From Idea to Outline: How to Make Your Nonfiction Un-Put-Downable

Even the best ideas profit from planning and a thought-out approach to the proper structure before you write. Developing a nonfiction idea requires a slightly different method than fiction, as you’re dealing with actual events, facts, or existing bodies of knowledge. But storytelling remains a crucial element, especially in creative nonfiction.

Below is a plan tailored to take your nonfiction idea from inception to a robust (solid-story-structure) outline that your writing will benefit from. Included are references to books on popular methods and frameworks for additional study, research, and consideration for use.

Step 1: Identifying Purpose and Audience

By clearly defining your purpose and target audience, you set the foundational layer upon which all other aspects of your book, essay, article, or post (your work) will be built. This helps in creating content that resonates with the reader, thus enhancing its efficacy and reach.


  1. Define the Primary Purpose: Are you looking to inform, persuade, entertain, or inspire?
  2. Identify the Target Audience: Knowing your reader demographic can help you tailor content and tone.

Reference/Additional Reading:

  • Made to Stick’ by Chip Heath and Dan Heath for understanding how to make your message resonate.

Step 2: Methodology and Ethical Considerations

Being transparent about your research methods and ethical considerations enhances your credibility. In a genre where credibility is everything, this step is crucial for building trust with your reader and peer community.


  1. Methodology: Detail how you’ll conduct research or gather information.
  2. Ethical Considerations: If applicable, ensure you’re considering the ethical implications of your research and writing.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 3: Preliminary Research

Research is fundamental in nonfiction. By identifying gaps in existing literature, you not only validate the necessity for your work but also find unique angles that make it distinctive. This increases the likelihood of your work garnering attention and fulfilling a specific need in the market.


  1. Scope the Field: Before delving deep, get a broad overview of existing work in the topic or area.
  2. Gap Analysis: Identify what’s missing in existing literature and how what you plan to write will fill that gap.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 4: Proposition Development

A strong thesis statement gives your work focus and direction. It acts as a navigational aid, ensuring that you don’t stray off course, leading to a more tightly woven narrative or argument. This focus makes your content compelling and ensures every element serves the ultimate goal.


  1. Craft a Core Statement: This serves as your central argument or premise (your idea or critical elements of it further expanded).
  2. Supporting Arguments: List the key points that support your proposition.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 5: Narrative Elements in Creative Nonfiction

Even in nonfiction, storytelling elements like character arcs, setting, and imagery can captivate readers. By applying these techniques, you turn a potentially dry exposition into an engaging narrative, making complex or abstract concepts more relatable and digestible.


  1. Character Arcs: Even in nonfiction, individuals’ growth or transformation can drive the narrative.
  2. Setting and Imagery: Rich descriptions can make abstract concepts more relatable.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 6: The Chunking Technique

Breaking down your content into manageable ‘chunks’ or subtopics can make the writing process less daunting and more organized. It helps ensure that each part is given adequate attention, which contributes to a more balanced and thorough piece of work.


  1. Break Down Into Subtopics: Divide main points into smaller, manageable topics or sections.
  2. Arrange and Rearrange: Use index cards or digital apps to move chunks around to improve logical flow and determine the final sequence or arrangement.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 7: Draft a Preliminary Conclusion

Drafting a conclusion that echoes and solidifies your thesis while providing closure gives a sense of completeness. It helps in summarizing the key takeaways and leaves the reader pondering on the broader implications, thereby increasing the lasting impact of your work.


  1. Draft a Conclusion: Again, this should echo and solidify your idea while providing some closure on the topic.
  2. Questions for Further Research: Pose queries or challenges that can lead to future research, writing, or sequels.

Step 8: Structural Design

Choosing an appropriate structure is akin to building a solid skeleton for your work. Whether it’s sequential, modular, or comparative, a well-thought-out structure ensures that your arguments or narratives are presented in a logical, easy-to-follow manner, thereby improving reader engagement and comprehension. Choose the structure you feel most comfortable with for your purpose (but keep in mind part of the revision process could mean re-thinking and revising your structure).

Action (Choose):

  1. Sequential Structure: Events or arguments are laid out in a logical, chronological sequence.
  2. Modular Structure: Each chapter or section can stand alone but collectively supports the idea.
  3. Comparative Structure: Two or more ideas, events, or viewpoints are compared and contrasted.

Step 9: Create Detailed Chapter or Section Outlines

Creating detailed chapter or section outlines ensures that you don’t miss any critical points or arguments that support your thesis. This can significantly improve the logical flow of your work, making it easier for the reader to follow your line of thought, which in turn makes for more compelling engagement.


  1. Point-by-Point Breakdown: For each chapter or section, detail the points you want to cover.
  2. Real-Life Examples: Identify anecdotes, case studies, or interviews to add that will bring the text to life.

Reference/Additional Reading:

  • Storycraft’ by Jack Hart for understanding how storytelling enhances nonfiction.

Step 10: Review and Revise the Outline

This step ensures that you catch logical gaps, inconsistencies, or points that need elaboration before you dive into writing. Peer review can provide external validation and catch issues you may have missed, contributing to a polished, coherent final outline and, ultimately, a more refined work.


  1. Self-Assessment: Review for logical inconsistencies or gaps.
  2. Peer Review: Have someone knowledgeable in the field review your outline.

Reference/Additional Reading:

Step 11 (Optional): Proposal and Additional Feedback

If you’re planning to get a book-length work traditionally published, you’ll likely need to prepare a book proposal. This can be done even at the earliest stages of nonfiction writing.

Reference/Additional Reading:


Each step in this plan contributes to refining your idea, honing your argument or narrative, and producing a well-structured, impactful nonfiction work. The steps collectively aid in aligning your content with its purpose and audience, enhancing its logical coherence, ethical soundness, and emotional resonance. This comprehensive approach significantly boosts your chances of producing a best-selling or highly impactful nonfiction work. In our experience, this level of proper planning and preparation helps craft un-put-downable writing. But each writer’s process can be unique, so feel free to adapt these suggestions to better suit your needs.

* * *

Watch for an upcoming post that takes fiction ideas from a simple thought (typically a question) to an outline that further develops the story.

Need help with developing your idea into a solid writing outline? Contact us for a free call to discuss our Development and Planning Assistance or even Ghostwriting or Re-writing services. See the types of projects we’ve worked on here.

Contact Us for a Free No Obligation Consultation Call

ADDUCENT Creative Nonfiction Compared to Standard Nonfiction

Comparing Creative Nonfiction to Standard Nonfiction

“Just the facts, ma’am…” Los Angeles police detective Sergeant Joe Friday (actor Jack Webb) directed the witnesses he interviewed in the 50s/60s TV show Dragnet. They so often spun off into the realm of creative nonfiction, and he and his partner had no time for that. But those with compelling true stories should write their story in just that way and bring it to life for the reader.


One of Those–Hot Texas–Nights

Dance of Fireflies

The Things We Carry

Big Granny’s Wishbook

One Night in Barcelona

Do you have a writing project and can’t decide if it’s better told as creative nonfiction? Or do you need some help getting started? We can help.

ADDUCENT Creative Nonfiction Compared to Standard Nonfiction

For those who choose NOT to hire a writer but need advice and guidance on writing, story development, and publishing or self-publishing, we offer consulting. We have a lot of experience you can benefit from affordably.

STANDFAST | Stories From the Military, Special Operations, and Intelligence Community

You’ve got a story. A good one. The kind that only a few can tell. You’ve served. Seen things. Done things. You’ve got tales tucked away. It’s time to share them.

Enter STANDFAST, a story development service and publishing imprint from Adducent focused solely on veterans of the military, special operations, and intelligence community. Been in business since 2000; we know stories. More importantly, we know how to tell them or help others tell their story. You’re not a bystander in this… your experiences… they’re gold. You bring the story. We bring the expertise. Writing assistance or ghostwriting if needed, editing, publishing—we’ve got it all. And can put it to work for you.

Why? Because your stories aren’t just personal. They’re lessons, legacies, and a heck of an adventure. They’re about honor, sacrifice, and what it means to serve.

This is about more than just books. It’s about bringing your story to life. It’s about making sure your voice isn’t just heard—it’s felt.

So, if you’re ready to tell the world your story, STANDFAST is your means to make it a reality. Let’s do it.

Your Story | Our Mission

Ready to start? Contact us.

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What we’ve done and what we do for clients.

Through the Killing Field…

A slideshow of scenes created in the research and development stage for a 2025 fiction project, a generational story that begins at the Siege of Yorktown in 1781 and takes us to present day.


