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Get Creative: Explore Michael’s Craft Store Online
Are you looking for a way to get creative and explore your crafty side? Michael’s Craft Store is the perfect place to find all the supplies you need to make your next project a success. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced crafter, Michael’s has something for everyone. With their online store, you can shop from the comfort of your own home and find everything you need to make your project come to life. Here’s how to explore Michael’s Craft Store online.
The first step in any crafting project is finding inspiration. Luckily, Michael’s has plenty of ideas for all kinds of projects. From jewelry making and painting to scrapbooking and paper crafts, there are plenty of ideas to choose from. You can also browse through their selection of DIY kits that come with everything you need to get started on your project.
Shop for Supplies
Once you have an idea in mind, it’s time to shop for supplies. Michael’s has a wide selection of products ranging from basic craft supplies like glue and scissors to more specialized items like fabric and beads. You can also find tools like paint brushes, stencils, and more. If you need help finding something specific, their customer service team is always available to answer any questions you may have.
Take Advantage of Deals
Michael’s offers great deals on their products so that you can save money while still getting the supplies you need for your project. They offer weekly coupons that can be used both in-store and online, as well as special discounts for members of their loyalty program. You can also sign up for their email list so that you never miss out on a great deal.
No matter what kind of craft project you have in mind, Michael’s Craft Store has everything you need to get started. With their online store, it’s easy to find inspiration and shop for supplies without ever leaving the house. Don’t forget to take advantage of their deals so that you can save money while still getting all the supplies you need.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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7 Craft Books to Help You Become a Better Writer
Instructional guides from groundbreaking writers who are changing the industry from the inside.
Craft is often thought of as the backbone of literature, the scientific and mathematical side of the creative process that examines an artist’s techniques. In prose, it often involves terms such as plot, pacing, point of view, characterization, scene-setting, structure, dialogue… It is the rational breakdown of those mechanisms that work behind the scenes in the stories we love and despise most—the ones we wish we’d written ourselves.
In literature, craft is fascinatingly unlike itself in any other subject. Instead of becoming more and more obvious as well as understood, it becomes subconscious, supposedly, once you’ve mastered it. But craft never ends. Even if it is turned on its head, that twist and distortion itself is a part of craft. It becomes a new and exciting way to design a story, to surprise a reader, to invent a structure that’s never been thought of before. This is the heart of craft and what the following seven books aim to describe each in their own unique way.
The titles on this list are at the forefront of contemporary literature, engaging with experimental structures, rebelling against the canon, and carefully pointing out the ways in which our assumptions delude us. Whether you are an aspiring writer, a Pulitzer-Prize winning memoirist, or a curious reader, these books on craft will change you and the way you think about the world—as well as literature—within the complex confines of beauty and truth.
Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses
In Craft in the Real World , Matthew Salesses—bestselling author and Assistant Professor of Writing at Columbia University—breaks down the meaning and implications of craft in fiction, redefines its terms, and elaborates upon the history and “rules” of writing workshops in the U.S. since 1936. He argues that literature should not exist in a vacuum and that the “responsibilities of actual life” also belong in the realm of art. Through thought experiments, examples, and anecdotes, Salesses masterfully upends the framework of many MFA programs and the way many writers have been taught how to approach feedback, revision, and cultural expectations in their work. This book is a must-read—as it significantly addresses the issues that have plagued white-centric literature for far too long and proposes alternative ideas and methods that will revolutionize contemporary fiction today.
“Craft is about who has the power to write stories, what stories are historicized and who historicizes them, who gets to write literature and who folklore, whose writing is important and to whom, in what context. This is the process of standardization… These standards must be challenged and disempowered.”
Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos
Body Work by Melissa Febos also goes against the tide of traditional craft books. In four essays, Febos beautifully gathers her own experiences, reflects upon what she’s learned from writing and from teaching, and analyzes specific examples from the historical canon while revolting against them through personal narratives. The award-winning essayist and University of Iowa Professor shows how navel-gazing and confession can still be moving without feeling overdone, especially for women who fear being cast out by a misogynistic bias in the industry. Febos encourages her readers to examine the assumptions they’ve inherited about writing, such as how to structure a sex scene, the scripts we follow in art and in life, and the true place for cruelty in literature.
Throughout the collection, Febos is unparalleled as she draws on the power of healing through art, makes philosophical arguments on the ethics of writing about real people, and shows just how deeply one must travel to eliminate the distance between the author and the nonfiction narrator.
“Writer was the only role I could see myself occupying in society… It offered the gift of self-forgetting, a transcendence on the other side of which lay insight.”
Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee
For those of you seeking further guidance on writing nonfiction, John McPhee is a flashlight in a pitch dark theater. The Pulitzer-Prize winning author, retired Princeton professor, and staff writer on the New Yorker since 1965, collected his wisdom, advice, letters, and anecdotes in a book that goes beyond lessons on craft. In Draft No. 4 , McPhee describes his decades-long experiences with editors, the New Yorker fact-checking department, the art of omission, the key to escape from writer’s block, how to unravel secrets from an interviewee, and much more. The book is comprehensive and eloquent and has been called the written version of McPhee’s creative nonfiction course, which he taught for over forty years at Princeton University.
