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  • Heidi Fiedler 6:00 pm on 2017/09/13 Permalink
    Tags: , craft, how to be a writer, , on writing,   

    20 Books That Belong on Every Writer’s Bookshelf 

    Like painting, wine, and the human condition, writing is something that can stand up to a lifetime if study. Wherever you are in your journey as a writer, it’s essential to keep your bookshelves well stocked with inspiring mentor texts and reference books that will help you develop your craft. The books on this list will enrich your writing life and deepen your skills, while also lifting your spirits and reminding you why writers devote their hearts and minds to this exceptional art form. Write on, writers! Write on!

    [ean1]The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White
    In general, it makes sense to leave the editing to editors, and instead focus your time and energy on developing your craft. But the most compelling stories are easy to read, and this master class in being clear, succinct, and sensible on the page is essential reading for any writer.

    [ean2]The Plot Whisperer, by Martha Alderson
    For those struggling to give your story a compelling beginning, middle, and end, Alderson guides writers to a deeper understanding of the universal story structure driving everything from fairy tales to multiverse sci-fi operas. You might even learn something about the story of your own life.

    The Art of Character, by David Corbett
    Ask editors what they’re looking for, and they’ll likely say some variation on, “I’ll know it when I see it.” But if pressed, they may admit they’re searching for books with characters readers will fall in love with so hard they’ll want to follow them anywhere. Develop your ability to create memorable, relatable characters with author David Corbett’s practical and inspiring guide.

    [ean4]Wonderbook, by Jeff VanderMeer
    Fantasy and sci-fi writers will love this illustrated guide to world building and storytelling. Filled with maps, advice, essays from writers like Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin, plus online extras, it’s a book you will return to again and again.

    Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
    When you need a dose of been-there-done-that courage, this wise, warm exploration of creativity will guide you. It’s filled with actionable advice, thoughtful metaphors, a deep understanding of the creative process, and, yes, maybe even the little bit of magic that’s needed to spark your own creative spirit.

    [ean6]The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman
    As humans, our emotional vocabulary may be woefully underdeveloped, but writers can’t afford to blur the lines between anger and annoyance. This reference book parses the nuances between everything from desperation and disappointment to scorn and smugness. Each entry includes body language suggestions and more. Sure to inspire psychological debates—and better drafts!

    Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro
    Part writing memoir, part craft book, all infused with a creative spirit any artist can relate to, this is a modern classic that belongs on every writer’s bookshelf. Divided into Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, it’s really the title that drives the message: against all odds, Shapiro is still writing and encourages you to keep writing too.

    Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
    The master of succinct, precise writing lets loose with essays on the creative process. His love for writing is soaked into every page, and you’re sure to finish this book feeling inspired and reassured that the effort you put into your work is worth it.

    [ean9]The Art of Slow Writing, by Louise DeSalvo
    Ah now, doesn’t the title just make you feel better? Slow writing. What a lovely idea in a world that regularly promises you can write a book in thirty days or crank out a bestseller every year. DeSalvo’s wise and practical book is deeply comforting as she lights the way, away from insanity and toward a creative process that’s mysterious, meaningful, and rewarding.

    [ean10]Story Genius, by Lisa Cron
    With an intriguing refusal to take a side with the pantsers or outliners, Cron recommends a new approach to storytelling that promises exciting plotlines, meaningful themes, and strong early drafts. Her secret? New research into brain science that shows how writers can engage readers at a fundamental, deeply compelling level.

    [ean11]The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
    Millions of artists, dancers, and, yes, writers, swear by Cameron’s immersive approach to creativity. Whether you’re feeling stuck, want to take your work to the next level, or are looking to experiment with a new technique, this twelve-week program will inspire you to do more than write. It will inspire you to live like a writer.

    [ean12]On Writing, by Stephen King
    More than a how-to guide written by a serial bestselling author, this is a master class in the craft of writing, as well as a celebration of its power. Generous, warm, helpful, and entertaining, this is a book that’s a pleasure to read and a delight to return to.

    [ean13]Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
    Written with humor and wisdom, this is a practical guide to developing your craft. There are exercises for developing your voice (and your ear), establishing a routine, overcoming self-doubt, and more. Find out why this book has been in print for over thirty years.

    [ean14]The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
    In her trademark poetic prose, Dillard explores what it means to be a writer. Give this to someone who doesn’t understand their late-night bursts of inspiration or someone who is secretly a writer but doesn’t yet know it.

