Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

November 9, 2009

More Writing Anecdotes

Filed under: On Writing — Frank Fiore @ 10:53 AM

People like to read about people – and writers are no different. History is strewn with personal anecdotes about those is the writing profession in some way or another – authors, journalists, professionals and others.

Here are some more I’ve found

One day Norman MacLean was dismayed to learn that his classic novel A River Runs Through It had been rejected by another publisher. The reason? “These stories have trees in them.”

One day William S. Burroughs gave a manuscript of his latest book (entitled “Naked Lust”) to the beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg for his opinion. Ginsberg misread his friend’s handwriting – and the book soon became a classic beat-generation portrait of drug addiction, entitled “Naked Lunch.”

Though he wanted to serve in Vietnam, Tom Clancy’s poor eyesight prevented him from entering the military. Thus, like Stephen Crane, who had never been to war when he wrote The Red Badge of Courage, Clancy had never even set foot in a submarine when he wrote The Hunt for Red October. Nonetheless, the book contains such accurate descriptions of high-tech military hardware that former Navy Secretary John Lehman once joked that, had Clancy been in the navy, he would have had him court-martialed for security violations.

Dame Edith Evans was once informed that the noted writer Nancy Mitford was staying at a friend’s villa to finish a book. “Oh, really?” Evans snorted. “What exactly is she reading?”

In June 2003, management consultant Chelsea Hardaway and her colleagues at Deloitte Consulting unveiled “Bullfighter,” a software program which identifies jargon in documents. “We hope that it is a fun way to make business communications safer for all of us,” she declared, before adding: “We envision a centre of excellence where our accelerated change agents can maximize their core competencies.”

Asimov’s interest in science fiction was first piqued by magazines on the newsstand in the family’s candy store. Athough Asimov’s father disapproved of his young son’s taste for “junk,” Asimov persisted, playing on the word “science” in the names of magazines like Science Wonder Stories to convince his father to let him read them.

Arnold Bennett, a stickler for detail, once boasted that Darius Clayhanger’s death in the Clayhanger series could never be improved upon: “I took infinite pains over it,” the author explained. “All the time my father was dying I was at the bedside making copious notes.”

Addison Mizner and his brother Wilson ran various businesses together and were very close. One day in 1933, Addison, seriously ill, received a telegram in Palm Beach from his brother in Hollywood: “Stop dying,” it read. “Am trying to write a comedy.”

One day Victor Hugo, wondering what his publishers thought of his manuscript draft of Les Miserables, sent them a note reading simply: “?” Their reply? “!”

“A few years ago in Scotland,” Stephen King once recalled, “this one austere lady [reporter] kept asking me about how I seemed so normal and All-American yet I could keep endlessly writing such terrifying novels. “So after several times trying to explain it was really just a profession I told her that, whenever I had writer’s block, for inspiration I looked at a small jar that was always on my desk and held a pickled little slave boy’s heart from before the Civil War.”

Mark Twain was peeved by Walt Whitman’s habitual use of ‘we’ when he spoke about writing (as if to suggest, rather presumptuously, that he spoke for writers collectively). “I assume,” Twain said one day, “that Mr. Whitman means himself and his tapeworm?”


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