“Creative nonfiction is not making something up, but making the most of what you have.”
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee
Alexander Chee’s manifesto on the beauty of crossed lines between reality and literature is not only for memoirists or nonfiction writers. As the title suggests, it is truly about the art of the novel and the way all stories penetrate, misremember, and influence truth. It is less a guide on how to write an autobiographical novel than it is an example of profound and life-changing essays in written form.
Chee’s essays examine how his identity as a Korean American developed and became hard to define while growing up, how he was shaped by reading fiction as much as by factual events and experiences, and also how identity is not a singular noun. Through the odd jobs, the headlines, the tragedies and comedies, and the elections of a lifetime, Chee writes. And with the essays in this collection, Chee also shows how being a Tarot-reader, bookseller, and cater-waiter for William F. Buckley can simultaneously support, inform, and expand the life of an artist who is also always an activist.
“Something new is made from my memories and yours as you read this. It is not my memory, not yours, and it is born and walks the bridges and roads of your mind, as long as it can.”
Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative by Jane Alison
Jane Alison is a versatile and multi-talented artist, expanding beyond one genre—she’s the author of four novels and a memoir, a translator of Ovid, and a professor of creative writing at the University of Virginia. Meander, Spiral, Explode is her book on craft, and while it deals with specific canon examples and thinking about plot, structure, and pacing, it too is versatile and expansive—much like Alison herself. The book proposes a new way of framing our stories. Instead of the conventional narrative arc seen time and again in Western fiction, tracing back to Aristotle, Alison compares certain stories’ movements to paintings, music, gardens, houses, living creatures, oceans, and natural motion. She offers new and exciting ways of reading, writing, and designing stories while encouraging writers to experiment with the patterns that dictate fiction.
“Visual elements such as texture, color, or symmetry can open windows and let us design as much as write. Text comes from texere , after all: to weave. Next, we can be conscious, deliberate, innovative , in the paths we carve through our words.”
About Writing by Samuel R. Delany
About Writing clocks in at about 432 pages. But trust me, by the end, you’re going to be wishing there were 432 more pages of Delany’s wisdom. The collection consists of letters, interviews, and essays encompassing a range of topics such as Delany’s philosophy of time, how to engage with the canon, whether to use flashbacks or not, how to build calluses against critics, the pleasure of language in science fiction, and so much more. Reading About Writing feels much like sitting by a fire, late into the night, listening to Delany spin tales about the writing life, the process, his youth in New York, and the truths he’s uncovered through it all.
“The sign that the writer has internalized a model deeply enough to use it in writing is when he or she has encountered it enough times so that she or he no longer remembers it in terms of a speciﬁc example or a particular text, but experiences it, rather, as a force in the body…”
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Last but not least is Anne Lamott’s instructional guide that could be used for writing motivation or, more generally, for life at any time. She begins the book by telling an anecdote about her brother who once procrastinated an ornithological research project until the night before, and her father’s response was to “take it bird by bird.” Lamott uses this philosophy to guide the reader through the process and pains of writing and how to view it not so much as a chore, a routine, or a block in one’s schedule, but rather as a spiritual exercise that satisfies and uplifts the soul. Her humor and biting sarcasm throughout the book is another reason to dive into it and to enjoy the pages, above all.
“Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, How alive am I willing to be?”
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5 of the Best Writing Craft Books
There are countless books available on the craft of writing. so many, in fact, that it can be hard to distinguish those that stand out from the crowd. here we give you our thoughts on five of the best..
At Inky Frog Editorial we are big believers in developing strong foundations for our writing through reading, and that extends to reading about writing craft. There are so many books on the craft of writing that we struggled to choose only five. Some of these books are widely known, some are less well known. Some deal with the broad aspects of writing, some choose to focus on specific elements. Some deal with fiction for all ages, some focus on children's and YA fiction. We have tried to curate a list with variety so that you can find the book that might help you most. Happy reading!
Monkeys with typewriters: how to write fiction and unlock the secret power of stories by scarlett thomas.
As both an author and lecturer of creative writing, Scarlett Thomas has years of experience in crafting novels for both children and adults. Her own writing has been longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for the South African Book Prize. Her novels include Bright Young Things , Going Out , and PopCo .
Monkeys With Typewriters is written in two parts: part one looking at theory, part two focusing on practice. Thomas is a professor of creative writing and this shows in her handling of the theoretical components. This book is perhaps more academic than some of the others on our list, but it is still aimed at the beginning writer, offering explorations of Plato, Aristotle and Chekhov. Thomas takes the reader on a journey through the anatomy of plots, specifically through what she believes to be the eight basic plots of story: tragedy, comedy, the quest, rags to riches, coming of age, stranger comes to town, mystery and modern realism.
Whether it's differentiating between comedy or tragedy, or identifying the eight basic plots, Thomas is a fine guide — thebookbag.co.uk
Part two walks the reader through the practical elements of constructing their story: ideas and inspiration, styles of narration, characterisation, compelling sentences and – most importantly – beginning to write. She introduces us to her own plotting and character building strategies through the use of matrices, many examples of which are provided in the book.
Thomas's advice is peppered with examples from novels (her own and others), writing theory, and literary criticism. You can't help but absorb the wealth of her knowledge and understanding from her many years of immersion in the world of story.
