Writing to Change the World – writing

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Mary Pipher Riverhead Books, 2006 My friend Linda Avery called me from a bookstore in California and said, “Have you read Writing to Change the World?  Go!  Buy it now!”  Or words to that effect.  I did and she was right.  This is a powerfully encouraging book for those who believe that writing can be transformative able to transform us as well as others. You may recognize the name Mary Pipher as the author of Reviving Ophelia.  Trained in both psychology and anthropology, Pipher has long been interested in how American culture affects mental health.  In this book however – she is calling all writers to find their Voice and use it to make a difference. That’s the main point of the book.  But what made my friend Linda tell me to go out and buy the book now, is what Pipher says along the way.  She encourages...

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Writing the Natural Way – writing

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Gabriele Rico Jeremy P. Tarcher/ Putnam, 2000 Many of you may have already read this title. Writing partner and friend Peg resurrected a copy in her home library from the early nineties. My copy is the 15th anniversary edition. Comparing mine with Peg’s I’d say it is worth buying even if you have the first one. For one thing she includes pieces written by Joan Baez who took a workshop with Rico in those intervening years. And she has added three new chapters: one on Voice, one on Improvisation(Re-Creations) and one on Brevity. This is one of those books whose title keeps popping up in all the other books you are reading on writing process. You notice it, but you don’t rush right out and buy it. I read about Rico and “clustering” two or three years ago in Pat Schneider’s book, Writing Alone and with Others, and...

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Writing Life Stories – writing

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Bill Roorbach Story Press, 1998 Mmmm.  This one.  Bill Roorbach’s Writing Life Stores/ How to make memories into memoirs, ideas into essays and life into literature.  It’s going on the to-be-referenced-often shelf here in my office.  At 56,  living in a small town, it’s not easy to find stellar classes in creative writing.  So I am always so grateful when someone like Roorbach makes a virtual semester available between the covers of a book. He tends to the basics, but when are we ever beyond remembering the importance of  “clarity, motion, density, rhythm, precision, texture and urgency”  – those elements so necessary to convey what we intend in a way that beckons the reader. And though the focus is memoir, what he covers applies readily to any form of prose writing. The writing exercises scattered throughout the book (and which he continually chides not just to read but...

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Toxic Feedback – writing

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Joni B. Cole University Press of New England, 2006 Friend and fellow AWA writing group leader Laurie Baron recommended this one.  And now I recommend it – particularly for those facilitate writing groups, and also for those who need to sift through their reactions to all those “constructive critiques” offered by friends and fellow writers. Joni Cole, a writing group leader herself alternates her own pithy wisdom on the merits and demerits (meaning pain) of feedback.  She begins by relating her own experience in a fiction writing continuing education course.  Once a week, she like every other student in the class handed in a short story from which the professor would choose one story for class discussion.  All the other stories would simply be handed back with comments. Cole admits to having hedged her bets that first week, handing in a story which had received an “A” in...

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Three Cups of Tea – compassion

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Greg Morenson and David Oliver Relin Penguin Books, 2006 “One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time.”  That’s the subtitle of Three Cups of Tea – the true story of Greg Mortenson’s mission to bring schooling to girls and boys in the mountain villages of Pakistan. Weakened and worn, Greg Mortenson is making his way down from a failed attempt to climb the fabled K2 mountain in Pakistan.  His good porter and guide Mouzafer has gone ahead to set up camp but Mortenson loses his way.  He takes the wrong fork in the road and finds himself a good half day’s walk in the wrong direction.  Instead of Mouzafer awaiting him by the fire, he meets the nurmadhar, the chief of Korphe, Haji Ali, who greets him at the edge of the village and offers him tea, a meal and a bed for the night. Other...

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The Year of Magical Thinking – memoir

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Joan Didion Alfred A. Knopf, 2005 Life changes fast Life changes in the instant You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends The question of self-pity Notes scribbled in a writer’s journal — the first words Joan Didion records after “it happened,” after her husband of 40 years fell face forward onto his dinner plate, dead of a heart attack. She had stepped back into the kitchen to get something they needed and returned to find him thus, his hand raised. She thought it was a joke. She told him to stop. He couldn’t. You may know all this already. And you may have chosen not to read this memoir because you are afraid it will be too sad. Especially if you know that only a few months after completely the manuscript for The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion’s only child, her daughter Quintana,...

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The Worst Hard time – History

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Timothy Eagan Hougton Mifflin, 2006 The verb esperar in Spanish, can mean either to hope or to wait depending on the context.  It seems to me like a word that warns.  Warns that life might play out the way it does in Timothy Eagin’s National Book Award winner – The Worst Hard Time/ The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.  Where the waiting outlasts hope.   This is not easy reading.  A friend passed the book forward to me last fall, but in the midst of the plunging economy and the uncertainty we were all feeling, I wasn’t ready to plunge into it.   So why plunge in to it at all? My husband thinks it’s because I am drawn to the melancholy story.  But that’s not quite right.  I read books like this for the same reason that I read as many...

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The World is Flat – business/politics

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Thomas L. Friedman Farrar, Staus and Giroux, 2005 Each year, our family chooses and reads a book to discuss at our annual “retreat.” As we have a family business many of the books have been on leadership skills and business management. This year, my son-in-law recommended that we read The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. The book is about business — global business — to be sure. But there are world view issues at stake too. We are now, more than eve, global citizens. And though we rightly lament the loss of jobs in our own country and wonder what will happen to our solid middle class — we have poor neighbors who are seeing hope for a better future because of economic globalization. I’ve been told that it might be better to read Friedman’s prior book The Lexus and the Olive Tree first, as there he...

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The Ten Faces of Innovation – business/psychology

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Tom Kelley Currency/Doubleday, 2005 Son-in-law Chris Taylor recommended The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley of IDEO (one of the most creative consulting firms around).  Kelly’s purpose is to help companies and corporations build creative teams and unleash potential.  But whether or not you work in the business world, this book has fascinating insights about how each of us approaches a task and unleashes our inherent (yes we ALL have it) creativity. As the title intimates, Kelley believes he has identified ten creative personality types.  Though we are most often strongly a particular type, his premise is that we usually employ one or more of the others as well.  What are those types? The Anthropologist – These folk observe.  They are patient.  They sit back and watch and listen and only then do they draw inferences from their intuition about what works or could work.  To be...

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The Sound on the Page – writing

Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Ben Yagoda Harper Resource, 2004 Yagoda’s title alludes to the curious fact that though we read the written word silently, it nonetheless reverberates imaginatively in our ears.  Some of this has to do with our contemporary confusion between the written word and oration.  The ancients did not have that problem. In fact, in the ancient world the written text was always read aloud. Yagoda notes silent reading was still a rarity even in the fourth century when Augustine was surprised to find Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, “consuming a book” without uttering a word. The writer/orator’s task, according to Cicero was to “first hit upon what to say; then manage and marshal his discoveries, not merely in orderly fashion, but with a discriminating eye for the exct weight…of each argument; next go on to array them in the adornments of style; after that keep them guarded in his...

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