Writing Books for Readers Beyond Academe

    February 22, 2012

    In the world of writing and publishing, “academic” is too often shorthand for – as one editor puts it – “lifeless prose, cumbersome to read, filled with unnecessary complication, often disdainful and stridently obscure in style and tone.”

    This session was intended for faculty members who aspire to write for the general educated reader, and those seeking advice on how to engage trade publishers and agents. Attendees heard from industry professionals and learned from the experience of members of the Harvard faculty who have succeeded as trade book authors.

    Event Videos

    Introductions:

    • Judith Singer, James Bryant Conant Professor of Education and Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity
    • Amy Brand, Assistant Provost for Faculty Appointments

    Angela von der Lippe: An editor’s perspective on writing for the public

    Betsy Lerner: How to get an agent

    Dan Gilbert: The writer’s perspective

    Luke Menand: The writer’s perspective

    Panelists
    Daniel Gilbert
    Daniel Gilbert is Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. His research investigates how and how well people can think about the future. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Stumbling on Happiness, which won the Royal Society’s prize for best general science book of the year. He is also the co-writer and host of the award-winning PBS television series, This Emotional Life.

    Louis 'Luke' Menand
    Louis Menand, is Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English at Harvard. He works on 19th and 20th century cultural history. He is the author of The Metaphysical Club, a New York Times bestseller, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in History. He has written for The New Yorker for more than twenty years. He is the author most recently of The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University.

    Betsy Lerner
    Betsy Lerner is a partner with the literary agency Dunow, Carlson and Lerner. Previously, she worked as an editor for 16 years at major trade publishers including Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin and finally as Executive Editor at Doubleday. She mostly works with non-fiction writers in the areas of science, psychology, history, cultural studies, biography, current events, memoir. Some of her clients include National Book Award Winner Patti Smith, National Book Award Nominee Andrew Krivak, world-renowned Animal Scientist Temple Grandin, and astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson. She is the author of Food & Loathing and The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers. Her blog on publishing can be found at www.betsylerner.com

    Angela von der Lippe
    Angela von der Lippe is a Vice President and senior editor at W.W. Norton where she edits an occasional literary novel and book of poems, but principally edits non-fiction, often on science and behavior. Her authors over the years have included Jerome Bruner, Carol Gilligan, Jerry Kagan, Alan Lightman, Elisabeth Young Bruehl, Brian Greene, Eric Kandel, Niel de Grasse Tyson, Peter Galison, Sam Harris, and Terry Deacon, and at this very moment she’s working with Elaine Scarry and Frans de Waal. She has a doctorate in German literature from Brown University, has published a novel The Truth About Lou based on the life of Lou Salome, muse to Nietzsche, Rilke and Freud, and is the editor and translator of You Alone Are Real to Me: Remembering Rainer Maria Rilke by Lou Andreas-Salomé. She is currently working on a fictional parable drawing on the life of Darwin. She lives in New York City.