    [ean15]Reading Like a Writer, by Francine Prose
    One of the fastest and most enjoyable ways to become a better writer is to read more and analyze the books you love. Prose’s guide to reading will help you make the most of your time, with tips on using your favorite books as inspiration in your own writing.

    [ean16]Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
    Filled with memorable metaphors and reassuring imagery, this is the book that’s on every writing syllabus. It leaves readers feeling braver, smarter, and more dedicated to their craft. And if you’re not yet in a writing class, it will help you be your own best teacher.

    [ean17]Drawing Your Own Path, by John Simon
    Sometimes to grow, writers need to take a break from words. This collection of meditative drawing exercises will help you tap into your intuition and write more mindfully. (If it’s good enough for Ruth Ozeki, it’s good enough for us!)

    [ean18]Letters to a Young Writer, by Colum McCann
    The books on this list are as much about mindset as method, and this collection of lessons on how to be a writer (and an interesting human) is a lovely combination of the two approaches all on its own. A call to empathy, poetry, truth, and light, this is a rallying cry for new and old writers alike.

    [ean19]The Art of X-Ray Reading, by Roy Peter Clark
    Time spent with a masterpiece is never wasted, especially when you’re analyzing it carefully. From The Great Gatsby to The Bluest Eye, Clark invites readers to glean meaning and inspiration from the classics in a way that will inform your writing for years to come.

    [ean20]Scratch, by Manjula Martin
    At some point, after you develop your craft, you’ll probably be eager to start earning money. This book tackles taboos and digs into the nitty-gritty detail of how writers make a living with essays from Cheryl Strayed, Jonathan Franzen, Roxane Gay, and more, making it essential reading for any writer who hopes to be paid for the privilege of making art.

    The post 20 Books That Belong on Every Writer’s Bookshelf appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Joel Cunningham 5:00 pm on 2014/07/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , avi steinberg, , blood feud, , , game change, ha'penny, mark halperin and john heilemann, , on writing, , piper kerman, running the books, soft apocalypse, , , , will mcintosh   

    What to Read Next if You Liked California, Orange is the New Black, On Writing, Blood Feud, or Midnight in Europe 

    photoAfter an avalanche of pre-release hype and an endorsement by no less than Stephen Colbert, Edan Lepucki’s dystopian debut, California, is finally out. If you’ve already discovered that all the buzz (“lush, intricate, deeply disturbing” —Jennifer Egan) about this character-based novel of the post-collapse was warranted, try Will McIntosh’s Soft Apocalypse. The celebrated sci-fi author’s debut novel imagines the end of the world slipping in on little cat feet. No pandemic, no nuclear war, no zombies, just a slow slide into what comes next. Chilling, if only because it all seems so terrifyingly plausible.

    You’ve read Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman, and you’ve spent entire weekends glued to Netflix, binge-watching the exploits of the women of Litchfield Prison. Unfortunately, you’ve got to wait until next June to go back behind bars. In the meantime, why not try another true-life account of the unexpected moments of humanity that exist within an inhumane system? Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, by Avi Steinberg, is a fascinating, funny, and thought-provoking memoir about a directionless young man who stumbles into a job as a librarian in a hard-as-nails Boston prison.

    In his half-memoir, half-instruction manual On Writing, Stephen King reveals the method to the madness he has been able to sustain across decades: how to cram the endless voices that speak stories to him out of nowhere in between the covers of book after book. If you enjoy learning how who an author is reflects what and how she writes, Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird is another essential tome. As much an autobiography as a primer on writing, it reminds us that there are real lives and real struggles behind each and every book on your shelf.

    The 2016 election cycle has barely begun, and the political gossip machine is already in a tizzy. There’s plenty of scoop to be had in the new tell-all tome Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas, by Edward Klein, which purports to reveal what the two most powerful Democratic Party dynasties really think about one another. For some slightly dated dish that still tastes fresh, circle back to Game Change, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, an addictive account of the momentous 2008 Presidential election (then watch the movie, and decide who gave better “You betcha!,” Julianne Moore or Tina Fey).

    Across more than a dozen novels, Alan Furst has proven himself a master of the WWII-era espionage novel. His latest, Midnight in Europe, opens in 1938, just before Europe was plunged into conflict. If you’re willing to look beyond the facts to what might have been, you’ll find an equally tense thriller in Ha’Penny, by Jo Walton, the second installment of her alternate-history Small Change trilogy (the books can be read in any order). In a timeline where Great Britain appeased Hitler, fascism is tightening its grip on Western Europe, spurring a few desperate outcasts to take drastic measures—including a last-ditch plot to assassinate the Führer that recalls the best scenes of Inglorious Basterds.

