance? Our panel of expert writers, agents, and magazine and book editors reveals everything you always wanted to know about first person work but were afraid to ask. They cover the worst mistakes budding confessors make, the reason why mining your obsessions often leads to book deals, the best way to break into the crowded field, the inside scoop on how to write and sell a great memoir, and the tricks to disclosing racy secrets without getting disowned, divorced, arrested, sued, or humiliated on national television. Moderated by Susan Shapiro.

10 videos
1 hour 41 minutes total running time

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