We absolutely recommend Monkeys with Typewriters . My one wish is that it had an index to make future reference easier.
Writers' & Artists' Guide to Writing for Children and YA by Linda Strachan
Linda Strachan is an author and creative writing teacher. With over 60 children's books published, and a breadth of experience teaching writing to children and adults, as well as speaking about writing craft at conferences and festivals, Linda was the perfect choice to pen the Writers' & Artists' Guide to Writing for Children and YA.
You can pretty much have confidence in anything that carries the Writers' & Artists' brand, such as the yearbook (a must-have for all writers), website, courses and other resources such as this book. Again written for the beginning writer, the book is presented in five parts, the first of which sets about demystifying the age classifications of children's and YA fiction. Strachan explores the different age ranges from picture book to YA in the context of genre, theme, illustration, gendered reading, sensitivity and authenticity, as well as the book market for each age range.
If you are interested in writing a series of books, chapter 6 takes you through some of the essential considerations before moving on to talk about non-fiction, the educational market, and technology.
An essential read for everyone interested in the art, craft and business of writing — Malorie Blackman
Part two is a writers' toolkit covering basics such as plot, character, dialogue, point of view, beginnings and endings, setting and visualisation. Crucially, Strachan centres one chapter around the importance of generating original and fresh ideas – essential in today's overcrowded children's market.
Parts three and four take a glance at the pre- and post-publication stages which includes agent submissions, marketing and publicity, and author events – to name just a few.
The book really is a comprehensive beginner's guide to writing children's and YA fiction. The content has been well thought through and clarifies many of the unknowns of the writing world for the new writer.
If you are a more experienced writer, perhaps attempting a cross-over from adult fiction to children's, you may find one of the other titles on our list more suitable for you.
How Not to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark
Between them, Newman and Mittelmark have racked up thirty years of experience in the world of books. Newman is an author and has taught fiction and creative writing at a number of academic institutions. Mittelmark is an author and ghostwriter, and has worked for literary agencies and publishers in various editorial capacities. Their combined experiences – and their cutting sense of humour – have positioned them as the perfect authors of this hilarious guide.
If you need some humour injected into the writing process, How Not to Write a Novel is the one for you. The book takes you through the classic elements of story that we would expect – plot, character, dialogue, perspective, voice, and so on – but with the twist of telling us what not to do. Like Monkeys with Typewriters , this one focuses on all fiction, not just children's and YA, but the advice is relevant to all age ranges.
A hilarious, wickedly observed and deeply useful guide — Kate Saunders, The Observer
Packed full with comical examples of classic writing errors, this is a gem of a book to read before you consider self-publishing or submitting to an agent. In fact, this would be a great book to read after your first draft is completed and before you start your first self-edit – as long as you remember to bring your sense of humour! The bitingly funny examples are so accurate that most writers – whether new or seasoned – will recognise many of the traits in their own writing.
Each section within the chapters is punctuated with a witty header:
Are Sticks and Stones Still an Option?
Wherein the author mangles common expressions
The Tennis Match
Wherein the point of view bounces back and forth
The Court Reporter
In which every single last solitary word of conversation is included
The Convention of the Invisible Men
Where the author fails to identify his speakers
Be prepared to laugh your socks off with this one, but most importantly, be prepared to recognise some of these missteps in your own writing. Perhaps you know you are prone to overly flowery or ornate language; maybe you are aware that you include too much of the mundane day-to-day action in your writing. No writer is perfect; if we can acknowledge our quirks and foibles and learn how to improve our story, we will be well on the way to a stronger novel. At least this way we can laugh about it at the same time.
Show, Don't Tell: How to write vivid descriptions, handle backstory, and describe your character's emotions by Sandra Gerth
As an award-winning, bestselling writer, and senior editor of Ylva Publishing, Sandra Gerth has a solid understanding of the elements of structure and prose that bring a story to life. Sandra has penned a series of books for writers, including Point of View: How to use the different POV types, avoid head hopping, and choose the best point of view for your book; and Write Great Beginnings: How to start a novel, hook readers from page one, and avoid common first-chapter problems.
Unlike the previous books in this list, Show, Don't Tell doesn't take a broad approach to writing craft; instead it focuses specifically on one concept. And at around 100 pages, it is a very manageable, quick dip into the world of 'show, don't tell'. You may have heard of Anton Chekov's famous quote: 'Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.' Genius. And so simple. Understanding the problem of telling rather than showing is one thing; putting it into action is more of a challenge. Gerth breaks the concept down with concrete examples to show exactly how the concept can be applied to – and the impact it will have on – our own writing.
As well as a helpful introduction to 'show, don't tell', the book helps you identify your own instances of 'telling' and how to turn this into 'showing'. Gerth focuses on three 'danger areas' – backstory, descriptions and emotions – which are often prone to 'telling'. Dialogue is another key area that needs attention, ensuring that you aren't using dialogue as a convenient but clumsy way to share vital information. Gerth introduces the reader to 'maid and butler' dialogue, one of the dreaded pitfalls of telling rather than showing.
