Roy Peter Clark

Roy Peter Clark (born 1948) is an American writer, editor, and teacher of writing who has become a writing coach to an international community of students, journalists, and writers. He is also senior scholar and vice president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a journalism think-tank in St. Petersburg, Florida, and is the founder of the National Writers Workshop. Clark has appeared on several radio and television talk shows, speaking about ethics in journalism and other writing issues.[1]

Roy Peter Clark
Clark at the 2011 Texas Book Festival
Born1948 (age 7071)
EducationProvidence College, B.A. (1970)
State University of New York at Stony Book, PhD
Years active1974–present
Notable credit(s)
Writing Tools
The Glamour of Grammar
Help! For Writers

Life and career

Clark is a native of the Lower East Side of New York City, and was raised on Long Island. His mother was of half-Italian and half-Jewish ancestry (Clark was raised Catholic).[2][3] Clark earned a degree in English (1970) from Providence College, Rhode Island, where he was editor of The Alembic, a literary journal, and managing editor of the student-run newspaper, The Cowl.[4] From there, Clark earned a Ph.D. in English, specializing in medieval literature, from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

In 1974, Clark accepted a position teaching English at Auburn University at Montgomery, Alabama. Newspaper columns he wrote during that time attracted the attention of Eugene Patterson, editor of the St. Petersburg Times. Patterson hired Clark in 1977 as a reporter[5] and to work with the newspaper’s staff as a writing coach.

In 1979, Clark became a faculty member at, and has spent more than thirty years working in various positions with the Poynter Institute, the non-profit organization that now owns Times Publishing Company, which publishes the St. Petersburg Times.[6] Clark is listed as one of the Directors and Officers of The Poynter Institute Andrea Pitzer, writing for the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, has called Clark “one of narrative journalism’s hardest working midwives.”[7]

The publication of his three most recent books, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (Little, Brown and Company, 2006) and The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English (Little, Brown and Company, 2010), and Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces (Little, Brown and Company, 2011) brings Clark’s work into the mainstream audience of readers, writers, and lovers of language.

Clark and his wife, Karen, have three daughters.


Academic Works

Clark, a product of Catholic schools and the Dominican-run Providence College,[8] wrote several articles based on Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, some of which were published in The Chaucer Review and in which he discusses Chaucer's parodying of Church teachings and rituals. His Ph.D. dissertation was titled "Chaucer and Medieval Scatology."[9]


Clark's journalistic writings include works written as a journalist and works written about journalism. As a journalist, Clark revitalized the serial article form when, in 1996, he wrote a 29-part serial narrative piece called Three Little Words which chronicled the story of one family's experience with AIDS.[10] The article generated more than 8,000 phone calls to the newspaper.[11]

Clark writes about journalism through his online articles written for the Poynter Institute. In an updated look at serial reporting, for instance, Clark discussed how tweeting, social media, and other forms of 21st century culture are being used to write mini serial narratives.[12]

Clark has also written and edited a number of books about journalism, some of which are used as textbooks in college journalism courses, including Coaching Writers: Editors and Reporters Working Together (St. Martin's Press,1991, with Don Fry), the second edition of which was titled Coaching Writers: Editors and Reporters Working Together across Media Platforms (Bedford-St. Martin's, 2003, with Don Fry), and Journalism: The Democratic Craft (Oxford University Press, 2005, with G. Stuart Adam).

On Writing

Clark has taught writing to professional journalists, scholastic journalists (generally speaking, the student producers of high school and other student-run newspapers), and elementary school students.

In his book, Free to Write: A Journalist Teaches Young Writers (Heinemann, 1987/1995), and in other writing,[13] Clark advocates putting the responsibility for correcting written work on the student rather than on the teacher.

Clark's more recent books are useful to writers of all genres and of all ages and discuss the power of language as well as how to wield that power.

Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (Little, Brown and Company, 2006) grew out of a series of columns written for Poynter.[14] Clark discusses the 50 tools, including the "clarity and narrative energy" (p. 12) that comes with using right-branching sentences, in podcasts, which, according to Poynter, have been "downloaded more than a million times."[15]

In The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English (Little, Brown and Company, 2010), Clark traces the words 'glamour' and 'grammar' back to their common roots.

