Last week I was in one of my all-time favorite bookstores in Kelowna. Mosaic Books have such a great vibe and I particularly love their table upon table of bargain books. Yet, of course, the book I found was not in the bargain section!
Here it is: The Best of Writers & Company, by Eleanor Wachtel. The book features interviews with “15 of the world’s greatest authors.”
These writers include:
- Jonathan Franzen
- Aleksandar Hemon
- Doris Lessing
- Hilary Mantel
- Orhan Pamuk
- Toni Morrison
- Alice Munro
- Edwidge Danticat
- Anne Carson
- J. M. Coetzee
- W. G. Sebald
- Seamus Heaney
- Mavis Gallant
- Yiyun Li
- Zadie Smith
I am so excited to dive into this book. Reading is one of my favorite things to do – especially in summer.
I am also reading:
- 33 Artists in 3 Acts by Sara Thornton
- A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
- Promote your Book by Patricia Fry (my second time reading it)
You’ll notice in my choices of books that I love peering into the creative practices and lives of other artists and authors.
In the Wachtel book, readers learn about the writer behind some truly interesting publications. In Thornton’s book, we are invited into artists’ studios and artistic productions.
I find this so inspiring.
Sometimes creative folks (like myself) can feel a sense of isolation when working primarily alone. That is one reason I love reading about other creatives. It’s like having a writing group available 24/7 – or an artistic critique group. OR a collective of thought leaders handy for inspiration.
What books are you reading this summer? Comment below and share why you like (or dislike) your book or books of choice.
Thanks for reading!
– Alexis Marie
If you would like to know about my publishing journey – and ways to help you as you seek to get your book out into the world – check out my last post called, “Ten-Part Publishing GUIDE Intro.”
My forthcoming memoir, Expecting Sunshine, will be released April 18, 2017 by She Writes Press. Click here to read about the book and documentary film.
There is not much in life where a person can succeed alone. Learning from others, being mentored and reading books are key activities for anyone wishing to strengthen their skills and creativity.
A Writer’s Reading List
What books are your favorites?
What literature has inspired you over the years?
What titles motivate you as a writer?
I have collected the beginnings of a reading list from what I personally have found helpful. It is made up of books I have read and ones I hope to dig into soon. A good number of the titles I discovered during my Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA.
Some of these books are helpful for the craft of writing. Others will inspire you creatively. A handful will motivate you to edit, while others are for the publication stage of a writer’s life.
Happy reading everyone!
Note: I have added a category to my blog called READING LIST. I will add to it over time. Please feel free to comment below with the names of books you have found helpful.
FICTION & NON-FICTION HANDBOOKS
The Craft of Writing
By William Sloane
Beyond the Writers’ Workshop
By Carol Bly
The Art of Time in Memoir
BY Sven Birkerts
Writing & Selling your Memoir
By Paula Balzer
Burning Down the House
By Charles Baxter
Art and Fear
By Orland & Bayles
By Madison Bell
By Walter Benjamin
By Painter & Bernays
Letters to a Fiction Writer
By Frederick Busch
By Janet Burroway
From Where You Dream
By Robert & Olen Butler
Six Memos for the Next Millenium
By Italo Calvino
By Julie Checkoway
Pen on Fire
By Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
By Denman & Shoupp
Aspects of the Novel
By E.M. Forester
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
By John Gardner
By Stephen King
Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children
By Nancy Lamb
A Giacometti Portrait
By James Lord
Writing the Breakout Novel
By Donald Maas
The Lonely Voice
By Frank O’Connor
Reading Like a Writer
By Francine Prose
Writing in Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Picture Books
By Uri Schulevitz
By Stone & Nyren
If You Want to Write
By Brenda Ueland
Why I Write
By Eudora Welty
The King & The Corpse
By Heinrich Robert Zimmer
Backwards and Forwards
By David Ball
The Life of the Drama
By Eric Bentley
The Playwright as Thinker
By Eric Bentley
The Empty Space
By Peter Brook
The Power of Myth
By J. Campbell & B. Moyers
By Louis Catron
By Gerald Else
The Art of Fiction
By John Gardner
How to Write a Selling Screenplay
By Christopher Keane
Screenwriting from the Soul
By Richard Krevolin
Bird by Bird
By Anne Lamott
An Experiment in Criticism
By C.S. Lewis
Screenplay: Writing the Picture
By R. Russin & & Missouri Downs W
The Screenwriter’s Bible
By David Trottier
The Writer’s Journey
BY Christopher Vogler
