Sunday, March 16, 2008

Writers Workshop in a Book: The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction

Writers Workshop in a Book: The Squaw Valley Community of Writers on the Art of Fiction edited by Alan Cheuse and Lisa Alvarez, introduction by Richard Ford (Chronicle, 2007).

This 219-page collection of essays is an entertaining, inspiring, and informative read--bursting with insights and perspective. Its target audience may write for grown-ups, but there's plenty here for those committed to youth literature.

"Making Workshops Work" by Sands Hall (especially for beginners), "Fear of Finishing" by Mark Childress (which I'm tempted to say should be required reading), and "Angst and the Second Book" by Amy Tan are each worth the price of the book. Here's a sneak peek at each:

"Making Workshops Work" by Sands Hall: "Our job is to take what's on the page and make it effective." Attention also is given to receiving the critique--not reacting or defending, even to yourself, or arguing that the person trying to help you is not qualified.

"Fear of Finishing" by Mark Childress: "Those people who write a new book every year--the way some people buy a new car--well, it's just disgraceful, if you ask me. Someone who writes a book every year has no fear of finishing whatsoever." Some of the most promising manuscripts I've read have never been finished. Do you have one that's endlessly in progress (or not)? How can you overcome your fear?

"Angst and the Second Book" by Amy Tan: "I read reviews that praised me as having skills I never knew I had--related to my unusual use of structure and the simplicity of my prose. And I read critical ones as well, which pointed out faults that I also never knew I had--related to my unusual use of structure and the simplicity of my prose."

Learn more about the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Note: my apology to readers who may be offended by the name, which is original to the locale, not the workshop. Also thanks to Gene Brenek for the recommendation; read a Cynsations interview with Gene.

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