Confident or fretful, solemn or sassy, tough or tender, casual or formal: the self you project in writing—your persona—is the byproduct of numerous decisions you make about what to say and how to say it. Though any single word or phrase or sentence might make little difference within the scope of an entire essay or book, collectively they create an impression of who you are or seem to be—an impression that’s sure to influence how readers respond to your work. Thus it’s essential to take charge of how you come across on the page, to craft an appropriate persona for whatever you’re writing, whether it’s a personal essay, a blog, a technical report, a letter to the editor, or a memoir. In this wise and ingenious little guide, noted essayist Carl Klaus shows you how to adapt your self to the needs of such varied nonfiction, by varying his own persona to illustrate the distinctive effect produced by each aspect and element of writing. Klaus divides his book into two parts: first, an introduction to the nature and function of a persona, then a survey of the most important elements of writing that contribute to the character of a persona, from point of view and organization to diction and sentence structure. Both parts contain exercises that will give you practice in developing a persona of your choice. Challenging and stimulating, each of his exercises focuses on a distinctly different aspect of composition and style, so as to help you develop the skills of a versatile and personable writer. By focusing on the most important ways of projecting your self in nonfiction prose, you can learn to craft a distinctive self in your writing.
About the Author
Carl H. Klaus, founder of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, is professor emeritus at Iowa and coeditor (with Patricia Hampl) of Sightline Books: The Iowa Series in Literary Nonfiction. His widely praised nonfiction includes The Made-Up Self: Impersonation in the Personal Essay (Iowa, 2010), Letters to Kate: Life after Life (Iowa, 2006), My Vegetable Love: A Journal of a Growing Season (Iowa, 2000) and its companion, Weathering Winter (Iowa, 1997), as well as Taking Retirement: A Beginner’s Diary. His most recent nonfiction project (coedited with Ned Stuckey-French) is Essayists on the Essay: Montaigne to Our Time (Iowa, 2012).
"Teachers of creative nonfiction have been waiting for a book just like this: an elegantly articulated, easily accessible text that reveals the clear distinctions between style, voice, and persona. The brief, relevant exercises at the end of each chapter will educate and inspire student writers. Thank you, Carl Klaus. Thank you!"—Hope Edelman, author, The Possibility of Everything
"Carl Klaus is one of the great pioneers in the study of literary nonfiction. He is also a brilliant teacher who has guided countless students—many of them now well-known authors—through the joys and challenges of crafting beautiful, effective prose. Here he draws on his substantial experience to take on one of the genre’s defining, yet most elusive features: the creation of a distinctive literary persona. This book is a godsend for all writers and teachers of nonfiction—and their students!"—John T. Price, author, Man Killed by Pheasant and Other Kinships
"Carl Klaus is to persona what Strunk and White are to style. A Self Made of Words offers clear, friendly instructions on how writers can create their persona of choice—a lifeline to getting a life on paper."—Lynn Z. Bloom, author, The Seven Deadly Virtues and Other Lively Essays