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Arthur Plotnik

Agent: New England Publishing Associates
Chicago, Illinois, United States

A writer on varied topics, but mostly on writing, I have what they call a "distinguished" background in editing and publishing. Two of my books have been featured selections of the Book of the Month Club: The Elements of Editing (Macmillan/Longman), a standard reference through more than twenty printings, and The Elements of Expression: Putting Thoughts into Words (Henry Holt / toExcel).

My new book is Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style (Random House Reference, November 2005). Critics and readers (Booklist, The Writer, Billy collins, Richard Lederer, Andrea Sutcliffe) are saying what I'd hoped they'd be saying: That the book is its own example of the fetching, radiant language it fosters.

As a publishing exec,I headed the American Library Associationís book imprint and edited ALAís flagship magazine, American Libraries.

I've written scores of magazine articles and columns, six nonfiction books, and numerous (pseudonymous) paperback novels. My book, The Elements of Authorship (formerly, Honk If You're a Writer) is partly autobiographical and, according to readers, pretty funny.

I write a bimonthly column on expressive language for The Writer magazine.

A native of White Plains, N.Y., I studied under Philip Roth and Vance Bourjaily in the Iowa Writers Workshop and served as a staff writer on the Albany (N.Y.) Times-Union. I wrote fiction for the Scott-Meredith Literary Agency while completing work on the second of two master's degrees (English, library service). In Washington I served the Librarian of Congress as press and public relations assistant and newsletter editor. I was later an editor in New York and have lived in Chicago since 1975.

On July 4 of the Constitution's 200th birthday year (1987), the National Archives published my book, The Man Behind the Quill, a biography of the Constitution's calligrapher. Highlighted in Time magazine and praised as a "small miracle of research," the book won a Blue Ribbon government publishing award.

I taught a couple of semesters in the journalism department at Columbia College in Chicago. Special honors include service as a charter board member, American Book Awards, and first place in the Verbatim national competition for essays on the English language.

In spite of all that, I live with the usual writer's doubts, fears, and manic-depressive swings, which perhaps helps me advise other writers.

Interests: Expressiveness in writing;Forceful, stimulating language; Engaging style; Language that competes in today's markets

Published writer: Yes

Freelance: No


Published works:


  • The Urban Tree Book
  • Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style
  • The Elements of Expression
  • The Elements of Authorship
  • The Elements of Editing