Our authors and clients are Admirals, Generals, other high-ranking military, CEOs and Senior Executives (including former CEOs, Chairmen, and SVPs of multibillion-dollar NYSE companies), retired members of Congress, and the United States Intelligence Community, Foreign Policy & Defense Industry Professionals, Government / Intelligence & Security Agency Professionals, University Professors, Scientists, Doctors, Surgeons, Attorneys, Entrepreneurs, and Business Professionals. Several clients have appeared on PBS NewsHour, 60 Minutes, and other TV and radio shows nationally and in their local markets.

Fifteen of our titles written by Flag & General Officers of the United States Armed Forces

Adducent is a creative firm that provides writing, ghostwriting, writing improvement, story & book development, and publishing services. We assist people and organizations with their writing and publication needs.

ADDUCENT - Writing-Ghostwriting-Publishing 2400619
What we’ve done and what we do for clients.

Contact Us for a Free No Obligation Consultation Call

IF CONFIRMED | An Insider’s View of the National Security Confirmation Process

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Available Now


Countless National Security Leaders Agree: No One Knows This Process Like Arnold Punaro.

Drawing on nearly 50 years of experience with the Senate confirmation process, Punaro has written this one-of-a-kind book chronicling the Senate’s constitutional advice and consent role. This book serves as a reference guide for both military and civilian national security nominees who find themselves about to face the confirmation gauntlet. Readers will walk away with a better understanding of how the U.S. government really functions and how to be successful should they find themselves on the opposite side of the Senate dais.

Punaro offers unique insights into the good, the bad, and the ugly about the process and how it has changed over time. He proposes innovative and practical solutions to fix this increasingly dysfunctional system. Ensuring that America gets the best people into these critical positions of power is fundamental to our national security and our nation’s success now and in the future.


Arnold L. Punaro is a retired Major General (USMC), who spent 24 years working in the U.S. Senate (1973-1997), including 14 years as the Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He has been a confirmation advisor to the Senate, Department of Defense, and other Executive Branch agencies since 1997. He has been involved with myriad high-level nominations including 12 Secretaries of Defense, 12 Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairmen, over 40 Service Chiefs, and more than 2,000 civilian officials. Currently CEO of The Punaro Group, he is a top industry executive and continues to serve on numerous boards and commissions focused on national security.


“The selection and preparation of nominees for top positions at DOD is a mixture of science and art. It is also a mysterious process, even for Beltway insiders—until now. Arnold Punaro always tackles topics in military affairs that are under-examined. In this case, he covers subjects that literally no one in the world knows more about: the processes of nominating, confirming, and appointing top brass at the Pentagon. These are important topics, considering that every American has an intrinsic interest in leadership selection outcomes at the nation’s largest, most complicated, and by many measures, most important agency.” Dr. Matthew Auer, Dean and Arch Professor of Public and International Affairs, School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia.

“With If Confirmed, General Punaro masterfully distills the wisdom and insights accumulated from a career intimately involved in the confirmation of thousands of civilian and military leaders. I have seen General Punaro’s candor save-the-day repeatedly over the years. Whether for nominees, policy enthusiasts, or public servants, this book is an essential primer on the history and inner workings of a critical component of American governance.” The Honorable Barbara Barrett, Former Secretary of the Air Force; Former Ambassador to Finland.

“There is literally no one alive better able to comment on the nomination and confirmation process in both the Executive and Legislative Branches for military and civilian nominees who must pass through the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate floor. I also served as the staff director of the Armed Services Committee, and I relied on Arnold’s expertise and advice to help me navigate the complicated and, at times, very difficult process of guiding or stopping nominees from confirmation. He is simply the master. None better, in my opinion. Arnold has a command of the history, back door deals, trials, and process rules that no one else can claim. This is a must-read book for those wishing to be confirmed and those trying to help them achieve that goal.” John Bonsell, Former Staff Director of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The Senate’s confirmation power is found in a brief clause of the Constitution’s Article One. In today’s Washington, the process now requires a complex legal and political navigation for even the most qualified candidates nominated to serve. No guide is more experienced or knowledgeable than Arnold Punaro, and If Confirmed is must reading for citizens and candidates wanting to understand what exactly is ‘advise and consent.’” The Honorable Rudy De Leon, Senior Fellow of National Security & International Policy, Center for American Progress; Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Former Under Secretary of the Air Force; Former Staff Director of the House Armed Services Committee.

