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May 21, 1932 |
Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
|Occupation||Novelist, journalist, screenwriter|
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
|Notable works||Going All the Way (1970)
Starting Over (1973)
New York in the Fifties (1992)
His best-selling novels Going All The Way (1970) and Starting Over (1973) were made into feature films.
He created the NBC prime time television series “James at 15” (1977-78) and served as story editor of the series (1977).
His other notable works include Island in the City: The World of Spanish Harlem, (1959) a pioneering journalistic account of a Puerto Rican neighborhood in New York, and the memoir New York in the Fifties, (2001) produced as a documentary film by Betsy Blankenbaker. His memoir Returning: A Spiritual Journey (1988) was called by Bill Moyers “one of the most important memoirs of the spirit I have ever read.” He edited and wrote the Introduction to Kurt Vonnegut Letters (2012.) Wakefield received The Bernard DeVoto Fellowship at The Bread Loaf Writer Conference in 1958, a Nieman Fellowship in Journalism (1963-64) and a Rockefeller Grant in Writing, 1968.
Wakefield retired as Writer in Residence at Florida International University (1995-2009) where he received The Faculty Award for Mentorship. He moved back to his hometown of Indianapolis in 2011.
Early life and education
He went to Public School #80 and Shortridge High School, where he began his writing career as a sports columnist for the school newspaper, The Shortridge Daily Echo, and served as the school’s sports correspondent for The Indianapolis Star. He worked summers during college in The Star sports department, and as a general assignment reporter for The Grand Rapids Press.
He left Indianapolis in 1952 for New York City, where he was graduated from Columbia College, with a B.A. with Honors in English, after studying with noted English professors Mark Van Doren and Lionel Trilling, and the sociologist C. Wright Mills.
He worked as a reporter after college on The Princeton Packet, New Jersey’s oldest weekly, and left to become a research assistant for the sociologist C. Wright Mills, his professor at Columbia. His research duties left him time to begin his career as a freelance journalist, covering the Emmett Till murder trial in Mississippi for The Nation magazine, and continued to write for them from Israel in 1956, becoming a staff writer for the magazine on his return that same year. He also published in periodicals such as Dissent, Commonweal, Commentary, New World Writing, Harpers, Esquire, The Atlantic, The Yoga Journal, GQ, TV Guide, and others.
On publication of his collection of articles and commentary Between The Lines (1966), The New York Times said he was “acknowledged to be one of the country’s most perceptive and sensitive independent commentator-reporters .” After his year as a Nieman Fellow he moved to Beacon Hill in Boston, where he began writing for The Atlantic, writing the entire issued of the magazine for March, 1968, called “Supernation at Peace and War,” which then was published as a book. He became a Contributing Editor of The Atlantic (1968-1981.)
After publication of his memoir Returning, which began as an article in The New York Times Magazine, Wakefield began giving workshops on spiritual autobiography, based on the course he took at King’s Chapel, originated by The Rev. Carl Scovel. Wakefield has led these workshops at churches, monasteries, synagogues, retreat centers, health spas, adult education centers and at Sing Sing prison, throughout the U.S. and in Northern Ireland and Mexico.
The Story of Your Life: Writing an Autobiography grew out of the workshops. His other books in this area include Expect a Miracle (1995) and The Hi-Jacking of Jesus (2010.)
He edited and wrote the Introduction of the letters of his friend (and fellow Shortridge High School graduate) Kurt Vonnegut (Kurt Vonnegut Letters) as well as a collection of Vonnegut’s graduation speeches and other related pieces (If This Isn’t Nice What Is?. . .)
In 2016 Open Road Media brought out all his five novels as well as his memoir New York in the Fifties as ebooks.
Wakefield returned to Indianapolis to speak on a panel discussion of the work of Kurt Vonnegut at the Vonnegut Library and Museum in November, 2011. A month later he moved back to Indianapolis to live, thus contradicting Vonnegut’s prediction in his review of Going All The Way in Life magazine: “Having written this book, Dan Wakefield will never be able to go back to Indianapolis. He will have to watch the 500 mile race on television.” After moving back, Wakefield was inducted into The Indianapolis Public Schools Hall of Fame, The Shortridge High School Hall of Fame, The Indy Reads Literacy Leaders Hall of Fame, and received a “Cultural Vision Award” from NUVO the newsweekly.
- Nieman Fellowship in Journalism
- Bernard DeVoto Fellowship
- Rockefeller Grant for Creative Arts
- National Endowment for the Arts Grant
- Island in the City (1959)
- Revolt in the South (1962)
- The Addict: An Anthology (1963)
- Between The Lines (1965)
- Supernation at Peace and War (1968)
- Going All The Way (1970)
- Starting Over (1973)
- All Her Children: The Making of a Soap Opera (1975)
- Home Free (1977)
- Under The Apple Tree (1982)
- Selling Out (1985)
- Returning: A Spiritual Journey (1988)
- The Story of Your Life: Writing a Spiritual Autobiography, (Beacon Press), (1990)
- New York in the Fifties (1992)
- Expect a Miracle (1995)
- Creating from the Spirit (1996)
- How Do We Know When It's God? (1999)
- Releasing the Creative Spirit (SkyLight Paths Pub.), (2001)
- * Spiritually Incorrect: Finding God in All the Wrong Places, (SkyLight Paths), (2003)
- The Hijacking of Jesus: How the Religious Right Distorts Christianity and Promotes Prejudice and Hate (Nation Books), (2006)
- If This Isn't Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young (Seven Stories Press), (2014)
- Editor, Kurt Vonnegut Letters" (Randon House, 2012)
- Editor, If This Isn't Nice WHat Is? Vonnegu's Graduation Speeches, 2013 (Seven STories Press)
Films and television
- Creator/Consultant, James at 15 (1977)
- Writer/Co-Producer, The Seduction of Miss Leona (1980)
- Writer, Going All the Way (1997)
- Associated Press (May 31, 2016). "Indianapolis to name park after author Dan Wakefield". The Washington Times.
- Holden, Stephen (19 September 1997). "FILM REVIEW; Opposites Attract, Even if Repellent". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-05.