When I thought about getting a MFA in writing, my father thought it was absurd. “You write. You do it every day. You don't need a Master's in that.” Right on target, Dad! I'm not knocking MFA's but for me it wasn't the way to go. What has always helped me is to read about how other writers done it: honing their craft, writing, revising, promoting themselves. True, you can't learn how to write. But these books can help you get you to pens, paper, or computer.
1. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: I have three copies of this book: My “real” copy is missing its dust jacket, a perfect signed copy, and a wrinkled marked up paperback copy. Lamott reminds the reader that in order to get something done, the writer must write badly. She also reminds us the importance of paying attention, notecards, and the highs/lows of publication. Lamott is so funny and so right on in her advice, and how you have to take it word by word.
2. How To Be A Famous Writer Before You Die, Ariel Gore: Founder of the zine Hip Mama, Ariel Gore is the cool babysitter/big sister you always wanted. She gives advice on promoting yourself, starting a zine, and the time she wore a tutu and gorilla mask to promote her reading. Gore also interviews authors Marc Acito, Dave Barry, Ursula Le Guin, and Julia Alvarez on writing.
3. Writing Down The Bones, Natalie Goldberg: I always loved Goldberg's practical Zen approach to writing: fill up notebooks, writing in cafes, and writing marathons. No matter what you do, Goldberg advises, just keep the pen moving across the page.
4. On Writing, Stephen King: Entertainment Weekly once called King “Cranky Uncle Steve” and it's true, but here he gives great writing advice that like Goldberg, is very practical: You have to read a lot and write a lot. Find your Ideal Reader to read your drafts. Read bad writing in order to get better at your own writing. However the most moving part of the book is when King describes being a victim in a car accident and how his wife Tabitha sets up a desk for him for writing while he recovered.
5. Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True, Elizabeth Berg: Elizabeth Berg is such a lovely writer; I adore her novels and am always giddy when a new one comes out. Her book about writing is no exception; she gives great writing and query tips, dealing with criticism, and wonderful recipes that will leave you hungry and wanting more.
6. The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron: While not a writing manual, I've found this book handy when I feel blocked. The techniques she recommends do work: Artist's Dates when you go out and do something fun for the “inner artist” (Or as writer Beth Lisick wrote, you've got to treat her like a lady) Morning Pages are incredibly important; but often for me they become afternoon/night pages where you write for three pages about nothing; pure brain dumping. (Also like me if you need to type your pages, I also highly recommend the website 750 words.com which was inspired by the Morning Pages concept.)
7. Naked Drunk and Writing, Adair Lara: Lara wrote a column for the San Francisco Chronicle for years and tells how she mastered the art of writing personal essays. She breaks it down so simply that it truly changed how I wrote non fiction.
These are my favorites, what are yours?
by Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons
Published: July 4, 2012
Set in 2001, Ella Drake has just experienced two terrible losses: her father's death and her brother going overseas to fight the war against terroism. Just when things start to calm down in her life, her mother's job is outsourced to India.
Frightened, Ella tries to find security for herself and her mother. The search for security leads to a children's bookstore, a new friend, and her first kiss. And possibly, it paves the way for healing to begin.
From the bestselling author of I Woke Up In Love This Morning, Ella Bella explores loss and how lives can be changed.
Add it on Goodreads, or buy from Smashwords.
About the author:
Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons is the author of the Smashwords bestseller I Woke Up In Love This Morning and the essay collection I Woke Up In Love This Morning. She lives in Lafayette California and is working on a novel.
Connect with Jennifer on her Red Room page, Twitter, or Facebook.
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