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Neil Sheehan

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist

I then began to realize I want to write a book about this. I don't want to just end this with another magazine article or another newspaper story, but I couldn't figure out how to write the book. I didn't want to write a reporter's memoir, because it's my belief that reporters themselves are not that important, not important enough to merit a book about them and their adventures. Their importance lies in what they witness and how they convey what they witnessed to the public as a whole, because a reporter is a professional witness and not a participant. He's a witness, or she's a witness.
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Neil Sheehan

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist

When I went to the funeral, it was an extraordinary experience to walk into that chapel at Arlington, that red brick chapel right outside the gate to the cemetery at Fort Myer. It was like a class reunion. They buried him as a general officer, with the horse and the caisson and all the trappings. The chief pallbearer was William Westmoreland, who had been the commander-in-chief in Vietnam, and William Colby, who had been the CIA head at one point, was another pallbearer, and here are all these others. Edward Lansdale, who put the Diem regime in power in the 1950s for the Eisenhower regime. He was there. Richard Holbrooke, who had been a young foreign service officer in Vietnam and went on to become the youngest Assistant Secretary of State for the Far East. All these faces. I'm saying, "Hi." It was extraordinary. I realized that only this man, Vann, could bring all these people together, because he was such a unique figure. So I decided if I write a book, a biography of John, I can reach out to the larger history of the war and to whom the Vietnamese are, et cetera, and I can bring them into the story, and that's what set me off writing the book.
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Alan Shepard

First American in Space

I think my interest in aviation goes back to grade school, nine, ten, early teens. When Lindbergh made his flight. He was the big hero. I started building model airplanes. Later, in the early teens, I used to ride my bike every Saturday morning to the nearest airport, ten miles away, push airplanes in and out of the hangars, and clean up the hangars. Get a free ride once and a while. Get to hold the stick once in a while. And that's when my interest in aviation really started.
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Alan Shepard

First American in Space

Seeing the earth, even though it is four times as large as the moon, but still it looks fragile. Still, it looks small. You think it's pretty big when you're back there among your friends and it's 25,000 miles around, and so on. But from that distance you realize it is, in fact, fragile. It is, in fact, a small part only of our solar system, much less the rest of the universe.
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Carol Shields

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

I wanted to write a novel because I loved to read novels, and I wasn't finding in the '70s the kind of novels that had anything to do with my life or the sort of women that I knew. So I wanted to write the book that I couldn't find, as it were. So I sat down, when the kids were at school -- I was a stay-at-home mother, and I wrote while they were at school -- and put this novel together over a period of nine months. I always thought that was a sort of interesting length of time. Because at the end of nine months I had a novel. It was a short novel, and it seems to me today, when I look at that novel, a little bit on the spare side. But it was published. It was accepted on my 40th birthday, which made that birthday a much happier one than it might have been, and it won a prize in Canada, and I was sort of on my way. After that, I thought, well, this is something I love to do and maybe it's something I can do. So that's how my writing life evolved.
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Carol Shields

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Carol Shields: Of course we all draw on our own experiences when we write. There's nowhere else to draw from. But I think that for many of us we do not draw directly. This is the thing that's always hard to explain to people who do not write fiction, that it is not simply an account of life as we have seen it. It's an arm and leg of our experience perhaps, but then there is this whole other part of the recipe which is imaginative, the imagination, and that's the piece that's hard to explain. How do you get to that part? And you get to it -- I mean, a simple example, of course, is setting up one's own experience and then saying, "Well, what if " that important "what if." What if something else intervenes? And that's where somehow you can get to a place which is quite fully imagined, rather than experienced.
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Carol Shields

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Carol Shields: I develop as I go. I have a structure in mind, though. I always see the structure before I know what's going to be in the structure, and it's a very physical image that I can call up, just the way you would call up an image on your screen. For example, I'll just give you a simple example. It was this first novel I wrote, which is called Small Ceremonies. I couldn't imagine how you wrote a novel, how you kept track of all of these little pieces of it, and I thought, "I need some kind of a structure." So I took the academic year. The novel has nine chapters, and they are called "September, October, November," et cetera, very easy structure. And in my mind, those chapters looked like the cars of a freight train, and I just lined them up, nine of them, and I knew I would have to fill those freight cars, and that was the image, and it helped me keep things together a little bit. It was just for my own ease, I guess. But for each novel I've had rather a different structure, but it's been important for me to have that. But I don't know where it's going. I don't fully know the character of my main character when I start out. So that character opens for me exactly as it opens for the reader, piece by piece, layer by layer.
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Carol Shields

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

I felt inordinately brave at that time in my life; I have no idea why. But I guess I felt I could set my own limits. People are always talking about "the novel is dead," and I think what they're really saying is the old novel form, as we once knew it, is dead, and we have to make these new forms or we have to usurp those older forms. And Swann is a kind of usurping of the detective novel, sort of bringing a torque to those old forms that we grew up with, the way we used to diagram it on the blackboard, that line of ascending action and then you would have the climax, and the denouement. There was one day when I was drawing that diagram on the blackboard, and it looked to me like nothing more than a bad coat hanger, and it was no more use to me anymore. And I abandoned that as a structure for the novels that I wanted to write.
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