Tracing the Publication History of a Nonfiction Writer

In order to get a feel for the path that nonfiction writers must travel to become published authors, I looked to the well-known periodical “The Guardian” in search of a great writer. To me, this means an author with a strong voice and an interesting way of saying things. Unsurprisingly, I found one quickly: Francine Prose. If her name does not ring a bell, it should. Prose is a hugely accomplished writer, has won several awards, was given a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was the president of the PEN American Center (a literary society and human rights organization). While it is easy to get lost in Prose’s current work, I looked back into her ancient history. Her earlier works focused on Judaism and, progressively, her work became more politically-charged. Interestingly and unexpectedly, that progression also moved from full-length novels in the 70s (averaging around 250 pages) to shorter, nonfiction essays in the 2000s. However, in a more intuitive fashion, the publishers start off as small companies which I had never heard of (like Atheneum, later bought and rebranded by Simon & Schuster) to HarperCollins, the New York Times, the Guardian, etc. I also read a few interviews of Prose. The most illuminating one was a NYT interview where Prose was promoting her book “Reading Like a Writer.” Of course, she talked extensively about what she was reading, what she looks for in books, and how she looks back at her past work. One piece I found the most enlightening was the quote: “I can no more reread my own books than I can watch old home movies or look at snapshots of myself as a child…Like most writers, I assume, my favorite is the novel I’m working on now.” While I do not claim to be on par with Prose’s writing at all, I found a tenuous connection in that quote with her. It is something that resonates with me as a writer and, while it is thin, it is interesting to see those small links between this fantastic writer and an undergrad student.

Meghan Brody

Meghan Brody. B.A. History & Writing. LSA Senior. Aspiring librarian.

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