An Art of Doing Photo Album: “I’m A Superachiever”

 

From "The Art of Doing" Photo Album, "I'm a Superachiever."

From “The Art of Doing” Photo Album, “I’m a Superachiever.”

Look what happens when everyone from NPR’s Peter Sagal to Austin’s own Toni Price wears their superachiever skills on their sleeve, or heart, or hand, or….

 

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Fifty Shades of Green, or
How I Got Over Andrew Solomon Envy

If E.L. James had based the life of her protagonist Christian Grey on a literary star instead of making him a financial master of the universe, she could have modeled his career on that of award-winning author Andrew Solomon. (Not that Mr. Solomon has ever indicated a penchant for whips and chains!) The glamorous, heady life of the fictional Mr. Grey bears some resemblance to the glamorous, heady life of the very real author Mr. Solomon whose superbook (“Far From the Tree”) sold by superagent (Andrew Wylie) to supereditor (Nan Graham) now has the supermedia giddily throwing open their doors (and pages and broadcasts and bandwith) to give Mr. Solomon and his tome a hero’s welcome. Continue reading

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South by South West Interactive in Austin, TX is one of the most creative conferences going. Our proposed talk, “The Secrets of Superachievers,” is based on our book, “The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well” (Plume, Jan 2013). In the talk, we’ll feature discoveries we made interviewing dozens of extraordinary people including celebrities, businessmen, artists and iconoclastic achievers. We’ll discuss how anyone can learn to incorporate these strategies, principles and tips into his or her own work and personal life. PLEASE VOTE NOW to SEND US to SXSW. All you have to do is go here, register your email, and CAST YOUR VOTE for “The Secrets of Superachievers.” Many thanks in advance, amigos!

How we took the photo.

 

Who’s Who in the Art of Doing

English author, Lady Constance Howard, writes in her 1885 book on etiquette about what makes a successful dinner party:

“Your guests should be remarkable for something—either beauty, wit, talent, money. You should be certain of such a flow of bright conversation that no one can be bored or feel in any way neglected.”

Although a bit dated, Lady Constance’s advice summed up our own philosophy about who we’d invite to participate in our book—a fantasy dinner party. We wanted brilliant, accomplished people at the top of their field, and of course a mix that would include people in business and art, media and sports, the young and old, the highbrow and low and the revered as well as some rogues.

Click to enlarge

Take a look at our table of contents—the world’s most famous dog whisperer, Cesar Millan is sandwiched between an opera diva and the winningest game show champ in history. A vintner is next to a civil rights lawyer who is next to an extraterrestrial hunter. Alec Baldwin has tennis champion Martina Navratilova on one side and cultural gadfly Simon Doonan on the other. And after all what’s a dinner party without a big game hunter, a rock band, a hostage negotiator, a bestselling author and Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor of the New York Times?

The Making of an Author’s Photo, Part 1

St. Matthew, 9th Cent.

One of the earliest examples of the author’s image is the Evangelist portrait. These portraits were glorious full page illuminations of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that appeared in the frontispiece of Medieval Bibles.

Since then, the author’s image has been reduced from a full-page color illustration in the front of the book to a small black and white photo exiled to the back. But the purpose remains the same—to allow the reader to picture the person who wrote the words on the page.

In the Evangelists’ case, it was to confer saintly grandeur. For modern-day authors, as novelist Richard Ford (pictured to the right in a photo by Marion Ettlinger) once described it, the function of the author’s photo is as:

 “A porthole window on the back of a paperback, which the author peers through and says, ‘Hi.’”

But what about when your editor tells you that she needs an author’s photo of you? How will you say, “Hi”?

First of all, you want to appear intelligent. With some gravitas. You want to seem attractive and interesting. But not pretentious or as if you are trying too hard. You want to be taken seriously, but you don’t want to come across as dull.

There are many pitfalls, such as some of these hilarious examples of awful authors’ photos. Of course, the fantasy is to have the photo on the book jacket look more or less like one of the iconic images of authors pictured below.

Top Row: James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Emily Dickinson. Bottom Row: Alan Ginsburg, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde

Go here to read Part 2 about our process