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Beyond Blog

Author David Maraniss: Clemente

Posted by daniel.venn on May 7, 2016 at 12:15 AM

In Part 3 of an ongoing series on the challenges and succeses of authorship, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author David Maraniss discusses how the literary process has changed during his career, what he's learned, and his advice for aspiring authors.  Mr. Maraniss has written 12 books and today serves as an associate editor at the Washington Post.


Q: Roberto Clemente is known for so many things--his legendary baseball career, being a symbol of hope in Latin America, his incredible charity work--in your own words, what is his legacy?

Although no humans are truly saints, Roberto Clemente is the closest thing to a patron saint in the Latino ballplaying world. He was not the first Latino to make the majors, but he was the best, the first to reach the Hall of Fame. And what makes him stand out is not only the beauty of his baseball but the meaning of his life. He was that rare athlete who was growing as a human being even as his athletic skills might have been diminishing. Athletes come and go, and are largely forgotten beyond their statistics, but Clemente lives on now 44 years after his death.

Q: Your writing career has spanned decades. How has the book publishing process changed in that time?

The newspaper business, which was my first and primary career, has changed more rapidly and profoundly than the book publishing business, but both are on a trajectory of change. I doubt that there will be paper newspapers in 20 or 25 years. Everything will be online, or delivered in some way that we can't even now imagine. Books will still be around, I think. The e-book process has been much slower in developing. It will happen, but even when ebooks become dominant I think real books will still be around. I wrote my first book in the early 1990s. It was on a computer, but email was just beginning, and I would send chapters up to my editor in New York via Fed Ex. Now everything is done by attachments. But my editor still prints out those attachments and edits the book on paper with a red pencil. Many editors have gone to electronic editing, but not all, yet.


Q: Self-publishing has grown in popularity and made the publishing process accessible to the average writer.  What advice would you give to self-published authors in today's market?

Getting published is the important thing, if you are a writer, however it is done.

Q: You're renowned as one of the most honored and versatile writers of your generation. What have you learned during your writing career that you wish you'd have known when you began?

I look back on those early years with some measure of horror. I didn't really know anything, but thought I did. Maybe that lack of awareness is what keeps you going as a young writer, but still. My main pieces of advice to young writers are these: Learn the craft. Don't take shortcuts. Snark will only get you so far. Do the hard work of reporting and then the writing will become easier. Go there, wherever there is. Don't sit in your office and think you can learn the world over the internet or the telephone.


Q:  If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would you tell them?

Read and study your favorite writers. Figure out how they do it. Absorb it but keep your own natural style.

Interested in learning more about Mr. Maraniss' work or picking up one of his books? Check out his website here.

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