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How to Write an Interesting Life
andrew slade 12 former editorial associate
October 14, 2010

William Zinsser ’40, a writer, editor, and teacher in New York City, is this year’s Heritage Award winner.

Mr. Zinsser spoke at the Oc­tober 5 school meeting primarily about his life and the changes that he encountered.

“Writing is a process and liv­ing is a process,” he told the school. He believes that too of­ten in our society we have the feeling that one draft of some­thing is enough. In writing and life, this is not the case.

He also repeated the idea that he has treated writing as a craft just like any other job. He thinks the key to writing well is to take on the challenge with enjoyment and some personality.

Mr. Zinsser told his audience to “look for what it is in you that makes you want to write about this.” Writers do something use­ful every day by making sense of the world.

After graduating from Deer­field, Mr. Zinsser went to Prince­ton. His time there was cut short when he was stationed overseas in World War II. When he re­turned, he started his childhood dream as a journalist for the New York Herald Tribune.

Aside from journalistic writ­ing, Mr. Zinsser has written eigh­teen books, including his most famous one, On Writing Well, in which he shares what he per­sonally has learned on writing throughout his life.

His other books range from memoirs (Writing Places; Writing About Your Life) to jazz (Mitchell and Ruff) to baseball (Spring Train­ing) to the craft of writing (Writ­ing to Learn).

In the 1970s, Mr. Zinsser was the master of Branford Col­lege at Yale University where he taught an influential nonfiction workshop.

Today, he continues to teach in New York at The New School and the Colombia Graduate School of Journalism.

The Heritage Award was created in 1984 by the Execu­tive Committee of the Deer­field Academy Alumni Associa­tion and is given to an alumnus whose professional and personal achievements represent a special contribution to the betterment of society.

A committee of faculty and students look over the nomina­tions and vote for three finalists. The Executive Committee then makes the final decision.

In past years, the award has gone to a Nobel prize-winning physicist, a senator, the head of the National Geographic Society, politicians, the creator of Mup­pet Babies, and a former secre­tary of the Air Force.