Books on Writing

I guess it’s no surprise there are so many books about writing. We writers need something to write about, and some of us write about writing.

Writing is a craft that I continually work on. In college I majored in journalism, and since then I have continued to take writing classes (both in person and online), participate in professional writers’ groups and online forums, and sometimes in local writers groups — and I also read how other people have succeeded as writers. How they do it. Their tips.

They’re just like us, most of those other writers. We’re all just people sitting in front of a yellow pad of paper or a laptop, starting with a blank screen and a head full of ideas. Reading over the years about how some people have accomplished what they’ve done has helped me set goals for my own writing, and reach high.

I could read about writing until the cows come home. (“What cows?” asked my then-four-year-old with a puzzled look, once, when I used that expression.) Though it’s best to put down the books and hit the keyboard from time to time.

Here are just some of the writing books on my shelves, which I’ve loosely grouped into categories here. I have learned from or been inspired by many of these.

BUSINESS

Early on I realized that you are only a hobbyist, and will likely get nowhere as a professional freelance writer, until you accept that it’s a business and you need to be businesslike (in setting goals, where you focus your efforts, calculating your overhead and knowing how much to charge, protecting your copyrights, handling accounting, paying taxes and much more). Some creative sorts have to really force themselves to buckle down and learn the business aspect of being a self-employed writer. Here are some books that can help:

  • The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing, ed. by Timothy Harper
  • This Business of Writing, by Gregg Levoy
  • Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer, by Jenna Glazer
  • Six-Figure Freelancing, by Kelly James-Enger
BY WRITERS ABOUT WRITING
I don’t know how to group these books, some of which inspired and convinced me I could quit the day job and live happily as a writer (they were right!):
  • Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
  • The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
  • If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland
  • Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande
  • Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Living the Writer’s Life, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Thunder and Lightning, Cracking Open the Writer’s Craft, by Natalie Goldberg
  • Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
  • Making a Literary Life, by Carolyn See
  • On Writing, by Stephen King
  • No Mentor But Myself: Jack London on Writing and Writers, ed. by Dale L. Walker and Jeanne Campbell Reesman
FICTION/NOVEL WRITING
What pondering these titles from my bookshelf tells me is that I have long wanted to delve more into fiction and novel-writing. But I knew that already.
  • On Becoming a Novelist, by John Gardner
  • On Teaching and Writing Fiction, by Wallace Stegner
  • The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner
  • Writing the Novel, by Lawrence Block
  • Writing Fiction, by Janet Burroway
  • How to Write a Book Proposal, by Michael Larsen
  • The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, ed. by Meg Leder, Jack Heffron and the editors of Writer’s Digest

MAGAZINE/NEWSPAPER WRITING
I have done an awful lot of this. I started out, long ago, writing an occasional freelance piece for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and then got a regular freelance gig working for Hilo’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald, where I wrote features and entertainment articles every week. That was terrific in teaching me how to just sit down and do it. When I had several articles due each week, I also got over my reticence about calling people to ask questions. That was worth it all right there.

After that I started writing for magazines. More interesting, more in-depth, more time for craft. Yet it doesn’t always pay enough to pay the bills. There are a few people who only write for national magazines and make a good living, but you cannot count on that these days. If magazine freelancing is your plan, you’d better start out with some other income, too.