“There is no one who has a better understanding of the Senate confirmation process than Arnold Punaro. He has assisted countless senior officials in navigating the process. I was fortunate to be one of the individuals he coached, mentored, and prepared for Senate confirmation hearings. I found his counsel to be “pure gold.” Those interested in the process will find this book informative. For those willing to serve in a confirmed position and preparing for a hearing, this book demystifies the process and provides invaluable insight. It reflects Arnold’s decades of experience, his deep understanding of the process and the Senate, and his gift for clarity.” General Joe Dunford, USMC (Ret); Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Former Commandant of the Marine Corps.

“Leave it to Washington’s most trusted expert to identify a significant gap in knowledge and so masterfully provide vital insight for those seeking to lead federal agencies at the commander-in-chief’s request. There is no better or more respected practitioner with such unparalleled views deep from the policy foxholes of Washington D.C. on the intricacies of the Senate confirmation process than the intrepid Arnold Punaro. A trusted colleague to all, Arnold’s shared wisdom built on a 40-year proficiency of intimately shepherding novices through the good, bad, and the ugly of the confirmation process is the key that will unlock the doors to many futures in the next generation.”Mackenzie Eaglen, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute.

“Arnold Punaro’s nearly 50 years of experience and expertise in this arena is unmatched. Navigating the Senate confirmation process can be daunting without the right support. Thanks to Arnold and his team, I was well prepared for my own hearings to become secretary of the Army and secretary of defense. More importantly, Arnold has always worked in a bipartisan fashion with senior military and civilian nominees alike to do what’s best for our country. I can think of no better person to write this much-needed book.” The Honorable Dr. Mark Esper, Former Secretary of Defense; Former Secretary of the Army.

“The confirmation process has become torturous. Arnold Punaro has participated in this from every possible direction. If Confirmed is valuable, either for surviving the current process or as a guide to improve it going forward.” The Honorable John J. Hamre, Ph.D.,President, CEO and Langone Chair in American Leadership ofCenter for Strategic and International Studies; Former Deputy Secretary of Defense; Former Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller.

“If you are interested in understanding, guiding others in navigating, or are participating yourself as a nominee in the oft-bewildering, sometimes maddening, but absolutely critical Senate confirmation process for defense officials, there is absolutely no individual with more experience, knowledge, insights, or field craft regarding every part of the process than Arnold Punaro. You want him in your foxhole and this fine book puts him there with you. Arnold helped me in my own nomination process and then in successfully winning confirmation of countless nominees to Department of Defense positions thereafter, including no shortage of politically fraught and procedurally challenging instances. He is a master.” The Honorable Stephen Hedger, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs; Former Special Assistant to the President for Senate Affairs.

“I can’t think of anyone better than Washington insider Arnold Punaro to outline the do’s, the don’t’s as well as the good, bad and ugly of the confirmation process. From his time in the Senate to his time in the military to his time as an advisor helping thousands of nominees, Punaro knows the process from the inside out. If Confirmed offers a must-read history and playbook for anyone wishing to serve at the highest levels of government.” The Honorable Debbie Lee James, Former Secretary of the Air Force; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs; Former President of Technical and Engineering Sector, SAIC.

If Confirmed is an unprecedented, one-of-a-kind guide to navigate the Senate confirmation process, written by a genuine master of that process. I have been through three Senate confirmations, and there is no better coach than General Arnold Punaro. Arnold knows the issues, the process, the personalities who run the process, and the minefields to avoid. When necessary, Arnold is not afraid to cut a presidential nominee down to size in preparation for cross-examination by a United States senator. I have been ‘murdered’ by Arnold more than once and lived to talk about the experience. Above all, Arnold is the consummate Washington insider, who, year after year, knows everything and everybody in the close-knit national security community.” The Honorable Jeh Johnson, Former Secretary of Homeland Security; Former Department of Defense General Counsel; Former General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force.