Clark also reports on how other writers write, as he did in a 2002 Poynter column about radio script writing, which he wrote after listening to a lecture by NPR reporter John Burnett.[16]

Radio and Television Appearances

Clark has been a guest on several radio and television programs.

Most notably, Clark participated in a discussion on the January 26, 2006, episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, "Journalists Speak Out." Clark, along with then New York Times columnist Frank Rich and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen discussed the veracity of James Frey's memoir, A Million Little Pieces, which had been exposed by The Smoking Gun as being at least partially fictionalized.

Clark appeared on the October 12, 2006, episode of Oprah, "Truth in America;" on the October 15, 2006, episode, "Developing Critical Literacy," Oprah referred to Clark's seven ways to develop a healthy skepticism, which included suggestions about reading political blogs from various perspectives, understanding the difference between "vigorous discussion" and shouting matches, valuing middle ground, experiencing life directly and not indirectly through TV and other media, and which concluded with this distinction between skepticism and cynicism: "Be a skeptic, but not a cynic. A skeptic doubts knowledge. A cynic doubts moral goodness. The cynic says, "All politicians are liars," or "all journalists have a secret bias." The skeptic says, "That doesn't sound right to me. Show me the evidence."[17]

The list above is a shorter version of another list Clark discussed in his post "Skepticism: The Antidote to 'Truthiness' in American Government and Media."[18]

Clark appeared on The Creative Nonfiction Podcast with Brendan O'Meara for two episodes, one abridged (Episode 48—Roy Peter Clark Redux), and one longer (Episode 42—Roy Peter Clark, America’s Writing Coach on Living Inside the Language, Lowering Standards, and the Meaning of Literacy).

Selected bibliography


  • Clark, R. P., and Fry, D. (1991). Coaching Writers: Editors and Reporters Working Together. New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.
  • Adam, G. S., and Clark, R. P. (2005). Journalism: The Democratic Craft. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Clark, R. P., and Fry, D. (2003). Coaching Writers: Editors and Reporters Working Together across Media Platforms (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Bedford-St. Martin's.

Academic Articles

  • Clark, R. P. (1976). Christmas Games in Chaucer's The Miller's Tale. Studies in Short Fiction, 13(3), 277.
  • Clark, R. P. (Fall, 1976). Doubting Thomas in Chaucer's Summoner's Tale. The Chaucer Review, 11(2), 164-178. JSTOR 25093381

Newspaper Articles


  1. Clark, R. P. (March 3, 2011). Bio: Roy Peter Clark. Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-27. Retrieved 2012-10-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. Roy Peter Clark, Vice President and Senior Scholar. (2011). Poynter Online NewsU Career Center. Retrieved from
  7. Pitzer, A. (November 9, 2011). Roy Peter Clark on 'the power of the parts' for storytelling. Nieman Foundation.
  8. Clark, R. P. (March 3, 2011). Bio: Roy Peter Clark. Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
  9. Shea, A. (August 20, 2010). Sunday Book Review: The Poetry of Prose (The Glamour of Grammar). The New York Times.
  10. Clark, R. P. (February, 1996). Three Little Words. The St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved from
  11. Clark, R. P. (1996). Serial form can draw readers in for weeks. American Society of Newspaper Editors. Retrieved from
  12. Clark, R. P. (January 21, 2011). How journalists are using Facebook, Twitter to write mini serial narratives. The Poynter Institute. Retrieved from
  13. Clark, R. P., (March, 1987). Making mistakes (is) a scream. The Play of Words: Issues in Writing, 60(7), 307-308. Retrieved from
  14. Clark, R. P. (June 18, 2002). Twenty tools for writers (Updated March 2, 2011: Thirty tools for writers). Poynter Institute. Retrieved from
  16. Clark, R. P. (August 3, 2002). Journeys in sound. Poynter Institute. Retrieved from
  17. Winfrey, O. (Producer). (October 15, 2006). The Oprah Winfrey Show [Television series episode]. Chicago, IL: Harpo Productions.
  18. Clark, R. P. (October 12, 2006). Skepticism: The antidote to 'Truthiness' in American government and media. Poynter Institute. Retrieved from
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