  • The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, by William E. Blundell
  • Writing for Story, by Jon Franklin
  • Creative Nonfiction, by Philip Gerard
  • Story, by Robert McKee
  • Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, ed. by Jean Fredette
  • You Can Write a Column, by Monica McCabe Cordoza
  • The Renegade Writer, by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell
  • Travel Writing, See the World, Sell the Story, by L. Peat O’Neil
  • Literary Journalism, ed. by Norman Sims and Mark Kramer
MEMOIR
  • Living to Tell the Tale, A Guide to Writing Memoir, by Jane Taylor McDonnell
  • Inventing the Truth, the Art and Craft of Memoir, ed. by William Zinsser
ON WRITERS
It’s aways fun to read how other writers do what they do. Computer? Typewriter? Pencil and pen? Schedules? Rituals? Isabel Allende always starts writing a new novel on January 8th, because that’s the date she started her very successful (and wonderful) novel House of the Spirits. (It’s one of my favorites.)
  • Writers on Writing, Collected Essays from the New York Times
  • The Writer on Her Work, by Janet Sternberg
  • The New New Journalism, ed. by Robert S. Boynton
COPYWRITING
Some of my work falls under the category of copywriting. These books were somewhat interesting as I started out writing for businesses, but I’ve found that I figured out a lot of it by myself, along the way. The Well-Fed Writer is currently a bible to some copywriters.
  • The $100,000 Writer, by Nancy Flynn
  • The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman
  • Secrets of a Freelance Writer, by Bob Bly
  • The Copywriter’s Handbook, by Bob Bly
RADIO
This is one of the few books from my long-ago college journalism days that I’ve kept. I have worked in public (and commercial) radio a little bit, and really enjoyed it. I keep the book in case I want to get back into it one day. Cool book.
  • Telling the Story, the National Public Radio Guide to Radio Journalism
LASTLY
And, my favorite title of all:
  • Too Lazy To Work, Too Nervous to Steal: How to have a great life as a freelance writer, by John Clausen

Image © Tanjaru | Dreamstime.com

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Message From The Dead

Except a living man there is nothing

more wonderful than a book!

A message to us from the dead,

– from human souls whom we never saw,

who lived perhaps thousands of miles away;

and yet these, on those little sheets of paper,

speak to us, teach us, comfort us,

open their hearts to us as brothers.

–  Charles Kingsley (1819-1875)

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‘Captain Cooked’ Book Signings – Meet The Author!

Listen, there’s a new book out and it’s an island culinary/romance/mystery novel that got me at its great title. It’s called Captain Cooked.

Full disclosure: I know about this book because its author, Steve Grogan, hired me before publication to review it for Hawaiian cultural accuracy. It’s set here on the Big Island, and he wanted to make sure he had his Hawai‘i facts down.

And so I got to read it early on, and saw that it’s really a fun read. Included throughout the book are really interesting island-related recipes. There’s also geocaching and more. And get this: He has hidden a shark-teeth club somewhere on the Big Island, and the book contains clues as to its location. Find the treasure and win $5000! This book really has it all! (Don’t ask me where the treasure is. I really have no idea.)

He did a similar thing with his previous book, a mystery titled Vegas Die. (Great book titles, huh?!) Nobody found the hidden dagger. Read where it was.

Vegas Die, published by Addison & Highsmith Publishers, has gained recognition as a “Best Seller” in the West, with its special twist featuring a dagger worth $25,000 hidden somewhere in the Las Vegas Valley, with clues to be found within the book. The fictional plot centers around the murders of retired mobsters with the Mayor of Las Vegas becoming the #1 suspect.

Back to his current book: Steve Grogan is going to be here, on the Big Island and O‘ahu, signing books, and you should swing by. I’m going to stop by when he’s at Basically Books in Hilo on Saturday. He is an interesting guy and you should stop by, say hello and pick up a book, which he’ll sign for you.

If you cannot make a signing, you can order Captain Cooked online.

