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Chance Particulars

A Writer's Field Notebook for Travelers, Bloggers, Essayists, Memoirists, Novelists, Journalists, Adventurers, Naturalists, Sketchers, and Other Note-Takers and Recorders of Life

Sara Mansfield Taber
Illustrated by Maud Taber-Thomas

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An essential guide for writers on how to record and use rich detail to enliven their work.

The goal of the writer is to live with the keenness of the foreigner. To experience, wide-eyed, the sensations aroused and the events offered up by peculiar surrounds and then to evoke them so brightly on the page that the reader, too, experiences the foreigner’s frisson. A time-honored way this is accomplished is through the keeping of a field notebook—through the faithful recording of the this-and-that of life; the atmospheres and incidents; the bells, the beer, the bread.

Based on what accomplished...

An essential guide for writers on how to record and use rich detail to enliven their work.

The goal of the writer is to live with the keenness of the foreigner. To experience, wide-eyed, the sensations aroused and the events offered up by peculiar surrounds and then to evoke them so brightly on the page that the reader, too, experiences the foreigner’s frisson. A time-honored way this is accomplished is through the keeping of a field notebook—through the faithful recording of the this-and-that of life; the atmospheres and incidents; the bells, the beer, the bread.

Based on what accomplished nonfiction writer Sara Mansfield Taber learned in her many years of field notebook keeping, Chance Particulars is a unique and handy primer for writers who want to use their experiences to tell a lively, satisfying story. Often, writers try to turn their notes into a memoir, essay, travel piece, or story, only to find that they haven’t recorded enough of the concrete, sensory details necessary to create evocative description. To help writers overcome this problem, Taber has composed a true "field notebook for field notebook keepers." Enhanced by beautiful illustrations, this charming and comprehensive guide is a practical manual for anyone who wishes to learn or hone the crafts of writing, ethnography, or journalism.

Writers of all levels, genres, and ages, as well as teachers of writing, will appreciate this useful tool for learning how to record the details that build vibrant prose. With this book in hand, you will be able to recreate times and places, conjure up intricate character portraits, and paint pictures of particular landscapes, cultures, and locales.

Reviews

Reviews

The book also looks at the art of good journaling and how one can mine its information to enrich all other kinds of writing.

What is especially lovely about this book, aside from its accessibility and art work, is the range of texts that are used. There are classic works of literature, travel writing, memoir; the advice provided is always exemplified.

Encouraging and intelligent, Taber instructs writers on how using a field notebook can lead to more useful, comprehensive, precise, and vivid notes that will result in fully realized scenes, characters, and settings.

Chance Particulars is the literary equivalent of a pair of binoculars. It's a guide to paying attention to the concrete, sensory details of experience and the process of getting them down on the page.

Sara Mansfield Taber's Chance Particulars is at once a delicious read and the distilled wisdom of a long-time teacher and virtuoso of the literary memoir. Her powerful lessons will give you rare and vital skills: to be able to read the world around you, and to read other writers, as a writer, that is, with your beadiest conjurer's eye and mammoth heart. This is a book to savor, to engage with, and to reread, again and again.

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Book Details

Table of Contents

Introduction
1. Elements of Fine Writing
2. Purpose of the Notebook
Goal, Quest, Story
3. Chance Particulars
Use of the Senses
Specificity, Precision, and Concrete Detail
4. Place
Landscape and Nature
Towns

Introduction
1. Elements of Fine Writing
2. Purpose of the Notebook
Goal, Quest, Story
3. Chance Particulars
Use of the Senses
Specificity, Precision, and Concrete Detail
4. Place
Landscape and Nature
Towns, Streets, and Buildings
5. People
Portraits and Interviews
Encounters, Observations, and Activities
6. Facts, History, and Culture
Basic Facts, History, and Cultural Observations
7. Technical and Other Pertinent Information
Informational Notes
8. Chronicle
Record of Daily Activities and Travels
9. Personal Responses
Feelings and Contemplations
10. Commonplace Notes
Quotations and Thoughts from Experts, Scholars, and Literary Forebears-and Other Miscellanea
11. Associations and Figurative Language
Metaphor and Simile
12. Reflections
Thoughts and Musings
13. Writing Notes
Acknowledgments

Author Bios
Featured Contributor

Sara Mansfield Taber

Sara Mansfield Taber is the author of Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy’s Daughter, Dusk on the Campo: A Journey in Patagonia, Bread of Three Rivers: The Story of a French Loaf, and Of Many Lands: Journal of a Traveling Childhood. She has taught writing at Johns Hopkins University, the Bethesda Writer’s Center, and the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Featured Contributor

Maud Taber-Thomas

Maud Taber-Thomas is a classically trained, Washington, DC–based artist who specializes in oil paintings and charcoal drawings. Her portraits, interiors, and landscapes may be viewed at maudtaber-thomas.com.