“I have known and served with the author since 1979 and know of no one who has so willingly and consistently given freely of his time and effort to making our national security organizations better. His first two books are “must read and retain” efforts, and this one is no different. In fact, because it touches on the thousands of candidates for public office who require Senate confirmation, this book is, at once, an expert education of one of the most important rites of passage to government positions, and it also reveals the intensely personal pressures and results of the confirmation process itself. There have been those who turned down the opportunity for a trial run by the author and his committee of experts. Most have lived to regret that decision. The overwhelming majority of those who subjected themselves to this advanced course of confirmation preparation, sometimes more than once, were successful in being confirmed. Put this book on your bookshelf for future use, either for yourself or perhaps for someone you know who has been nominated to an office that requires U.S. Senate confirmation.” General James L. Jones, USMC (Ret); Former U.S. National Security Advisor; 32nd Commandant of the Marine Corps; Former Commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

“Arnold Punaro’s experience in the layered world of Senate confirmations is singular, spanning multiple administrations. A trusted advisor to generations of Department of Defense leaders, he has helped countless officials navigate the unpredictable politics and sometimes difficult process of getting through the U.S. Senate. This is the book that Arnold had to write, as there is no equal to the experience, perspective, and insight that he brings to this issue.”Louis Lauter, Former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

“In If Confirmed, Arnold Punaro gives an informed insider’s account of the history of the Senate confirmation process for nominees in the national security world, as well as providing a guide for current nominees and suggestions on how to make the system work more effectively. We need our most dedicated and talented people to serve in these important Senate-confirmed positions, and if our confirmation system continues to become more sclerotic and less productive, it will harm our ability to attract and retain the right people for these demanding jobs. If Confirmed is a comprehensive look at a topic that is as important as it is complex.”The Honorable General James N. Mattis, USMC (Ret); Former Secretary of Defense; Former Commander of U.S. Central Command.

“Every nominee, and potential nominee, needs to read and heed Arnold Punaro’s sage advice. His deep and diverse career of service at the very highest levels of the Senate and the Pentagon brings him unparalleled insight and an unmatched understanding of the often uncertain and politically charged confirmation journey. Arnold’s prudent counsel has singularly ensured countless nominees successfully navigated their Senate confirmation with ease—ensuring needed continuity of key national security posts across administrations and party lines.”Laura McAleer, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Senate Affairs; Former National Security Advisor at the U.S. Senate; Associate Vice President, Federal & Washington Relations at the University of Notre Dame.

“Arnold Punaro is unparalleled in his knowledge of the Senate confirmation process and his ability to prepare a political or uniformed nominee to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee.” The Honorable Ryan D. McCarthy, Former Secretary of the Army; Former Under Secretary of the Army.

If Confirmed provides a rare glimpse behind the curtain into a process with far-reaching national security implications. Any prospective nominee would be well-served by examining Arnold Punaro’s lessons learned and strategies for navigating Senate confirmations. Demystifying pathways into government service, especially with respect to the Senate confirmation process, will help ensure that our nation has qualified candidates prepared to serve at the highest levels.” Jamie Jones Miller, CEO and Dean, Northeastern University Arlington Campus; former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

“A few times in your life, you find the expert in an area where only a very few exist. Arnold Punaro spent a greater part of his career helping others, including myself, get confirmed by the United States Senate for all matters regarding our national security. Beforehand, he was the lead in determining who would “be anointed” by the Senate Armed Services Committee for literally every Senate-confirmed position in the Department of Defense. Arnold is a culmination of experience and knowledge in this daunting process. His work to bring in the very best to serve our country continues today. Anyone going through it, either as a nominee or one who works to get highly qualified people into these critical government positions, will serve themselves well to read this book.” The Honorable Jim Morhard, Former Deputy NASA Administrator; Former Deputy Sergeant at Arms of the United States Senate; Former Staff Director, Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I am one of the many who benefited from Arnold Punaro’s preparation for a confirmation hearing. In my case, to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. His long history with and deep knowledge of the process was evident. This book, If Confirmed, is a wonderful contribution to those who are called upon to serve our country. It is valuable in context, expectation setting, and for framing one’s thoughts in responding to the many stakeholders in the nomination and confirmation process. Arnold Punaro is singularly qualified to bring all aspects of the process together, which he does in this readable and eminently useful book. It is a “must read” for any embarking on the journey of service in the Executive Branch.” The Honorable James B. Peake, M.D. Lieutenant General, USA (Ret.); Senior Vice President, CGI Federal; former Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

“The ultimate guide on the confirmation process from the ultimate guide through it! Arnold Punaro brings unmatched experience, expertise, and insights to this subject. I benefited from his wisdom and guidance in preparing for four Senate confirmations (as well as several high-stakes hearings), and this book will be invaluable to any nominee for high office or any individual helping a nominee navigate the confirmation process.” The Honorable General David Petraeus, U.S. Army (Ret.); former Commander of the Surge in Iraq, U.S. Central Command, and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan; Former Director of the CIA; Co-author (with Andrew Roberts) of Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine.

