University of Iowa

Who You Looking At? Bringing Your Profile Subject to Life

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

The profile, one of the foundations of narrative journalism, is a portrait painted in words. A profile writer serves as the eyes and ears of the reader, enabling the reader to experience the subject as palpably as one can without meeting in person. In this seminar/workshop, we’ll explore the interviewing and the writing aspects of the profile process: getting your subject to talk; being both prepared and open to surprise; trying on different perspectives (degrees of first person, fly-on-the-wall); prioritizing information; and using quotes to convey your subject vividly and precisely, bringing him or her to life on the page.


On Saturday, we’ll investigate the nuts and bolts of the form and what makes profiles like Lillian Ross’s “Portrait of Hemingway” and Gay Talese’s “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” successful; then we’ll split up and interview one another. Overnight, you’ll write a short profile of your colleague. On Sunday, we’ll share these profiles and workshop them on the spot.


Nothing to submit in advance, as we’ll generate new work during our time together. Inquisitive wordsmiths at all levels are welcome.