The only way to improve your writing is by writing — Sandra Gerth
There are practice exercises peppered throughout the book to give you the opportunity to test out your showing skills, and there are numerous examples for you to be able to see 'show, don't tell' in action. And, as any good editor would, Gerth takes the time to explain when telling would be preferable over showing. Telling most definitely has its place if it is used at the right time and in the right way.
This is another book that I would recommend reading around the time you start your first self-edit. Reading this before you start writing will only cause you to second-guess everything you write. Firstly, just focus on writing your first draft. Once that is complete you can spend some time thinking about the tools that will help you edit that draft. And having this book in your toolbox would be a good idea.
How to Write a Page Turner: Craft a Story Your Readers Can't Put Down by Jordan Rosenfeld
Jordan Rosenfeld is a writer, ghostwriter and freelance editor. She has written three novels ( Forged in Grace, Women in Red, and Night Oracle ) and numerous books on the craft of writing. She has written articles, stories and essays for a number of publications and is both a teacher and writing coach, having spent many years working with writers to refine their skills.
Like Sandra Gerth's Show, Don't Tell , Rosenfeld's How to Write a Page Turner focuses specifically on one feature of writing craft: how to infuse your story with tension. Each chapter focuses on a new aspect, first looking at the essential tension elements of danger, conflict, uncertainty and withholding, before focusing on tension with characters, plot tension, and tension in exposition.
Tension is the heart of conflict, the backbone of uncertainty, the hallmark of danger — Jordan Rosenfeld
As with other books in the list, Rosenfeld supports her advice with examples from a range of novels, many of which may be familiar to you. You can see how J. K. Rowling used the reversal of loyalty to create tension in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire , how Stephen King used setting in The Shining to pump tension into his story, or how Angie Thomas uses anxiety to build tension in The Hate U Give .
Again, this book gives advice for fiction as a whole, rather than focusing on children's or YA fiction, but it is easy to see how the guidance would translate to novels for younger readers and how crafting a story full of suspense and tension will keep younger readers engaged.
Each chapter closes with a handy summary – Tension Takeaways – and a call to put theory into practice with your own work-in-progress. From adding conflicting emotions within your characters to plotting out your novel's energetic markers, Rosenfeld will teach you the tools to build attention-grabbing, heart-pumping tension in your writing.
So there you have it: our thoughts on five of the best writing craft books. We're not suggesting you read all of them (at least not all in one go!) but hopefully we've helped you identify one or two you might like to start with. As we said before, Inky Frog Editorial advocates building strong writing foundations with reading (both fiction and writing craft) but the only real way to improve your writing is by writing . Take what you read in these books not as abstract theory, but as real, practical, applicable tools to put to use in your own writing.
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5 essential writing craft books for creative writers.
The art of writing has never been as accessible as in the time we’re living in. Every person is capable of writing and publishing their work. But for writers to be able to reach the heights of success, it’s important for them to have a good grasp of what writing craft is. A writer must also be well aware of all the important rules so that they can break them artistically. Below is a selection of books to snatch up if you’re determined to improve your writing skills.
The Anatomy of Prose by Sacha Black / Buy on Amazon US / Buy on Amazon UK
This quirky book focuses on the enhancement of prose. It will teach you how to deepen your reader’s experience through the power of expression. The book covers strategic word choice, rhythm and flow, differentiating characters in dialogue and embodying your character’s personality through words. What makes this a great book is that the author’s personality shines through vibrantly. Reading for improvement can sometimes feel dry and grating, but this book is a pleasure to read.
Show Don’t Tell by Sandra Gerth / Amazon US / Amazon UK
Show, Don’t Tell is one of the most important pieces of advice given to writers in the creative field. And many writers misinterpret or misuse this advice every day. That’s why Sandra Gerth’s book that focuses entirely on this piece of advice is essential. This book breaks down all of the nuances behind this advice and shows how it’s all a matter of balance. You have to learn as a writer when and where to apply this advice, and how it should be done. This book has an easy-to-understand example formula, which presents an example of Telling, followed by an example of Showing. These examples help you to digest each lesson in a way that’s easy to process.
Story Trumps Structure by Steven James / Amazon US / Amazon UK
Throughout my writing career, I’ve taught myself to outline everything. But the restrictive outlining process isn’t for every writer. For some, it limits their creativity. There are writers out there who thrive off of the uncanny feeling of not knowing where their words will take them next. For many, writing is an exploration. The problem is that this freeing approach leaves a lot of cleanup work to do after a first draft is completed. Well, this book, Story Trumps Structure , provides an excellent middle ground for those writers. It’s essentially a book for “pantsers”, writers who plan very little. It teaches you to do the basics that will keep your story in check, while also giving you the freedom to explore the depths of your creative mind. It teaches you to set up promises for readers and deliver on them, and it talks about the ways in which you can set up incredible twists in your writing.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. / Amazon US / Amazon UK
This one is really for beginner writers who are still developing a style framework. Originally published in 1918, The Elements of Style may have a few laws that are slightly outdated for the modern time. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to learn here. The book will give you fundamental lessons on how to structure sentences and paragraphs. And it’s important to understand these fundamental rules so you can later learn how and when to break them in fiction. If writing craft is something you’re just beginning to explore then I’d start with this book.
