Biography

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Thomas Larson: Short & Long Biography Print E-mail

Ars Poetica:

Note to a student: The idea or goal for a memoirist is to find a subject whose grief, loss, trouble, fascination, joy, enchantment or whatever it is that haunts me I can occupy with writing. Many things that I write about become interesting to me not because I have "lived" that interest but because I trust that the writing itself is the place in which I can live and develop my interest. It's not just about what happened in the past, it's also about how that past keeps happening in and demanding answers from the present.

As an author/narrator, I'm really like an actor taking on a new role. I bring myself to the role and occupy its difference from me with my body, that is, my mind, emotion, fingers on keys, everyday a live performance creating a new me looking at both old and new me's. Somewhere Montaigne says this: the thing that fascinates me the most is what I think about something I haven't thought through yet. Thus, the writing becomes the thinking through. Sounds egotistical but that's the point of memoir and personal essay and where every day my writing practice begins.

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 long-time staff writer for the San Diego Reader, Book Reviews Editor for River Teeth, and a regular contributor to The Truth Seeker, America's oldest free-thought magazine. An active member of AWP and Nonfiction Now, he teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Nonfiction at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio. 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 Thomas Larson's publications in 2015/2016 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 2015 issue.

When invited, he runs workshops on memoir and lectures 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.

Larson 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, he 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.

Beginning June 2014, Larson became the Book Reviews Editor for River Teeth Journal online. The first of each month the site features a review of a new, typically small-press nonfiction book, often memoir and essay collections, and often by faculty and graduates of the MFA program. There is a new occasional feature, "Neglected Nonfiction Classics."

Since 1999, Larson has been a staff writer for the weekly San Diego Reader where he has specialized in narrative nonfiction features between 2500 and 15,000 words. For the Reader Larson has written more than fifty-four cover stories and many inside features. In 2016, he completed several stories about San Diego innovative artists in music, infographics, performance art, and fine art.

Among his Reader pieces 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.

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 Literary Center in Minneapolis, MN; the Ink Spot in San Diego, CA; 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; the Writers' Center in Indianapolis, IN; the Hudson Valley Writers' Center, in Sleepy Hollow, NY; and as a visiting writer at the Red Earth MFA Program in Oklahoma City, OK.

Larson's eBooks at Amazon.com 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.

Larson has been a book reviewer for a variety of publications, including American Book Review, Essay 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, as 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, two/three 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).

Journalist, critic, and memoirist, Thomas Larson is the author of three books: The Sanctuary of Illness: A Memoir of Heart Disease, The Saddest Music Ever Written: The Story of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” and The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative. He is a longtime staff writer for the San Diego Reader, Book Reviews editor for River Teeth, and a regular contributor to The Truth Seeker, America’s oldest free-thought magazine. An active member in AWP and Nonfiction Now, Larson teaches in the MFA Program at Ashland University, Ashland, Ohio.