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Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Writer's Handbook: An Anthology for One's Career

Title: New Writer's Handbook 2007: A Practical Anthology of Best Advice for Your Craft and Career Editor: Philip Martin, Preface: Erica Jong
Publisher: Scarletta Press (June 6, 2007)
ISBN-10: 0976520168
ISBN-13: 978-0976520160
My Rating - 4.5 out of 5

Reviewed By Judi Silva

What is most interesting and attention-grabbing about this book is that it isn’t written by only one author. Rather, it is an anthology of the best and practical advice that writers can use to hone their craft and make a successful career with their writing. Composed of sixty-three articles from almost as many writers (some authors have more than one article showcased), it is a collection no writer should be without. All of the personal websites of each author are listed at the end of their articles. Even more valuable is how each author’s article is filled with quotes and advices they found helpful from other famous authors.

In this review, I have tried to quote a portion of each author’s article to give the reader a good sampling of what is covered in this anthology and hopefully wet their appetite to go out and buy it in order to devour the rest. There is something for everyone, no matter who you are or what you write.

The preface is written by Erica Jong. She points out “the more worldly the world, the more it needs a solitary artist for its own spiritual health. Believe in yourself. You are the soul and the conscience of the world, even if the world doesn’t know it yet.”

Under the first subheading of Creativity, Motivation & Discipline, Jane Yolen encourages the writer to “read everything you write out loud. Put everything in a folder (both computer and printout). Go back over what you have done previously before you begin that day.”

Eric Abrahamson clues us in on The Benefits of Messiness. “People with orderly desks report spending 36% more time finding things. Moderate messiness is completely acceptable and is, in fact, probably superior in a number of instances.”

Especially fascinated with the subject, I appreciated the article Where Do Ideas Come From? Some writers get annoyed with people who ask this question. But, as a writer who tries to turn a situation or experience into a story, I relish the opportunity to answer it.

For instance, one of my ideas came from inside a book I loaned from the local library. It was a novel written by one of my favorite authors, Indu Sundaresan. Not able to wait to reach home to begin reading it, I cracked open the cover on the bus. To my surprise, a portion of a boarding pass for Lufthansa Airlines fell out into my lap. Picking it up, I read what little details I could extrapolate from it and began to imagine who the previous reader of this novel had been and my imagination began to run wild. Instead of reading the book on the way home, I grabbed my journal and pen out of my backpack and began writing one of my own.

Philip Martins, who wrote the abovementioned article on ideas explains, “Where ideas come from then, is a combination of openness, constant seeking and courage. If the writer is tuned into these, the serendipity of ideas coming unbidden can at times seem miraculous.”

Gabriel Gudding, in the article The Cultivation of Mindstates says, “because writing is principally an act of generosity, cultivating an empathetic mindstate, indeed an empathetic temperament will only enhance our desire and ability to write well.”

Dennis Palumbo, who is not only an author but a licensed psychotherapist specializing in the issues of creative writing gives us The Three Cosmic Rules of Writing. “You may at this very moment be feeling scared, frustrated, blocked or discouraged. If so, join the club. Because so does every other writer in the world, even the most successful ones.”

On the topic of Developing Intuition, the creator and president of the National Association of Women Writers (NAWW) Sherri McConnell gives writers five suggestions to do this while also testing your inner guidance.

The Treadmill Journal, according to author Gregory Martin should include five daily entries - date and time, how long you will work, what you plan to work on, how it went and when you will work tomorrow and for how long. He also includes a sample entry.

Do you find yourself wondering how to start your story? Brandi Reissenweber tells writers, “The beginning’s job is to lure. You want to entice the reader into the story and deliver on that enticement.”

Most helpful are the articles entitled Checklist for Characters and Conflict Revision by Gregory Martin and Haiku Techniques of which author Jane Reichhold discusses nineteen of them.

The article by Laura Backes on What Dr. Seuss Can Teach Us was enlightening to me. Did you know for instance that it was in 1954 when a challenge by Pulitzer Prize winner John Hersey was put before Dr. Seuss and others in Life magazine? This challenge, which is discussed in detail led to the publication of The Cat In The Hat.

Maybe you’re trying to break into the world of magazine writing. Marcia Yudkin’s feature on M-Factors - Qualities That Help You Break Into Major Magazines will not only pique your interest but give you the five different factors important to your success in this field.