The Write Structure by Joe Bunting / Amazon US / Amazon UK
The problem with a lot of writing craft advice online is that it’s very broad and general. Sometimes, the advice writers find is also meant more for editors than creative writers. The Write Structure acknowledges this and aims to give you practical ideas that you can use to begin your project. This book will give some commentary and evaluation on the writing advice you’ve likely heard before, but the author Joe Bunting adds some useful perspective to the advice. Because who is better to learn from than a bestselling author? If you’re someone who has been struggling to bring one of your manuscripts to life, giving this book a read may help you understand the changes you need to make to move forward with your masterpiece.
– featured image from Aaron Burden, Unsplash
A full-time writer for ABF Creative, Frozen Water Publishing, The Koalition and Redital Publishing. Gary resides in the United Kingdom and has a deep appreciation for the art of writing and storytelling.
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Essential Books for Writers
The Center for Fiction
Maybe calling our list "Essential Books for Writers" is a bit of a stretch. We know that there are many opinions on what makes great writing, and what works for one person may not work for the next. Can you imagine Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, and Charles Dickens debating about the right way to write? But we wanted to give you some options and inspiration on your path to whatever a successful life as a writer looks like to you. We hope you'll find your essential guide in our list. Happy reading and writing!
By Stephen King
Published by Scribner
Leave it to the literary rock star to compose a craft book that’s as entertaining as a good novel. “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit,” King writes. What follows is a witty, practical, and sometimes poignant guide that is refreshingly devoid of the aforementioned BS. King relates his personal story of becoming a writer, then offers a “toolkit” of clear advice about everything from dialogue and descriptive passages to revisions and the head game. And there’s more: tips for beginning writers on submitting work for publication, a mark-up of one of King’s own manuscripts, and a reading list. You might not be awake at 3 a.m. turning these pages, but we promise On Writing will open your eyes to essential tricks of the trade.
By Dani Shapiro
Published by Grove/Atlantic
Dani Shapiro’s book, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life , is a perfect walk through an imperfect process. She shares the tried and true rules that some aspiring writers may want to hear, like using the five senses, sticking to a work schedule, and avoiding clichéd characters; but it is the places where Shapiro acknowledges the ambiguity of the process that stand out. Peppered with personal history and insight into how and where she created novels like Black and White as well as acclaimed memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion , Shapiro gives us a road map to writing with one simple direction at its heart: Keep writing. The rules she lays out are meant to be broken; no life-story is more worthy of being written than any other; no process (unless it involves surfing the Web instead of actually writing) is wrong. Yes, Dani Shapiro is still writing, and because she possesses that all-important need to create, it seems she will be doing so for quite some time.
On Moral Fiction
By John Gardner
Published by HarperCollins
John Gardner’s On Moral Fiction , by now a well-known classic, is as relevant in its exploration of the obligations of literature as when it was first published in 1979. Gardner discusses art and criticism, concluding that the artist has a responsibility to produce “moral” works for the sake of society. “Art discovers, generation after generation, what is necessary to humanness,” says Gardner. By linking literature to such elemental ideas as immortality and death, entropy and truth, Gardner dramatizes the act of writing itself, coloring literature and criticism with such vitality and excitement that it is hard not to become exhilarated. “Art gropes,” Gardner says. “It stalks like a hunter lost in the woods, listening to itself and to everything around it, unsure of itself, waiting to pounce.” You might say that some of his ideas are outrageous or unconventional, but none of them lack the ability to provoke us.
First You Write
By Joni Rodgers
It’s fitting that Joni Rodgers’s First You Write: The Worst Way to Become an Almost Famous Author and the Best Advice I Got While Doing It is available only as an e-book. Rodgers’s writes with wit and candor not only about her circuitous route to becoming a New York Times bestselling memoirist ( Bald in the Land of Big Hair , a searingly funny account of her journey through cancer) and a critically acclaimed small-press novelist ( Crazy for Trying ; Sugar Land ), but also about her pioneering adventures in self-publishing on Kindle. Rodgers’s willingness to experiment (isn’t that what artists do?) and to turn preconceived publishing notions on their ear is wonderfully refreshing, and her whip-smart observations will keep you turning (virtual) pages.
The Forest for the Trees
By Betsy Lerner
Published by Penguin
Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for The Trees begins as a psychological compendium of the writer’s life; written to the writer, with love. Lerner diagnoses writers: the ambivalent, the natural, the neurotic, and as we relate to aspects of each, we are delivered through an embarrassing adolescence of our own writerly growth, discovering who we were, are, and might better be. Through humorous and often moving anecdotes and a wealth of quotable quotes, we sweep through the personal and into the political landscape of the literary industry. Like all good books, Lerner’s reflects the reader (as writer) back to herself at every moment. She morphs between midwife and editor, weaving stories that teach us how best to birth our own.
The Writing Life
By Annie Dillard
In the years since its original publication, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life has become a must-read for aspiring writers of all walks. Perhaps this is because her approach to the creative process manages a kind of golden ratio, a balance of magic and pragmatism that continues to reveal its depths to writers of the 21st century. Plainly, this is not a field guide. Dillard does not draw a tidy map. She does the opposite, acknowledging the unknown and unknowable wilderness that every writer must face. “The line of words is a miner’s pick, a wood carver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. 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.” A master in the art of illumination, she focuses on the edges of big ideas. The resulting work is as mystifying as it is enduring.