“Arnold Punaro has amassed a lifetime of wisdom in the process of Senate confirmation. With well over a half-century of service to our nation, he shares that wisdom in If Confirmed. This book is indispensable for anyone set to embark on that process or interested in this critical function of the American government.” The Honorable Patrick Shanahan, Former Deputy Secretary of Defense.

“The Senate confirmation process has become more contentious over time, and yet, we need capable leaders who can enter public service and take on the challenging roles facing our nation. There is no more qualified servant to the nation than Arnold Punaro in preparing leaders for this grueling process. Punaro has the experience, expertise, and reputation for developing nominees to engage this process with legitimacy and a focus on the benefits they will contribute to the country. Punaro’s book will become THE source for preparing and fulfilling the responsibilities of this important and increasingly difficult process.”Dr. David M. Van Slyke, Dean and Louis A. Bantle Chair in Business-Government Policy, The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.

“General Punaro has shepherded my confirmations from assistant secretary to the cabinet. In my first tour at the Pentagon, I put the nomination of Robert Gates in his safe hands. No one knows the history and traditions of the Senate nor has better relationships on both sides of the aisle than Arnold Punaro. He is a patriot and a Washington institution. The trust he has from conservatives and liberals harkens back to a better, more civil time in the nation’s capital. Wish there were more like him.” The Honorable Robert Wilkie, Former Secretary of Veterans Affairs; Former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs.

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Arnold since the early 1970s and sat with him on the ‘murder board’ process. In addition to a unique commitment to wanting to make the DOD and government work better, what sets Arnold apart in my mind are his remarkable instincts to understand relevant issues and shape them to reach better outcomes. When he brings these talents to help the extremely capable people nominated for senior positions in the government improve their prospects for confirmation in the contentious atmosphere, such nominations are too often considered, and the country benefits.” The Honorable Kim Wincup, Former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs; Former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition; Former Staff Director of the House Armed Services Committee.

Storyboards | Story Pitch Decks

Pitching a story, book, series, or movie idea and want to bring it to life? We can help.

Some lo-res/quick concept boards:

JOURNEY TO THE JONES ACT | U.S. Merchant Marine Policy 1776-1920

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Available Now

New Book Unveils the Untold Story of U.S. Maritime Policy: ‘Journey to the Jones Act’

In his book, ‘Journey to the Jones Act: U.S. Merchant Marine Policy 1776-1920,’ Charlie Papavizas embarks on a detailed exploration of the evolution of American maritime policy culminating in the historic 1920 Merchant Marine Act, widely known as the Jones Act. This groundbreaking work offers readers a comprehensive look at the legislative efforts that have shaped the U.S. merchant marine’s role in national defense and economic prosperity since 1776.

Published by FORTIS, A nonfiction imprint from Adducent, this meticulously researched volume sheds light on the complex history of U.S. maritime policy, from its early foundations in the English Navigation Acts to the pivotal moments at the Constitutional Convention through the trials of the Civil War, and the ambitious efforts to establish the United States as a permanent maritime power following World War I.

Charlie Papavizas, an esteemed national maritime lawyer and a recognized expert on the Jones Act, uses his extensive knowledge of the subject to provide an authoritative narrative. He uncovers the influential figures behind the policy, including well-known architects like James Madison and lesser-known contributors such as Senator Wesley Livsey Jones. ‘Journey to the Jones Act’ is a testament to the enduring significance of maritime policy in American history and a personal journey for Papavizas. Discoveries of his connections to the book’s subject, such as John Barton Payne, a name partner in an earlier iteration of Winston & Strawn LLP, and his grandfather, Constantinos A. Papavizas, who served in the U.S. Army in World War I, add a unique layer to this historical account.

Living and practicing law in Washington, D.C., Charlie Papavizas brings his rich academic background and professional expertise to bear in this compelling story. A graduate of Georgetown University with an advanced degree from Columbia University and a Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University, Papavizas’s work is a must-read for history enthusiasts, maritime professionals, and policymakers alike.

About the Author

Charlie Papavizas is a prominent maritime lawyer and partner at Winston & Strawn LLP. With a nearly three-decades-long career, he is recognized for his expertise in maritime law, particularly the Jones Act. Papavizas’s personal history and professional accomplishments make him uniquely qualified to author this definitive account of U.S. maritime policy.

