Resources for Writers
Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life by Nava Atlas
In Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life: Inspiration and Advice from Celebrated Women Authors Who Paved the Way, Nava Atlas explores what it is like to live the writing life through the journals, letters, and diaries of twelve celebrated women writers, including such renowned authors as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Madeleine L‘Engle, Anaïs Nin, George Sand, Edith Wharton, and Virginia Woolf.
Nava’s own insightful commentary lifts the curtain on these women’s lives and provides reassuring tips and advice on such subjects as dealing with rejection, money matters, and balancing family with the solitary writing process that will resonate with women writers in todays world. With 100+ vintage photos, illustrations, and ephemera, this book is a splendid gift book for writers. Read more about The Literary Ladies’ Guide to the Writing Life on Amazon.com.
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
Even in 1934, Dorothea Brande knew that most writers didn’t need another book on “technique” — and this, before so many more would be published. No, she realized, as John Gardner notes in his foreword, “the root problems of the writer are personality problems,” and thus her wise book is designed to simply help you get over yourself and start writing, with techniques ranging from a simple declaration to write every day at a fixed time — no matter what — to exercises that come close to inventing the TM and self-actualization movements that would follow a few decades later. Learn more about Becoming a Writer on Amazon.com.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Annie Dillard has spent a lot of time in remote, bare-bones shelters doing something she claims to hate: writing. Slender though it is, The Writing Life richly conveys the torturous, tortuous, and in rare moments, transcendent existence of the writer. Even for Dillard, whose prose is so mellifluous as to seem effortless, the act of writing can seem a Sisyphean task: “When you write,” she says, “you lay out a line of words…. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow or this time next year.”
Amid moving accounts of her own writing (and life) experiences, Dillard also manages to impart wisdom to other writers, wisdom having to do with passion and commitment and taking the work seriously. “One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place…. Something more will arise for later, something better.” This all makes The Writing Life seem a dense, tough read, but that is not the case at all. Dillard is, after all, human, just like the rest of us. During one particularly frantic moment, four cups of coffee and not much writing down, Dillard comes to a realization: “Many fine people were out there living, people whose consciences permitted them to sleep at night despite their not having written a decent sentence that day, or ever.” (—Jane Steinberg) Learn more about The Writing Life on Amazon.com.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Think you’ve got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn’t afraid to help you let it out. She’ll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication. Readers of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life will be reminded of the energizing books of writer Natalie Goldberg and will be seduced by Lamott’s witty take on the reality of a writer’s life, which has little to do with literary parties and a lot to do with jealousy, writer’s block and going for broke with each paragraph.
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” Marvelously wise and best of all, great reading. Learn more about Bird by Bird on Amazon.com.
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
In Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writers—Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov—and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue, to Flannery O’Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail, and to James Joyce and Katherine Mansfield for clever examples of how to employ gesture to create character.
She cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted. Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart. Learn more about Reading Like a Writer on Amazon.com.
One Year to a Writing Life by Susan M. Tiberghien
Whether you are a writer of fiction or essays, or want to explore poetry or memoir, Tiberghien’s twelve fundamental lessons will help you discover and develop your own distinct voice. Tiberghien’s inventive exercises focus on the processes unique to each genre, while also offering skills applicable to any kind of writing, from authentic dialogue to masterful short-shorts. With vivid examples from literary masters such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Eduardo Galeano, May Sarton, Terry Tempest Williams, and Orhan Pamuk, One Year to a Writing Life is an essential guidebook of exercises, practical advice, and wisdom for anyone looking to embrace, explore, and implement creativity in everyday life. Learn more about One Year to a Writing Life on Amazon.com.
If You Want to Write: by Brenda Ueland
For most, the hardest part of writing is overcoming the mountain of self-denial that weighs upon the spirit, always threatening to extinguish those first small embers of ambition. Brenda Ueland, a writer and teacher, devotes most of If You Want to Write: A Book About Art, Independence, and Life — published back in 1938, before everyone and their goldfish got their MFA’s in creative writing–to these matters of the writer’s heart. Still, the real gift of the book is Ueland herself: She liked to write, she didn’t care what anyone thought, and she had a great sense of humor. You’re simply happy to hang out with her. Learn more about If You Want to Write on Amazon.com.
On Writing by Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty was one of the twentieth century’s greatest literary figures. For as long as students have been studying her fiction as literature, writers have been looking to her to answer the profound questions of what makes a story good, a novel successful, a writer an artist. On Writing presents the answers in seven concise chapters discussing the subjects most important to the narrative craft, and which every fiction writer should know, such as place, voice, memory, and language. But even more important is what Welty calls “the mystery” of fiction writing—how the writer assembles language and ideas to create a work of art.
Originally part of her larger work The Eye of the Story but never before published in a stand-alone volume, On Writing is a handbook every fiction writer, whether novice or master, should keep within arm’s reach. Like The Elements of Style, On Writing is concise and fundamental, authoritative and timeless—as was Eudora Welty herself. Learn more about On Writing on Amazon.com.