Writing Past Dark
By Bonnie Friedman
In Writing Past Dark , Bonnie Friedman shines a light on the hidden ways we mess ourselves up—with envy, fear, distraction, and other self-defeating habits of mind. “Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing,” she says. “They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties.” With warmth and candor, Friedman offers insights into surmounting those tricky obstacles.
The Elements of Style
By William Strunk & E.B. White
Of the hundreds of volumes written about the art and craft of writing, The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White is the elegant granddad. This slim volume offers no touchy-feely solutions for writer’s block, no inspirational exercises, and no musings on the writing life. Instead, it contains clear, concise rules for writing well, delivered with panache. Whether you strive for formal excellence or stylistic innovation, whether you’re a first-time author or have a string of publications to your name, there’s something here to learn—or gladly rediscover.
By Robert McKee
Robert McKee (the renowned screenwriting guru whose real-life teaching persona was portrayed by Brian Cox in the film Adaptation ) is required reading, but not just for screenwriters. He illustrates good plotting and structure that can make your novels or short stories as gripping as your favorite film. In Story , McKee structures his advice by first broadly stating a principle of writing, then expounding on different ways it can be applied, with examples from all kinds of scripts. His pearls of wisdom have been legendary in the Hollywood world, and they’ll certainly stick in your head after you’re through this book. Whether you’re writing for the screen or the page, this fantastic book will help you break your work down to the core of why we write fiction in the first place: the story.
Making Shapely Fiction
By Jerome Stern
Published by W. W. Norton
It’s easy, when one is far enough along in the “writing life,” to assume that a manual won’t have much to offer beyond technical guidance and fluffy prompts. But Stern’s wise and thorough little book should be as indispensable to the master of the form as the student. Like Stern himself, who was the head of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University for many years, it takes a brass tacks approach to fiction, one that can be read straight through if you want to bone up on the basics or in bits and pieces as inspiration is needed. The “shapes” in question are sixteen storytelling archetypes which Stern breaks down in the book’s first section, followed by a tongue-in-cheek section on whether or not to write what you know, and finally a glossary of terms “from Accuracy to Zig-Zag.” This may all sound like stuff you already know, but to read them again in Stern’s irreverent voice is like revisiting fairy tales from your childhood and discovering all the dirty parts that went over your head. You’ll want to dig back into your own discarded ideas box and sculpt something new.
Steering the Craft
By Ursula K. Le Guin
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Le Guin has published two books about writing. The more recent of these, Steering the Craft (1998), is intended for experienced writers, the ones, she says, who “blow all Rules of Writing to bits.” It offers exercises and advice on storytelling, point of view, and grammar. For the younger author, there is her 1979 volume, The Language of the Night , filled with inspirational essays on science fiction and fantasy, that are no less rigorous than the later book. “In art,” she observes, “‘good enough’ is not good enough.”
Building Characters is a Piece of (Layer) Cake
Writing and Madness
Think Outside the Book
When Working on Your Writing Doesn't Look Like Writing
Interviewing for Fiction
The Writer's Trove
Something to Do with Work as Play: David Foster Wallace and “The Nature of the Fun”
Keeping Up the Pace
Scenes & Summary
An Unfunny Essay About Humor
Say Yes to Obsession
How to Steal Stuff
Writing to the Tension
How Walter White Can Make You a Better Writer
How to Get Out of the Slush Pile
Playing With Status
10 Books on Craft by Writers of Color
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🔗 Coin of the Realm 🔗 How Dare We Write 🔗 Craft in the Real World
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I feel no shame in admitting that an entire row of my bookcase is reserved for craft books. It’s near the bottom, so I often sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce and pull them down from the shelf one by one, searching for a term or idea that I read once and cannot fully recite by heart. Sometimes I only have an inkling of a wispy word like syntax or a doorstop of a thing like anacoluthon (eek!). But recently, I took issue with my collection of craft books, which are mostly hold-overs from undergrad or picked off of book lists published by grad school programs I can’t afford to attend, the authors of these books are exceedingly pale, male, and old—if not dead.
This does not reflect the other shelves of my poetry collection, which are blessedly lined with books by Women, Black, Queer, Indigenous, Chicano, Latinx, and Asian poets…The reason for the mismatch between the books of poetry I read and the books about poetry I read are obvious: systemic racism, sexism, and homophobia in an academic system based on white supremacist ideals and control. But I am alarmed at how slow I was to notice! It could be because craft books (compared to poetry collections) are long, complex, and difficult to finish and so trudging through them I forgot to look back and examine the path behind. It could be that I am white and still learning to unpack my whiteness (and the whiteness of my teachers). Either way, my new goal is to find out about craft books written by POC authors, teachers, thought leaders, and poets. In this post, I’ll explain what I’ve found so far:
This Bridge Called My Back
Fourth Edition: Writings by Radical Women of Color e dited by Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua THEORY, CRAFT, PRACTICE
When it comes to the origin of species credit must be given to This Bridge Called My Back for the number of times I have heard someone talk about how this book changed their whole life. Originally published in 1981 and now in its 4th edition (published in 2015), these writings by radical women of color have empowered and transformed a discourse on the hopes, fears, frustrations, and accomplishments of women of color for over 30 years.