Papavizas will be at IPF24 in New Orleans on April 24, 2024, for a book presentation and signing from 1:00 to 2:00 PM in rooms 203-205.

For more information about the book or to request interviews with the author, please contact the publisher at

Praise for the Book

“While many freely toss around the term “Jones Act,” and cite it as the catalyst for decline of the U.S. Merchant Marine, few understand the true origins and evolution of our Nation’s domestic Maritime policy – culminating in the 100+ year-old Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Charlie Papavizas takes us back to decisions that our Founding Fathers made concerning maritime trade and skillfully walks us through every change of course as our young nation burst upon the international scene in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Rich with detail, Papavizas has produced a book that tells the story of America’s emergence as a maritime power and the reasons why we have so vigorously maintained control over our domestic trade. Your understanding of U.S. Maritime policy is incomplete until you read this superb volume.” –Hon. Mark H. ‘Buz’ Buzby, RADM, USN (Ret), Former Administrator, U.S. Maritime Administration

“A crucial read for anyone looking to demystify a law woven into the fabric of American life. It unravels the complexities of the Jones Act, making its history and impact accessible to all. This book brilliantly captures how the Act resonates beyond legal circles into the heart of American commerce and defense, influencing the very currents of trade, industry, and daily life in the United States. As an offshore wind sector advocate, I found this book to be an insightful journey through the intricacies of the Jones Act, shedding light on its historical significance and its modern-day applications. It is a must-read for anyone who seeks to grasp how deeply maritime policy is anchored in our nation’s past and present, and how it continues to shape the flow of goods, services, and economic opportunities.” –Liz Burdock, President and CEO, Oceantic Network

“Meticulously researched and eminently readable, Journey to the Jones Act is a fascinating history of American maritime policy and the people, politics, and events that shaped it over two and a half centuries. Charlie Papavizas’s mastery of his subject matter is on full display… not only readers new to the “Jones Act,” but longtime students and practitioners of maritime policy will find themselves saying, “I didn’t know that!” again and again throughout this informative and entertaining read.” –Jennifer Carpenter, President & CEO, The American Waterways Operators, President, American Maritime Partnership

Dance of Fireflies [Creative Nonfiction]

A Vignette

I looked outside.

The sky had darkened, and lightning struck just ahead of the downpour. The flash and crash of thunder almost on top of each other. Our lights flickered… dimmed… strengthened, and then went out. It was not quite sundown, and muted remnants of daylight came through the French doors and skylight over them. And—I don’t know why—I recalled thunderstorms when I was a kid in the 60s. And under dim, watery light, I wrote:

I remember watching dust clouds in the distance, coming off powder-dry dirt roads on hot summer days. The passing of mostly trucks in that back then, rural part of Texas. Sometimes I’d be on those roads, riding in the back of a truck, unrestrained. The maker of the plumes that would dust us as my father slowed or stopped. Gray-brown—the color of old bone—billows of dirt pulled along by the draft settled forward like pulling a blanket up and over my head. The coolness of the ride-created breeze would end, replaced with stifling dirt grit-in-your-teeth heat. The ride was much sweeter at night, soothing on the planes of your upturned, sunburned face, especially if a brief shower had dampened the road. I’d sit on the fender well, look up, and pretend to race the moon. To where I don’t know, but the moon always won. I didn’t mind. The thought I’d someday win made me smile at it above.

I remember summer afternoons somewhere off playing and then running far and fast to get home before the sun went down. Just in time to finish chores and wash up for dinner before my shows. Crushed if I missed the beginning of Lost in Space or The Time Tunnel. This was long ago when life and the things you enjoyed were in real-time. No recording to watch or replay later. You had to be there.

If one of my shows wasn’t on, I’d slip out to the backyard after dinner. I loved the night sounds, the music of crickets, the hum, and the buzz of birds, animals, and insects that stir at twilight. I’d sit on the steps and drink it all in, enjoying the evening wind as it arranged clouds for the night. My child-mind, empty of worries, held thoughts only of the next chapter in A Princess of Mars, I’d read before bedtime. I’d bought an old, used copy of the book for five cents at Mr. Petersen’s general store. [He had a barrel of them next to the counter. As my mother did her shopping, I’d sift through them.] The joy of discovering that story and the other adventures of John Carter is still fresh in my mind.

