margaret talbot on writing
Over a year ago, in April 2013, I had the opportunity to meet author Margaret Talbot. Margaret, a staff writer at The New Yorker, gave me and a few other MFA candidates at George Mason University some of the best and most straightforward writing advice I’ve ever heard. Below I share, transcribed from my journal, the notes I took during her visiting writer workshop.
- The best thing you can do is read.
- Read your own work out loud.
- Have an ending in mind.
- Access to the subject should play a large part in your topic.
- Pick topics with scenes where you are watching someone work/interact.
- Reporting and writing require two different approaches; anything could be part of the story—later. Take everything in, write everything down.
- In interviewing, begin with a question that they love and shows your knowledge about it (from your research). Being interviewed is boring.
- Learn the piece you can do the best, not necessarily an accepted genre.
- Timeliness is a huge part of getting published.
- Think about what your insider status is (culture/subculture) that you could be an eloquent informant about (i.e. your generation).
- End with an image
- Read: Telling True Stories
**I recommend Talbot’s The Entertainer: Movies, Magic, and My Father’s Twentieth Century, a personal but extremely well-researched first book about her father Lyle’s fascinating rise from a Nebraska carnival employee to traveling magician’s assistant to famous Hollywood actor.