Seen as a rallying call for women of color, TBCMB is a manifesto for some, an act of liberation for others, but we all have something to learn from these 336 pages originally assembled by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua.
Coin of the Realm
Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry by Carl Phillips MEMOIR AS CRAFT
Carl Phillips is a very influential figure in American poetics. He has won countless awards: the Lambda Literary Award for Best Poetry, an NAACP Image Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award among them; and he has steered the course of poetry and taste as judge of the Yale Younger Poets Series. To top it off, he is a prolific writer with over 13 books of poetry in print!
None of these, however, are the reason I love Carl Phillips. I love Phillips for his essays about poetry, specifically in his short book from the “Art Of” series published by Graywolf Press The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, and Imagination. But another, maybe less well-known book by Phillips is Coin of the Realm. In it, you’ll find Phillips’ realness highly readable. Like other books in this genre of pseudo-memoir/craft exploration Phillips’ has included essays on specific poets and their styles such as George Herbert and T.S. Eliot. But my favorite essay in the book is “A Brief Stop on the Trail of the Prose Poem”—can you guess why?
Playing the Dark
Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison LITERARY CRITICISM
As writers, especially as poets, we can draw our understanding of craft from many sources. While some literary criticism may not inform you when you actually turn to the page, Toni Morrison’s classic Playing the Dark most definitely will stay with you for a long time.
Originally published in 1993, as the result of questions raised at three lectures given at Harvard University combined with a course Morrison taught on American literature, Playing in the Dark is now essential reading for us all. Here, Morrison’s profound critique redefines the American literary eye and from that new futures have been crafted. Some of the other craft books recommended here are definitely post-Morrison in their thinking, so it behooves you to return to the mother-source (see also: Audre Lorde + James Baldwin). Why? Morrison puts it best when she writes “imagining is not merely looking or looking at; nor is it taking oneself intact into the other. It is, for the purposes of the work, becoming .”
The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be
Essays and Interviews by Harryette Mullen LITERARY CRITICISM + THEORY
The Cracks Between What We Are and What We Are Supposed to Be is currently on backorder, so I was excited to track down a used copy in good shape. It’s an expensive book, I think because it is being marked-up as a “textbook” (because the already uber expensive education system just can’t help itself). So if you can find a copy for less than $50 I suggest you snatch it up!
Harryette Mullen is known for her innovative work in prose poetry, specifically her collection Sleeping with the Dictionary which was published in 2002 and helped herald in what I consider a new era for prose poetry (post- The World Doesn’t End Pulitzer win in 1990). In this 296 page book, Mullen dissects the future of poetic language between the specter of women’s voices, African American poetics, and the importance of both. She closely examines poets ranging from Paul Lawrence Dunbar to Wislawa Szymborska, including short essays with titles like “Kinky Quatrains” and longer works such as “Runaway Tongue.” If those titles don’t intrigue you, then these are not the poetry geeks you’re looking for.
How Dare We! Write
A Multicultural Creative Writing Discourse edited by Sherry Quan Lee CRAFT + THEORY
As I hope you’re beginning to appreciate, I love all the craft books , but there’s still one kind of craft book that I love above all others and that is the extremely practical, helpful kind. That is why How Dare We! Write holds a special place in my heart. Right from the beginning you’ll be welcomed into this book with the section of essays “Literary Gatekeepers (and other myths).” From there you can cure your imposter syndrome, reclaim personal narratives, and learn new in-roads for “Writing as Spiritual Praxis”—yes please!
If you’re looking for a book that uses personal experiences to liberate the poet from the “highly politicized” space of the creative writing classroom, this is a good place to start. Called inspiring and rigorous by critics, HDWW is one of those rare books that makes you feel like you’ve come home.
Pivotal Voices, Era of Transition
Toward a 21st Century Poetics by Rigoberto Gonzalez CHICANO POETICS, CRITICISM
Can I tell you a secret? One of the best places to learn the history of American poetry is by reading collections of book reviews. I know that sounds crazy, but book reviews tend to have all the hot gos.
Rigoberto Gonzalez is a beloved figure in the poetry community, and I don’t mean to imply that he’s a mean girl, but in this collection of book reviews and essays Gonzalez considers the work of emerging poets from the past 10 years. Published in 2017, here you will learn about the work of poets like Michael Martinez, Aracelis Girmay, and Natalie Diaz. You will better understand the context of Juan Felipe Herrera and (my all time fav) Sandra Cisneros. Plus! You will get to spend time with one of the most generous poetry teachers and thinkers of our age, Rigoberto Gonzalez, whose poetry books (especially Unpeopled Eden) are some of the best I have ever read.
📘 Recommended Reads
Don’t miss Unpeopled Eden by Rigoberto Gonzalez and Sleeping with the Dictionary by Harryette Mullen.
