Monday, April 23, 2018


Sara Mansfield Taber,
author of Chance Particulars
Starting this year, every fourth Monday I run a Q & A with a fellow writer. This fourth Monday features Sara Mansfield Taber

Creative nonfiction, literary journalism, literary travel memoir, ye olde travel writing-- by whatever name you call this genre, Sara Mansfield Taber is a master. Among her works are: Born Under an Assumed Name: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy's DaughterBread of Three Rivers: The Story of a French Loaf; and Dusk on the Campo: A Journey in Patagonia.  


Without exception Taber's works are superb, wondrous, must-reads for anyone who would explore the world from an armchair-- and for anyone who would write their own. There is so much to relish and to learn from Taber's daring, her mastery of the craft, her ability to see the most telling particulars, and the exquisite, sensuous beauty of her prose.

Get it from
The Seminary Co-op
Book Depository
Johns Hopkins University Press
Based just outside Washington DC, Taber is also a long-time writing teacher, currently leading workshops both privately and at the Writer's Center (Bethesda MD) and elsewhere. And now, for both her workshop students and for those at a distance, who cannot take her workshop, just out from Johns Hopkins University Press, and with lovely illustrations by Maud Taber-Thomas, we have Sara Mansfield Taber's Chance Particulars: A Writer's Field Notebook.

I was honored to have been asked to contribute a blurb:

"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." - C.M. Mayo

The following Q & A is reprinted from her publisher's website.

Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

TABER: So that writers of any stripefrom travelers, to bloggers, to journal-keepers, to memoirists, essayists, and journalistswill know just what to note down so as to paint rich and vivid pictures of people and places, and create a lively record of their experiences in and responses to the world.

Q: What were some of the most surprising things you learned while writing/researching the book?

TABER: The writing of the book allowed me to put on all my hatsliterary journalist, anthropologist, memoirist, essayist, journal-keeper, and travelerand draw together in one place all that I have learned, from those various fields, about keeping a lively field notebook. Writing the book let me re-live the pleasure of field-notebook keeping and also offer the prodigious pleasure of the habit to others. It is a way to get to live your life twice.

Q: What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?

TABER: A sense of exhilarationto stride out into the world, to experience it fully and observe it closely, and then to write about that world with all the richness and color they can muster. 

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> Check out the trailer for Chance Particulars:

> Visit Sara Mansfield Taber's website.

> For an in-depth interview from a few years ago, listen in anytime to the podcast (or read the transcript), Conversations with Other Writers: Sara Mansfield Taber.

> Your comments are always welcome. Write to me here.