We are all interns of the craft. Sometimes you just need a good shot in the arm to get back to writing. Other times, you are savvy enough to know there is still a thing or two to learn about the craft to which we are called. Here’s two titles to add to your reading list. Both are keepers. (Book titles are linked to Amazon.)
HOW TO WRITE SHORT STORIES AND USE THEM TO FURTHER YOUR WRITING CAREER by James Scott Bell. Compendium Press, 2016. 123 pages.
Don’t let the brevity of this book fool you. It packs a wallop.
James Scott Bell had me at sentence one. He begins his how-to with an anecdote from Seinfeld. How could I not be hooked?
Bell masterfully teaches or reviews the basics in the first two chapters, but in such a way that even a reader with an MFA is engaged. I truly wish my History of Prose Style class, a requirement for my master’s, had presented this information instead of the uber-focus on writers like Sir Francis Bacon and (yawn) John Bunyan.
Likewise, the writers whom Bell discusses–some of whom he even includes in the second half of the book, Reading Short Stories, are so much more relevant and engaging than the program I completed twenty years ago.
Bell goes on to teach writers his method, “The Big Key” which is his surefire way to write engaging short fiction. He shares plenty of examples and later elaborates on how a writer can use the short story to gain traction in his/her writing career. He gives concrete directions on how to apply his methods to doing just that.
I received this book as a Christmas gift and find it to be a gift that will keep on giving as I forge ahead as a published writer. Pick up this gem if you’re interested in writing short fiction and you’re looking for a new game plan to up your career.
FIERCE ON THE PAGE: Become the Writer You Were Meant to Be and Succeed on Your Own Terms by Sage Cohen. Writer’s Digest Books, 2016. 229 pages.
This book is a treasure. And lucky for me, I found some coffee cups at a Ross Dress for Less store that had FIERCE written in the exact font used on the spine of the book and the colors on the cup likewise match the book. Because of this, I was able to gift the book and the mug to my comrades in writing last Christmas–plus, I had two left over for my desk and my kitchen. A win-win.
I pre-ordered this book last summer and took it to Disney with me on vacation. It was magical all the way around.
In FIERCE ON THE PAGE, Cohen teaches, informs and motivates the writing reader, and she does so with a gracious ease that makes the reader feel as if she is speaking one-on-one with a dear friend or cohort in a writer’s group.
The second half of the title: Become The Writer You Were Meant to Be and Succeed on Your Own Terms is key here. This is a book about stripping away all the would-have, should-have, could-have doubts we writers experience. It’s about freeing ourselves by using certain tools and developing habits of mind that will improve our productivity, increase our sense of fulfillment, and empower us as writers.
Some of Cohen’s chapters contain metaphorical anecdotes that involve her young son, her pets, and/or some her professional experiences. All together, Cohen’s hard-won wisdom is gold and packaged in short, episodic chapters that could easily stand alone as lessons. Had I found this book when I was teaching creative writing, I would have ordered a class-set, and tailored the curriculum and lessons around her chapters–and that is high praise from one master teacher to another.
This book includes seventy-five short chapters–most with fun titles like Bite the Monkey, Don’t Smoke a Cigarette While Pushing an Oxygen Tank, and Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Names Can Change the Shape of Water Molecules. And every single one is chock-full of Writer’s Get Up and Go MOJO.
Also, some of the chapters conclude with a BE FIERCE text-box in which Cohen suggests further action or thought to the reader. It helps one to try on a new, FIERCE way of approaching the craft–and really, life itself in some cases. As far as having a mantra goes, one could do worse than Be Fierce or Be Fierce on the Page
This is a book I pick up and re-read whenever I need a trusted friend to give me a little push. I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit in Cohen. She is sage, indeed.