Guidebook to Relative Strangers
Journeys Into Race, Motherhood, and History by Camille Dungy PARENTHOOD
Even though you are not reading this description last, it is the last one I wrote. I was saving it because it felt like frosting on an already delicious craft-cake (and you know how much I love cake). Camille Dungy is the author of What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison , which, if you haven’t read you should stop everything and do right now…
This is one of my favorite poetry books and Camille is one of my favorite contemporary American poets. In her memoir, Guidebook to Relative Strangers , she blends experience and pedagogy, outlining lessons from her work as poet-lecturer and working mother. Some of the essays appear in short scenes, like vignettes, that deftly swing from the gentleness of child-rearing:
“I can say blackberry in every season: fruit, flower, and vine. I can say poison oak. I can say: Watch out for the thistle.”
To the ferocity of historical context:
“One of the easiest ways to strip a person of her power is take away her right to choose her name.”
Camille’s work as a poet helps her here, blasting in and out of the academic and the magical realism of child-rearing. Bitch Magazine once called the book a “an Eat, Pray, Love -esque memoir that isn’t exploitative.” And it’s an apt comparison, Dungy is funny, real, intelligent, and fearless as she throws shade while also compelling us to come closer, step inside, sit, listen, wipe those tears off your face.
An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong MEMOIR AS CRAFT
I’m very excited that Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning has finally been released in paperback (it’s now half the price it was in hardcover!). Cathy Park Hong is a writer of her own multiverse. She has invented new languages, new worlds, and new forms in her previous poetry books Dance Dance Revolution and Engine Empire . So it’s no surprise that her first book of essays would go on to be a Pulitzer Prize Finalist and a National Book Critics Circle Award Winner. Cathy Park Hong was also named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People!
Minor Feelings is praised for its blend of memoir, cultural critique, and history. Hong writes with sly humor and deep consciousness (which again, if you’ve read her poetry books, you will not find at all surprising). Words like “incendiary” “radical candor” and “intricate meditation” are also used by critics to describe the book, which begins with the lines “My depression began with an imaginary tic.”
Bonus points! Because of its conversational-memoir style, I think this would be great to listen to as an audio book.
Craft in the Real World
Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses FICTION WORKSHOPS
You may have seen the cover of this book around, it’s popular! Meant to tackle the dynamics of fiction workshops, Craft in the Real World is praised for its shattering revelations about the dominant structures of academics. Delving into the history of education, CITRW offers redefined terms, a catalog of alternative workshop models, language for your syllabi, and writing exercises. It is lauded as being bold—stunning even—in its impact.
Matthew Salesses was adopted from Korea and currently lives in Iowa, he is the author of three novels Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, The Hundred-Year Flood, and I'm Not Saying, I'm Just Saying.
The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop
How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom by Felicia Rose Chavez NON-FICTION, ALL GENRE WORKSHOPS
Felicia Rose Chavez is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a professor who has taught at University of New Mexico, Colorado College, and her alma mater. She is co-editor, along with Willie Perdomo and José Olivarez, of The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext. TARWW is a beautiful and engaging read that melds practical advice for the classroom with the lived experiences of the author. Chavez is an experienced non-fiction writer, and it shows in this book, which is part memoir, part manual.
What I love about Chavez’ work is that she considers herself at the helm of a movement. She is not just a writer, but an activist, and she works to “expose art’s invisible politics of power and privilege.” Her calls to action are loud and clear, and I appreciate that she goes out of her way to put herself in accessible spaces, spreading insights on how to decolonize the creative writing classroom. She faces backlash for it and writes about some of those experiences in TARWW.
Suffice it to say, you can’t go wrong reading either Craft in the Real World or The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop. If you can, read both. If you cannot, my recommendation is to read TARWW . It sits pride-of-place on my own shelf, where I can easily reach it for reference on a weekly basis.
As you may have noticed, my definition of “craft” books is broad. You might only consider craft books to be on theory, criticism, terminology, and technique. For the sake of the teaching artist, you may also consider books on pedagogy, the writing life, and pathways toward empathy and reimagining how we hold space as “craft books.” For me, craft is all of these things and more.
When I’m writing poetry I’m not just crafting words into art on the page, I’m creating a world in which these words make-meaning and shapeshift to live beyond me. When I reach towards my reader I want to bring with me all I know and all I feel, but I also want to leave whitespace available for all I do not yet know and do yet feel. That is why in this list you found books on “craft” that are also memoirs, lived experience, teaching guides, parenting help, conversations and interviews. All of these are craft books to me, and I hope once you begin welcoming these kinds of books onto your reading list you’ll see that they lean towards expansiveness and not restriction.
📙 More to Explore
I love Camille Dungy’s poetry collection What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison . Definitely one to add to your reading list!
is an intersectional feminist, poet, and teaching artist. She is Founding Director of The Poetry Lab and author of Makes the Daughter-in-Law Cry , winner of the Clockwise Chapbook Prize (Tebot Bach, 2017). Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Vinyl, Four Way Review, Transom, New Orleans Review, Nailed Magazine and others. Danielle has performed on stages all over Southern California including the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. She holds a B.A. in Women's and Gender Studies and Creative Writing from the University of Redlands and is an alumna of the Community of Writers. She is currently working on a manuscript of poems about misogyny and the Internet. Danielle uses she/her pronouns.
@imaginarydani | imaginarydani.com | Read More by Danielle ➡️
This article was posted on February 21, 2022. Written by:
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