    What are you reading right now?

  • Ester Bloom 3:30 pm on 2014/06/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , art spiegelman, , , caon't we talk about something more pleasant, , , , , , , maus II, , on writing, one man's meat, , rebecca west, roz chast, , , , the fountain overflows, the getaway car, the possessed   

    Telling it Slant: 10 Authors Who Experimented With Autobiography 

    9781608198061_p0_v3_s600Some people can sit down and write the story of their lives in a clear and straightforward fashion and be done. Other people, like New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast—author of wise, honest, unreasonably entertaining new graphic memoir about aging, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?—approach autobiography per Emily Dickinson’s legendary advice:

    Tell all the truth but tell it slant—
    Success in Circuit lies
    Too bright for our infirm Delight
    The Truth’s superb surprise
    As Lightning to the Children eased
    With explanation kind
    The Truth must dazzle gradually
    Or every man be blind—

    Like Chast and Dickinson herself, the writers below became famous by telling their truth but telling it slant, disguised as fiction, cartoon, essay, instruction, or comedy:

    The Fountain Overflows, by Rebecca West
    The daughter of eccentric London intellectuals, West turned her dysfunctional childhood into a top-notch novel, which has since become a classic. Wry and eerie by turns, and generally delightful throughout.

    Maus I and II, by Art Spiegelman
    Sometimes the counterintuitive idea—like rendering a memoir of the Holocaust as a comic book, where Jews are mice and Nazis are cats—is the brilliant one that transcends genre altogether. The horrifying true story of Spiegelman’s father’s family changed how we think about high art and, in the process, won a Pulitzer Prize.

    Postcards From the Edge, by Carrie Fisher
    The stories Fisher tells in her debut “novel” about growing up in Hollywood wrestling with success, the aftermath of success, drug addiction, bad taste in men, and a once-famous, now-decrepit, always-crazy mother (Debbie Reynolds) are too raw to be made up and too amazing to be true. The only sensible course of action is to stop trying to decide what to believe and just enjoy. (Then, bonus! Enjoy the movie, starring Meryl Streep and Shirley MacLaine having the time of their lives.)

    PAIR WITH: Other 20th-century classic novels-from-life: Fear of Flyingby Erica Jong, and The Bell Jarby Sylvia Plath. After meeting literary alter egos Isadora Wing and Esther Greenwood, American popular culture would never be the same. One has to wonder how these books would have worked as straight-up memoir instead of fake fiction, but ultimately the story is what counts, and both of these gripping, feminist stories, for very different yet related reasons, needed to be told.

    Bird By Bird, by Anne Lamott
    Bay Area literary guru Lamott is beloved, a sage who is candid and generous and who has nonetheless not risen above vanity, who can laugh at her own flaws and help the rest of us love ourselves a little better too. Although she has written several more straightforward memoirs, she found her voice, as the writing teachers say, while composing this writing manual that serves equally well as a guide for life.

    PAIR WITH: The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Lifeby Ann Patchett, and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. The only writing advice worth reading, it turns out, comes from authors willing to look back over their own lives, recognize and enumerate their mistakes, and acknowledge that success is a combination of luck, work, and talent over which people have very limited control—and, in doing so, give readers a fascinating glance at the individual behind the sign reading “Men At Work.”

    The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, by Elif Batuman
    Turkish essayist Batuman, unable to free herself from her obsession with Tolstoy and the other pre-Soviet greats, gets a Ph.D in Russian literature—so how does she end up in Uzbekistan? The same kind of happy accident that brought her to Samarkand launched this highbrow, eccentric, and highly revealing book-about-books, released only in paperback and not expected to sell, onto “best of” lists and made it a surprise success.

    One Man’s Meat, by E.B. White
    White is one of America’s greatest observers, and these essays, written on and about his farm in Maine in the 1930s, show his reverence for dry humor, small towns, and the life of the mind. A contemporaneous blurb from the Yale Review proclaims it “Good writing,” which is about as hilarious an understatement as could be made. These essays are revelatory and transformative, even when they’re only, supposedly, about chickens.

    What’s your favorite work of creative memoir or autobiography?

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