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Meet the Teaching Artist: The Secret Formula to Writing Nonfiction Stories that Sell with Jon Small

by Writing Workshops Staff

A month ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: The Secret Formula to Writing Nonfiction Stories that Sell with Jon Small

by Writing Workshops Staff

A month ago

Meet Jon Small, an expert in nonfiction storytelling, whose career spans top publishing outlets like The New York Times, Hearst, and Condé Nast. In his latest seminar, The Secret Formula to Writing Nonfiction Stories that Sell, Jon shares practical and hard-won insights from years working in the industry. In this 3-hour class, he breaks down the essentials of crafting engaging narratives that catch the eye of editors and readers alike.

Jon will cover everything from generating story ideas to conducting effective research and crafting compelling pitches. Participants will gain practical skills in structuring articles, conducting interviews, and optimizing their work for online platforms.

If you're eager to turn your passion for storytelling into a successful writing career, Jon's seminar offers the guidance and tools you need to succeed in the competitive world of nonfiction writing.

Hi, Jon. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

I've been in the writing and editing game for the past 20 years, working for media companies such as The New York Times, Entrepreneur Media, Condé Nast, and the Game Show Network. My podcast, Write About Now, takes a thoroughly human, often humorous, glimpse into the lives and stories of successful writers—how they got there, what they've learned, and what you need to succeed.

What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?

I love teaching. If any Universities or colleges are reading this, please hire me. I believe my passion for teaching stems from the fact that I've been fortunate to have had wonderful teachers and mentors throughout my life.

One of the things that has always intrigued me about the process of writing and selling non-fiction stories is the art behind it. I've made many mistakes and faced countless hurdles to get where I am today, but I've failed and succeeded enough times to be confident in the technique I've developed.

I wish someone had shown me all of this earlier in my career—it would have saved me a great deal of time and effort.

Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?

I will take you through every step of getting a non fiction story written and published, from the seed of an idea to watching your work blossom in print or online.

I've learned a few things about crafting compelling stories that engage readers. Now, I'm excited to share my secrets with you in a jam-packed 3-hour brain dump session!

In the masterclass, you'll learn:

✍ How to brainstorm killer ideas
✍ The most effective ways to pitch your stories
✍ Researching and interviewing tricks nobody ever talks about
✍ The 4-step formula to writing compelling stories
✍ The art of the rewrite
✍ How to be a writer that editors will want to work with again and again

What was your first literary crush?

The first time I became interested in what words can do and how they could make you feel was when I heard Rapper's Delight at a school dance.

What are you currently reading?

Two books: Centennial by James Michener (I'm a sucker for historical fiction) and Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat.

How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?

When you look forward to waking up and working on it.

Where do you find inspiration?

You'll learn a lot about this in my class, so I don't want to give away any spoliers. But let me just say the best advice I ever got was to "notice what you're noticing."

What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?

You know you're a good writer when your editors and peers stop praising you. To me, this means you have arrived at a level where your excellence is expected and doesn't have to be acknowledged. An editor said that to me very early in my career, and it made me less anxious about seeking external reinforcement and praise. My work speaks for itself.

What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?

Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott. It's a love song to the craft of writing. Sometimes when I doubt what I'm doing for a living, I return to this book and it cheers me up.  

Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?

To quote Rapper's Delight: "I'm six-foot-one and I'm tons of fun."

Learn more about working with Jon:

Sign up for his seminar, The Secret Formula to Writing Nonfiction Stories that Sell, and avoid the waitlist!


Jonathan Small is an award-winning author, journalist, producer, and podcast host. He has worked as a multimedia storyteller for such top media companies as The New York Times, Hearst, and Condé Nast and has held executive roles at Glamour, Stuff, and Entrepreneur and regularly contributes to The New York Times, TV Guide, Cosmo, Details, Maxim, and Good Housekeeping. He is the former “Jake” advice columnist for Glamour magazine and the “Guy Guru” at Cosmo. He has taught journalism courses at NYU. Jonathan’s upcoming book, Write About Now: 30 Authors on Origin Stories, Creative Inspiration, and the Birth of their Bestsellers is based on the popular podcast of the same name. He has also edited two bestsellers: Emotional Intelligence and The Science of Success

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