Susan Orlean

Five Things I've Learned About

Finding the Perfect Story

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Join award-winning author Susan Orlean, and discover the Five Things She’s Learned about the ways that writers and readers can look at the world – and at stories – in new and inspiring ways.

Online Event Details

  • 120 minutes


  • Single ticket price - $60.00

Join me in this live, two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about the ways that writers and readers can look at the world – and at stories – in new and inspiring ways.

Hello! I’m Susan Orlean. I’m a journalist and author, and a practitioner of what is often called “creative nonfiction”—that is, I write about real life but with voice and narrative intention and – I hope – having the immersive and emotional effect on the reader that we often associate with fiction.

I’ve written nine books, including The Library Book, The Orchid Thief, and On Animals. I’ve also been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992, where I’ve written about umbrella inventors, backyard chickens, baby beauty pageants, African kings, and show dogs, among other subjects.

I’d like to invite you to my class, Five Things I’ve Learned about Finding the Perfect Story.

Occasionally, I’m given an assignment, but most of the time, I come up with my own ideas for stories and books. Finding those ideas and figuring out whether they’ll work is one of the most important parts of my job. In addition, I need to be good at persuading editors to take a chance on unusual topics. I happen to think finding good story ideas is one of the most valuable abilities you can develop if you hope to succeed as a writer. Your story ideas are your ammunition, your ingredients, your toolkit. It’s great to be an elegant wordsmith or a dogged reporter, but what will ultimately set you apart and let you determine your path as a writer will be your ability to come up with fresh, interesting story ideas that work. This ability is something you can cultivate and improve upon throughout your career, and you’ll rely on it constantly.

In this class, we’ll talk about principles of what constitutes a story idea, and how to have original ways of considering both new and familiar topics. We’ll discuss practical ways to recharge when you feel like you’ve run out of ideas. I’ll share with you how I’ve landed on some of the unexpected subjects I’ve written about and how you can start thinking differently about what constitutes a good idea.

The class will help writers of all kinds equip themselves with what I think is one of the most important tools they can possess. For readers, it will be a glimpse behind the curtain to see how writers land on subjects. For everyone, whether they write or not, this class will be a chance to learn how to flex your curiosity muscles and look at the world a little differently than you did before.

I very much hope you’ll join me.

– Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean

Susan Orlean is the author of nine books, including The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup; My Kind of Place; Saturday Night; and On Animals. In 1999, she published The Orchid Thief, a narrative about orchid poachers in Florida, whichwas made into the Academy Award-winning film "Adaptation” starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep. Her book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend won the Ohioana Book Award and the Richard Wall Memorial Award. In 2018, she published The Library Book, about the arson fire at the Los Angeles Public Library. It won the California Book Award and the Marfield Prize and was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal. It is being adapted for television.

Susan has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992, and has also contributed to Vogue, Rolling Stone, Outside, and Esquire. She has written about taxidermy, umbrellas, origami, chickens, and a wide range of other subjects. She wrote for the second season of HBO’s How To With John Wilson and was nominated for an Emmy for the episode “How to Appreciate Wine.” She was a 2003 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow. She lives with her husband and son in Los Angeles.

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