Pilates of the pen with ice in your soul: the high risk of diary ...

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Pilates of the pen with ice in your soul: the high risk of diary writing

Keeping a journal reveals much more about the diarist. Trust me, I’ve worked with many of them

Anna Herve

The editing and publishing of diaries is a rather specialised field. They’re not quite straight history, as no detailed references and sources are required (though the pre-publication legal reads can be somewhat hair-raising), and they’re not quite memoir, as they’re in the moment, not looking back with the benefit of hindsight. And there tends to be a lot of dross to weed out.

Early on in my career I had the privilege of working closely with Ion Trewin, the late great publishing aficionado of diaries, who produced diaries by, among others, General Haigh, Harold Nicolson, “Chips” Channon, Duff Cooper, Michael Palin and, most famously, Alan Clark. Through him, I got a front-row seat and learnt how to turn, say, a filing cabinet full of notebooks – covering decades in Michael Palin’s case – into something a reader can enjoy.

A well-placed footnote is a thing of beauty. But what makes for a good diary for publication?..

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