There once was a magical place called WriterL where hundreds of journalists, freelancers, editors and educators from around the world gathered to share their thoughts and insights about the craft of Literary Journalism. It was the kind of place that an article in The New York Times referred to as "the Paris of the 1920s" for nonfiction writers.
But this place existed only on the internet, on a site founded in 1994 and hosted by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Jon Franklin and his wife, the mystery novelist Lynn Franklin. Among the group's members Pulitzer-winning editor, author and writing coach Jack Hart; Pulitzer-winning columnist Connie Schultz; author, educator and former Washington Post magazine senior writer Walt Harrington; Nieman Narrative Conference founder Mark Kramer, and Poynter Institute writing guru and author Roy Peter Clark.
Alas, the conversations stopped in 2009 and might have been lost to the public forever. But in 2021, another group member, Pulitzer-winning editor Stuart Warner, discovered dozens of their old posts at the bottom of his email basket. From there, Warner worked with the Franklins to reconstruct 16 dialogues from the digital vaults of WriterL to produce "A Place Called WriterL."
Warner presented the conversations as if several writers were sitting around a café table, with either Jon or Lynn leading the discussions. Among the topics that were debated (often heatedly):
• Is the serious narrative nonfiction writer truly an artist?
• Can the psychological interview put readers in your character's head?
• Did Tom Wolfe's masterpiece have "The Right Stuff" of Literary Journalism?
• How do you make your nonfiction characters three-dimensional?
• Is first person the right person to tell your story?
The book concludes with an essay about the power of emotion-centered writing by Jon Franklin. It is Franklin's first book about writing since his seminal "Writing for Story," first published in 1986 and devoured by thousands of aspiring journalists and nonfiction writers for decades. "A Place Called WriterL" should continue to feed their hunger for better writing for years to come.