Picture This: How Pictures Work
By Molly Bang
How to Write a Children’s Picture Book
Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write
By Elizabeth Lyon
Writing With Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books
By Uri Shulevitz
FICTION & NON-FICTION ESSAYS
- Baxter, Burning Down the House
- Baxter, The Art of Subtext
- Baxter, Bringing the Devil to His Knees
- Berg, Stephen (ed.), In Praise of What Persists
- Birkerts, Sven, The Art of Time in Memoir
- Calvino, Italo, Six Memos for the Next Millennium
- Gornick, Vivian, The Situation and the Story
- Gornick, Vivian, The End of the Novel of Love
- Hersey, (ed)., The Writer’s Craft
- Justice, Donald, “The Prose Sublime”: A Donald Justice Reader
- Kundera, Milan, The Art of the Novel
- O’Connor, Flannery, Mystery & Manners
- Plimpton, George, The Writer’s Chapbook
- Prose, Francine, Reading Like a Writer
- Rich, Adrienne, On Lies, Secrets and Silence
- Spitz, Ellen Handler, Inside Picture Books
- Welty, Eudora, One Writer’s Beginnings
- Welty, Eudora, The Eye of the Storm
- Cooper, Susan, Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children
- Harrison, Barbara & Maguire, Gregory, Origins of Story: On Writing for Children
- Marcus, Leonard, Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book
- Zinsser, William, Worlds of Childhood: The Art and Craft of Writing for Children.
- Zinsser, William , On Writing Well
The Practice of Poetry
By Behn & Twichell
Measures: Contemporary American Poetry in Traditional Forms
By Dacey & Jauss & Strong
By Babette Deutsch
Poetic Meter and Poetic Form
By Paul Fussell
The Poet’s Companion
By Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio
The Discovery of Poetry
The Sound of Poetry
By Robert Pinsky
The Making of a Poem
By Mark Strand and Evan Boland (eds.)
The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics
- Bell, Old Snow Just Melting
- Birkerts, The Electric Life: Essays on Modern Poetry
- Bryan and Olsen, Eds., Planet on the Table: Poets on the Reading Life
- Dobyns, Best Words, Best Order
- Eliot, The Sacred Wood
- Glück, Proofs and Theories
- Hass, Twentieth Century Pleasures
- Heaney, Finders Keepers
- Heaney, The Government of the Tongue
- Hoagland, Real Sofistication: Essays on Poetry and Craft
- Jarrell, Poetry and The Age
- Justice, Platonic Scripts
- Pinsky, Poetry and the World
- Plumly, Argument and Song
- Pound, The Literary Essays of Erza Pound
- Sontag and Graham, After Confession: Poetry as Autobiography
- Stevens, The Necessary Angel
- Vendler, Part of Nature, Part of Us
- Vendler, The Breaking of Style
- Vendler, The Music of What Happens
- Voigt, The Flexible Lyric
- Williamson, Introspection and Contemporary Poetry
Here are some links to other reading lists for writers:
I think people envision writers sitting around in over sized leather armchairs, writing in pen by a dim incandescent light, cigar smoke wafting around in lazy curls. Or maybe the idealized vision includes a reserved seat in a coffee shop where the writer gorges on lattes and people watching, clicking their laptop ferociously as inspiration strikes. Or maybe the writer is traveling in the Sahara. Or scratching notes on a pocket pad of paper as bullets whiz by and the thunder of tanks surround them.
Or the vision of the writer includes the best-seller status. I recently heard an aspiring writer say he wants to write the next Harry Potter series. I chuckled to myself, while wishing the writer all the luck in the world. I did wonder though, what is that person chasing? Is it the long hours of writing, the even longer hours editing and the painstaking process of bringing the book(s) to publication? Or is the writer hungry for the title, the gold stamped cover, the royalty cheques, and the fame?
What does the life of a writer really entail?
There are perks for sure, but the writing life is actually bursting with hard work, rejection and administrative chores that none of those daydreaming about the idealistic writer actually take into account.
I wake up by an alarm and get my kids to school. I make lists of things I need to accomplish – and typically writing is only the half of it. I answer emails and phone calls, and handle the business, legal and insurance needs for all my projects. In my daily life, I do an exorbitant amount of research, planning, strategizing, and networking – all so I can be a writer and do what I love. I work in the evenings. I am always collecting ideas. I dream about my characters or a speech I am to give – until my alarm wakes me up again.
It’s a fabulous life!
The life of the writer is not glamorous… at least not yet from my experience. I’ll let you know if that changes. Like any passion; there are good days and bad days, perks and pitfalls, and sacrifices that need to be made to get to the next level.