If the metal had cooled enough, I’d move to sit astride the long natural gas tank, shaped (so I thought) like a miniature submarine or spaceship, and look over my world. Sometimes, with the breeze right, I could catch the smell of Henrietta’s tortillas and tamales from her house, the closest nearby. Oh, how that aroma filled the air. She made them by hand, ground her meal fresh every day, and they were delicious. An always-hungry boy, my mouth watered though I’d just eaten my fill.

In the late summer, evening storms would roll in. Often just heat lightning, but sometimes the darkening sky’s rumor would turn true with flash and crash seconds ahead of the rain. My mother always said the rumble of thunder was “The Devil moving his furniture.” I never thought to question, shouldn’t that sound come from below and not above….

On those evenings, in the stillness, the backyard would grow thick with fireflies, dozens of points of light. I’d sit on the steps and watch the little gold sparks wink in and out of the shorter grass close to the house as they moved toward the taller, thicker growth further back. As I watched, I didn’t recall wishes or dreams of other things. There was no looking at the sky with longing—no hurt to deal with—decisions or questions to ponder. Only the simple moment and pleasure of watching the dance of fireflies.

After a while, from the screen door, under the single bulb above and in its small pool of light, my mother would step out, and I’d hear her call: “Time to come in….” Most times, I didn’t want to… like the evening that stands out in bringing forth this memory. But the night before, Sola had saved Dejah Thoris, and John Carter had fallen. Before I went in, I gave the fireflies a last lingering look—they still danced—and wondered for how long and how far it went on. I didn’t dwell on that, though. Once inside, I hurried through the bath-time routine. I had to find out what happened next on Barsoom!

Some of the reader comments:

“You really know how to invoke all the senses and draw the reader into your world. As the cover says, you had to be there. But this vignette comes a close second — you are pulled into the story, the senses drawing you in until you close your eyes, and you’re right there. Beautiful.” –Vicki Tyley

“Wonderful writing that brings back childhood memories! I can see the things dreams are made of. Quite a talent and a blessing for us to read!” —Susan Gabriel

“I love when you write because I can put myself in that moment and visualize it. As if I was living in the story. Life was so simple as a child.” —Tanya Freisen

“Time and tide wait for no man or in the now waits for woman either. Wonderful to have that snapshot in time we can look back on. Loved the post.” —Chris Black

“Love this story! Amazing descriptions!” —Leigh at Booktrack

“Wonderful. Love it!” —Sherry Thompson

“That’s an awesome piece of writing. It really does bring back memories, too, of me riding on the back of my father’s truck, helping throw hay for the cows, or simply going to check over the farm fences. All the memories of racing back so as not to miss Astro Boy, etc.! Those were very different times. Great to grow up in!” —Jennifer Phillips
“This brought back great memories; being raised in S.C., as a child, it was the norm: to watch the fireflies, riding on the back of my dad’s truck with the wind blowing in my face, putting blankets on the back of that truck watching the stars and moon late at night, or watching a bird land on the second floor of my house to sing at my bedroom window… BACK THEN, it was the norm… NOW those are AMAZING MOMENTS. Thank you for taking me there, through your writing, for such a special walk down memory lane.” —Bernice Joe

“Wonderful, Dennis.” —Mike Trani

ABOUT The Quondam Series


Adjective: What was but is no more. Belonging to some prior time.

Noun: A person dismissed or ejected from a position.

Each character in the stories is formed by those definitions. The stories are narratives of what once was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to what might be ‘to come’ that is good or bad. The future is in flux and depends on people shaped by their past. Will Good triumph over Evil? When it has failed in the past, the Dark Times—and the malevolent—reigned.

When What Was Hidden… is Revealed

One Advance Reader of early versions of the stories (under different working titles) that form the series foundation said: “Character-driven and atmospheric adult fiction that blends history and legend with the tension and intricacies of contemporary society and events. Compelling and complex characters. Thoughtful, evocative, and page-turning; a story that promises to be well-told.” They’re not the only ones to offer that opinion. The premise and early versions of the stories proved so powerful that we have dozens of other Advance Reader reviews/comments and feedback on the core stories. We’ve planned the development of expanded versions of them to form this new series and to continue it with new stories.


‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’

Edmund Burke

“For the sleeper, when she awoke, learned she was not who she thought… at all.”

–Dennis Lowery, The Quondam Series [from The Quondam Agency backstory]

More to come as the series is developed by Dennis Lowery and co-author McKenna Foel with stories beginning in Summer 2024.