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Thomas Larson: Author, Journalist, Lecturer, Workshop Leader Print E-mail

Short Bio:

Journalist, critic, and memoirist, Thomas Larson is the author of three books: The Sanctuary of Illness, The Saddest Music Ever Written and The Memoir and the Memoirist. He is a staff writer for the San Diego Reader, and he teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Nonfiction at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio. He is the Book Review editor for River Teeth. Larson is available to speak about his book on heart disease, to hold workshops on "Writing the Memoir," to edit nonfiction manuscripts, and to lecture on American music and nonfiction narrative.

Long Bio:

Among Larson's publications in 2015 are a series of pieces about religion, the Bible, atheism, secularism, and the spiritual memoir. Pieces have appeared in The Truth SeekerThe Humanist, Forth Magazine, Leigh Valley Vanguard, Indiana Voice Journal, Guernica, New English Review, Counterpunch, NPR's "On the Media," and Free Inquiry where his cover story, "Hobby Lobby, Steve Green & the New Bible Empire," is in the April/May issue.

Larson continues to run workshops on memoir and lecture on the music of Samuel Barber, the craft of nonfiction, the musicians of the Titanic, the “social author” in the digital age, and his heart disease, having appeared in major bookstores, libraries, colleges, and writing centers throughout America.

He is the author of The Sanctuary of Illness: A Memoir of Heart Disease (2014) Hudson Whitman / Excelsior College Press. In 2014, he authored an eight-part blog at Psychology Today, "Mysteries of the Heart."

His six-part series, “The Social Author,” is at Guernica. The essays focus on how 21st-century technology is transforming the writer into an author—that is, the private persona of the print-based writer is being overtaken by the public persona of the multimedia author.

His The Saddest Music Ever Written: The Story of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” from Pegasus Books, is a hybrid narrative and explores Barber’s Adagio, the Pietá of music, and its enigmatic composer. In its fall 2010 issue, The Missouri Review published the first and second chapters of Saddest Music. In 2011, this piece was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Larson is also the author of The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative, Swallow Press / Ohio University Press, 2007. In its fourth printing, this book is the first of its kind to evaluate the dramatic rise of the memoir in the last twenty years and to explore the craft and purpose of contemporary memoir writing. The Memoir and the Memoirist has been praised in the San Diego Union-Tribune, ForeWord Magazine, The Writer, Ploughshares, and The Bloomsbury Review.

Since 2010, Larson has taught, given readings and craft lectures, talked on publishing in the digital age, and worked with thesis and post-thesis graduate students in Ashland University's low-residency MFA Program in Creative Nonfiction, where he is a faculty member.

Recent work includes essays, reviews, and journalism in SolsticeBright Lights Film Journal, Everyday Health, Brevity, Shenandoah, Los Angeles Review of Books, Oxford American, TriQuarterlyCatamarran Literary Reader, American Book Review, and Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine.

His essay, "Disenthralled: An End to My Heart Disease," appeared in River Teeth, April 2012.

Larson has led workshops and classes in memoir writing at The Loft in Minneapolis, the Ink Spot in San Diego, the Writer's Workshoppe in Port Townsend, WA, the Lancaster Literary Guild, Lancaster, PA, Ghost Ranch in Santa Fe and Abiquiu, NM, the Writers' Center in Bethesda, MD, and the Hudson Valley Writers' Center, in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and as a visiting writer at the Red Earth MFA Program in Oklahoma City, OK. He teaches a online class each year with The Loft Literary Center.

Larson's eBooks at include a primer on narrative style, writers’ openings, and structuring emotion in memoir, What Exactly Happened: Four Essays on the Craft of Memoir; a long tribute, On the Poetry of James Wright; a takedown of celebrity autobiography, Awash in Celebrity Authors; and a personal essay, We Are Their Heaven.

In his two-plus decades as a professional writer, Larson has published a new prose piece, on average, every five weeks. He has written about a range of topics, including David Shields, celebrity authors, American poetry, murders and suicides, economics, Charles Ives, San Diego politics, the memoir form, human trafficking, wild boars, classical music and jazz, his marriage & divorce, reading on screens, photography, faked memoirs, the last days of Nathanael West, life after sports, Georgia O'Keeffe, Mozart, U.S.-Mexico border issues, the memoirs of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and Anne Frank.

Since 1999, Larson has been a staff writer for the weekly San Diego Reader where he has specialized in narrative nonfiction features between 4000 and 15,000 words. For the Reader Larson has written more than fifty-five cover stories.

Among them are several true-crime murder stories and a feature on a Salvadoran immigrant who died from neglect at a San Diego federal detention center; a profile of conservative political writer, Dinesh D’Souza; the end-of-life tale of Mark Twain’s daughter, Clara Clemens; the story of Marilyn Monroe and Some Like It Hot, filmed at the Hotel Del Coronado; an article on pit bulls, sympathetic to their point-of-view; an exposé of a Mexican girl sold into sexual slavery in San Diego county; a profile of socialist author Mike Davis; articles on the molecular origin of life, the personal motivation industry, and San Diego’s 2007 subprime mortgage meltdown; and a profile of the renowned psychologist Ken Druck, whose Jenna Druck Foundation offers support for parents who have lost their children.

Larson has been a book reviewer for a variety of publications, including American Book Review, River TeethEssay Daily, Contrary Magazine, The Rumpus, and Los Angeles Review of Books.

In 2008, Larson’s memoir, “Mrs. Wright’s Bookshop,” tied for the Readers Award for the Essay, 2007 - 2008. The author’s memoir writing includes “Freshman Comp, 1967,” from the Anchor Essay Annual: The Best of 1997, edited by Phillip Lopate, Doubleday.

From 1980 to 1982, Larson, while the music critic for the Santa Fe New Mexican, wrote some 125 articles and reviews on opera, classical music, and jazz.

In the past 35 years, Larson's published writing is (yes, he's counting) at three-quarters of a million words.

He is the father of two sons, Jeremy and Blake. He and his partner, Suzanna Neal, reside in San Diego and, three/four months a year, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Finally, Larson was born in Neenah, WI, grew up in Middletown, OH, moved to Wausau, WI, and to St. Louis, MO, where he graduated high school. He has an undergraduate degree in music composition from the University of New Mexico (1982) and a master's degree in American literature from the University of California, San Diego (1986).