Friday, June 25, 2010

Now Write! Nonfiction

Edited by Sherry Ellis 

From the back of the book:

“Culled from the personal stashes of such critically acclaimed nonfiction writers as legendary essayist Gay Talese (‘Thy Neighbor’s Wife’), New York Times-bestselling authors Ishmael Beah (‘A Long Way Gone’), Reza Astan (‘No God but God’), and Tilar Mazzeo (‘The Widow Clicquot’), 2008 Pulitzer Prize winner John Matteson (‘Eden’s Outcasts), creative nonfiction icon Lee Gutkind (Creative Nonfiction magazine), and many other top memoirists, journalists, and teachers of creative nonfiction, the exercises collected in ‘Now Write! Nonfiction’ offer fresh ideas for every facet of creative nonfiction writing. Covering topics ranging from pushing through writer’s block to organizing a story, injecting new life into a finished piece to starting a new work from scratch, these exercises will be relished by beginners and seasoned writers alike.”

It’s no secret … I’m a writer. I write mainly journalism. I write nonfiction. I’ve worked for newspapers for more than 20 years (freelancing for the last several of those). And I’ve won awards for my writing.

I’ve listened to lectures by some of the biggest and best in the field, so I do know at least a little something about the craft of writing nonfiction.

However, like any skill, there is always more to learn. I have lots of books on writing stacked on my shelves and sitting in boxes and yes, I do refer to them often. So, I was thrilled when Penguin asked me to review “Now Write! Nonfiction.”

This isn’t just a book about people telling you how to write. Sherry Ellis takes essays on the topic from some of the most recognizable names in the field and follows them up with some exercises so you get the chance to try out some of the advice for yourself.

In one of the sections, S.L. Wisenberg, the co-director of the creative writing master’s program at Northwestern University, discusses “The Brain Map.”

“How many times do we jot down ideas on scraps of paper – the backs of shopping lists and ATM receipts, on sticky notes that lose their stickiness, and the like? Too many, in my case. And, of course, we lose them, both the papers and the ideas.”

Wisenberg then goes on to explain how we can pin down those ideas so we can actually use them. The exercise is designed to “inventory what’s inside your head” so you can “refer to it later whenever you’re stuck for a subject.”

It’s just one of many ways this book can definitely assist the writer of both nonfiction and fiction.

I plan to keep this book close by and refer to it often. I may even take the time to do some of the exercises to hone my writing skills. Can’t hurt, as they say!

This is a great book and I challenge all my writer friends to give it a try.

No comments: