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David Grann Shares Writing Advice

In this encore edition of the Morning Media Menu, we spoke with New Yorker staff writer and The Lost City of Z author David Grann.

Author bios on glossy book jackets give the illusion that a writer climbed to the top of the literary profession in heroic, purpose-filled strides. Grann turned that creation myth upside down in an interview.

Press play below to listen on SoundCloud. In this 2010 interview, Grann discussed The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, and shared tips for aspiring long-form journalists–explaining how he ended up at one of America’s greatest magazines after years of work.

Here’s an excerpt:

It was a very circuitous path. It was not very linear–I floundered about for many years. I had many different careers early on. I knew I wanted to be a writer. But, like so many people, I didn’t know how to be one–other than just do it. I didn’t know what form it would take.

He added:

Early on I tried fiction, but I wasn’t very good at it. I wrote a very bad novel that is thankfully sitting in a drawer somewhere. I was a schoolteacher, I taught seventh and eighth grade and I tried to write fiction on the side. I tried a few grad school programs because I didn’t know how to make it … Eventually, I was desperate for a job and there was a new newspaper opening up in Washington D.C. called The Hill. Even though my interest in politics wasn’t huge, they gave me a job as a copy editor.

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