If you aspire to be the next J. K. Rowling, good luck to you! (I am not being sarcastic.) Roll up your sleeves and get to work! I look forward to reading your book one day – and sharing mine with you.
Last weekend was an awesome literary happening in Edmonton and I was so honoured to be a part of it. Words in 3D – D meaning dimensions: writing, editing and publishing – brought together many creative individuals from all over the country for interesting sessions, keynotes and networking.
I taught two awesome workshops and the positive feedback has been rolling in steadily ever since. If you would like more information about the workshops I taught – or to bring them to your writing group or organization – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How to take a Picture Worthy of your Words
Memorable Memoir: Writing Personal Stories
I also mentored writers in the Blue Pencil Cafe. If you are interested in my mentoring, please click here for more information.
Here are some photos from the weekend.
NaNoWriMo 2015. This November. Are you planning ahead?
First of all, Happy Halloween! This spooky season is sure to ignite your creativity with haunting characters and unforeseen plot twists.
If you didn’t already know, NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) starts tomorrow – November 1st. I want to invite local writers for a fun event coming up on November 15th. Save the date! This year I am helping coordinate a half day NaNoWriMo write-in with the Canadian Authors’ Association Alberta Branch in Edmonton – and the event is open to both members and the general public.
Here are the details:
Goal: Write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Track your progress on the NaNoWriMo software and connect with other writers. You’ve had a novel idea in your head and now is the time to bring your story to life.
Check out the NaNoWriMo website for more information.
Canadian Author’s Association Write-In
Date: November 15, 2014
Location: Idylwylde Library, 8310 88 Ave NW, Edmonton, Alberta, (780) 496-1808
Time: Doors open at 12:20pm with event starting at 12:30pm. The event will conclude at 5:30pm.
Things to bring: a snack to share, friends (the event is open to everyone), and your pen and paper or laptop and charger.
Check out the Canadian Authors Association Alberta Branch website for more information.
Myself, along with the CAA Writing-Coach-in-Residence, Suzanne Harris, will encourage you as you find inspiration to get over the halfway hump of NaNoWriMo. Write alongside others also penning their novel (or just looking to get words out on the page) and find inspiration in the presence of shared struggles and successes.
It will be a day of breakthroughs in a focused community environment. Who said writing has to be a lonely endeavor? Short, facilitated breaks will give you motivation and energy to pound out the words.
Even if you are not participating in NaNoWriMo, come out and join in the fun and creative atmosphere.
I look forward to writing with you!
There are so many things I love about grad school. The keener in me jumps for joy, for one. I absolutely cherish the immersion in my passion for creative writing and the challenge to improve. The interesting thing I’ve discovered is that this improvement has seeped into every area of my creative practice as writer, artist and human; how I read books, the way I appreciate art, the descriptions I chose when telling my friends about a really amazing experience.
The reading part is one indulgent pleasure of school. Oh boy, I sound like a nerd – but I love that I have an excuse now to brush off other things to curl up like a cat and read (although I’m more of a dog person). At my school residency in June, a friend introduced me to the Harvard Co-Op Bookstore. It was two levels of row upon row of books. Pure eye candy.
I never thought I’d compare the spines of books lining the walls to a great work of art – but they are sublimely beautiful to me.
I’ve always loved reading, from as young as I can remember. Summers were spent cradling the pages of novels throughout the warm days till I went cross-eyed every night. And what else is there to do in winter for someone who hates being cold? I have an almost photographic memory and because I imagined all the stories I read, I can still see many of them, like movie clips in my mind.
As a memoir and personal essay writer, I read a lot in these genres. There are many sad stories out in the world. Maybe this is because the challenging moments define us and reveal the people we are, that at the core of the human experience we want to become our best, most happy selves and thus we search for meaning. My first memoir, which is so close to the finish line in editing, is a challenging story. What I’ve starting to work on now is more cheeky and definitely more scandalous (wink, wink) – but in the end they are two stories that connect. One could not have been without the other.
Right now I’m taking a needed break from reading memoirs to delve into short stories. I love the short story form. There are so many craft techniques that jump out at me. Currently I’m working my way through The Best American Short Stories of 2013 and up next is the Best of the 21st Century… which is a mighty large volume.
Writing speaks to the reader, it calls to the child in us who read for pleasure before life got busy and complicated, it plants new ideas and waters the old ones. Writing sings.
What does good writing or your favorite book do for you? And please, please tell me about your favorite book stores and which worn spines decorate your walls like art.
Happy reading day!