Captain Cooked Book Signing Tour Dates

Big Island

Saturday, February 19th Borders Bookstore, 75-1000 Henry Street in Kailua-Kona 10:30 am (808.331.1668)  — Tentative–check with store

Saturday, February 19th at Basically Books 160 Kamehameha Ave. in Hilo 2 pm (800.903.6277)

Sunday, February 20th   10am, Big Island Geocachers at Island Lava Java restaurant, 75-5799 Ali’i Dr., on Kona Bay in Kailua-Kona – Public welcome

Sunday, February 20th Royal Kona Resort with book cover Tiki artist Brad Parker, 4 pm to sunset,  75-5852 Ali’i Drive, Kailua-Kona

Tuesday, March 1st, Kona Stories in Kailua-Kona 6 pm ‘Words & Wine,’ Keauhou Shopping Center,  78-6831 Ali’i Drive (808.324-0350)

O’ahu

Friday, February 25th,  Pau Hana Meet & Greet with O’ahu Geocachers, 6-8 p.m.  at Kaka’ako Kitchen, 1200 Ala Moana Blvd. (Ward Centre)—Free, public welcome

Saturday, February 26th at Barnes & Noble in Ala Moana Center 1450 Ala Moana Blvd. Suite 1272   11am-2pm (808.949.7307)

Sunday, February 27th at Barnes & Noble at Kahala Mall 4211 Waialae Avenue   (808.737.3323) 1:30 pm-3:30 pm

Please contact book stores and locations to verify times

Please note: due to the impending Borders Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing the Honolulu book signings were cancelled and adjust your calendar accordingly.

Some of the press the book has received so far, and store announcements:

Captain Cooked Recent News Articles, Blogs, Book Store Postings

— as of February 1st, 2011

Craig’s List

http://honolulu.craigslist.org/big/eve/2177754916.html
Honolulu Star Advertiser

http://www.prlog.org/11261704-captain-cooked-book-review-by-star-advertiser.html
Big Island Chronicle

http://www.bigislandchronicle.com/2011/02/01/hawaii-news-get-your-copy-of-captain-cooked-autographed-in-upcoming-book-signing-tour/
Hawaii Life of Luxury

http://www.hawaiilifeofluxury.com/captain-cooked-mystery-book-by-s-p-grogan/
Hawaii Book Blog

http://www.hawaiibookblog.com/?p=5090
Hawaii Star

http://www.hawaiistar.com/2011/01/captain-cooked/
Big Island – Big Island Blog

http://www.bigisland-bigisland.com/author-of-captain-cooked-book-signing-dates-proceeds-to-food-basket-program.html
News Blaze review

http://newsblaze.com/story/20101001054427clar.nb/topstory.html
You Tube Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8K9g3GglE-Y
Craig’s List

http://honolulu.craigslist.org/oah/eve/2153723051.html
Native Books – Na Mea Hawaii

http://www.nativebookshawaii.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_12&products_id=4008
Basically Books – Hilo

http://www.basicallybooks.com/upcomingevents.html
The Big Island’s Food Basket Calendar

http://www.foodbaskethi.org/index.php/calendar/
Kahakai Kitchen Blog

http://www.wellsphere.com/healthy-cooking-article/alan-wong-s-whole-tomato-japanese-cucumber-salad-with-li-hing-mui-vinaigrette-for-local-foodie-mystery-captain-cooked/1189654

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Selling The Book

MoneyThis Wall Street Journal article How Authors Move Their Own Merchandise, by Joanne Kaufman, is about how much effort writers put into marketing — selling — their own books these days. It’s out of necessity; the publishing world has changed a lot.

It starts:

To gin up sales for her 2009 essay collection “Bad Mother,” Ayelet Waldman rewarded those who preordered the book with such lagniappes as a donation to a scholarship fund or a copy of a novel by her husband, Michael Chabon. “I think all of that got ‘Bad Mother’ on the New York Times best-seller list,” Ms. Waldman said.

Ayelet Waldman is one author who has learned the benefits of giveaways and social networking.

Eager for lightning to strike twice, she began working the Facebook rolls before last summer’s publication of her novel “Red Hook Road.” Those who preordered (or sent an email explaining their lack of interest in preordering) were entered into a drawing to win an iPod loaded with music thematic to the book. Read more

My favorite is the part about the writer who put up a slideshow on his Facebook page. It showed famous people reading his novel. I just love that. Watch for that when I’m peddling a novel one day.

Read the whole article here.

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