Is it nonfiction scenes that have your shorts in a bunch? Then check out Larry Getlen’s Recreating Nonfiction Scenes. Quoting author Julian Rubenstein he says, “you can’t write narrative reflection unless you have the material. You have to know everything. Then, and only then, can you decide what is best to illustrate your story.”

Linda Formichelli follows up with Getting The Tough Interview.

For journalists, Ray Peter Clark discusses The Line Between Fact and Fiction with strong advice and elaboration on the two cornerstone principles of “Do Not Add” and “Do Don’t Deceive”.

Lynn Franklin covers the importance of The Psychological Action In Nonfiction and how it increases the power of the story. By “bringing the reader close to the psychological action you help them to empathize with the character.”

The next three authors, namely W. Terry Whalen, Linda Adams and Judy Bridges advice writers about critique groups, both joining and running one along with creating snappy introductions for a successful one.

The quest for information/articles on the topic you want to write about is undertaken in Marylaine Block’s entry My First Rule of Information. She gives helpful advice on where to go to find what you need.

Eight articles appear in the Pitching & Proposals section. Resources are included with samples of pitches, query letters and proposals, along with a do’s and don’t and what to remember lists. Rounding it all out are the remaining two articles in this section - How to deal with a small press and understanding editorese.

Marketing Your Work is the section which follows. Learn how to create a successful press kit and how you as a writer can help your publisher with marketing by taking all the listed opportunities available to you. Both short and long projects are clearly defined.

The article on How To Get Great Testimonials lists seven tried and true styles to finding the right people and asking them for want you want. “Testimonials are a workhorse tool for your book marketing effort,” says author Jay Lipe.

Helpful step-by-step instructions are listed on the subject of Planning Author Events in Bookstores. After you’ve planned your event, take advantage of the tips to make sure it’s a well-attended event. This is especially true if the majority of your audience is international, such as was the case with author Jenna Glatzer. She discusses the nine best ways, which she found through trial and error, that work for her.

Not to be overlooked are the important topics of focusing on Niche Markets and The Potential of Tips Booklets by Kate Bandos and Paulette Ensign respectively.

One of the known experts on Writing White Papers, Michael Stelzner explains exactly what a white paper is, why they matter, why you should care about them, how they are used, and who reads them. The emergence of white papers as marketing tools and their standards are also considered.

Deborah Raney gives numerous ideas on how you can have a “positive influence” on both the life of your book and you as an author.

Being Internet savvy these days is a must for authors. Your own website will be not only the core but the starting point for an online book promotion, in order for you to target a larger audience than just those locally.

The five major steps which need to be taken to acquire a successful website are outlined by Patrice-Anne Rutledge. Moira Allen helps the writer create on online portfolio and talks about what to keep in mind when posting clips.

Have you started blogging yet? Creative Consultant Lani Voivod will explain why it is imperative to do so “if you have a passion, specialty, niche, mission or business.” Steve Weber continues with the same line of thought in his article Fundamentals of Blogging.

A concise, detailed explanation of the 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web have been compiled by Mark Bernstein.

Developing a catchy email signature is the topic of conversation with Linda Formichelli.

The last section of the anthology, barring the two appendices (Editor’s Afterward and Publication Credits), is titled Literary Insights and Lost Words. It encompasses ten articles by ten authors. Writers will learn How To Speak A Book with Richard Powers.

The articles Books As A Gateway Drug, Time Traveling By Words, Music and Arts, and Literary Fiction all appear in rapid succession. We then reach Katha Pollitt’s comical Thank You For Hating My Book.

No matter where we hail from, our culture and heritage has its own distinct language. “It is a language,” concludes Barry Lopez in Discovering Home Ground, “that keeps us from slipping off into abstract space.

Go Into The Light with Mike Silva and be content with Being A Minor Writer with Bruce Holland Rogers.

When all is said and done, Mary Pipher’s Writing In A New World cautions writers that sometimes language can be a weapon in itself. “We weaponize it when we use it to objectify, depersonalize, dehumanize and create an “other”.

Philip Martins sums things up by expressing the sentiments that “writing is a gift and we should try to use it for good. Take it seriously but don’t forget to laugh at yourself. Good writing comes from great passion and personal dedication.


Reviewed By Judi Silva
Originally published on Associated Content:

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