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.
Right now I am teaching students at Lesley University about word-and-image. It is my graduating student seminar and the culmination of both diligent research and a personal passion. We live in a visually engaged society and creative people of all kinds would do well to look into the future. Where are we headed? I believe part of that answer includes multi-genre, multi-media, and multi-medium artwork and collaborations.
If you would like to attend one of my workshops or bring them to your city or center, please email me at [email protected]. Here is the information about my word-and-image seminar:
The Art of Writing: Exploring Word-and-Image Pairings in Contemporary Literature
By Alexis Marie Chute
Is a picture really worth a thousand words? What happens when imagery and text combine?
In an age of visual communication, it is important for writers to reflect on the dynamic relationship between words and images. In this interactive seminar we will discuss the ways writers might capitalize on visual material to strengthen their craft. We will explore the word-image relationships in children’s books, graphic novels, hybrid novels, photograph/art books, magazines, comics, literary journals and advertisements. Through these discussions, students will learn strategies for pairing words and images, observe what works and what doesn’t, and be inspired to expand the scope of their own writing projects – whether they include visual elements or not.
Writers of any genre will benefit from this workshop.
Please come prepared to write and flex your creative muscles.
No artistic abilities needed.
Here are ten quotes by great contemporary writers on topics regarding rejection, writers block, and not just the want, but the need to be writer. These words encourage me and I hope they do the same for you. These quotes will enlighten you to the fact that all of the most successful writers have dealt with and still deal with their fair share of rejection and writers block. However their love of writing never faltered and they never gave up. All successful writers learned the hard way that getting rejected doesn’t mean you aren’t talented.
Nobody chooses to be a writer because it’s easy! As long as you love the process and take every chance you can to improve, you have the ability to be a great writer.
“I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
“With a book I am the writer and I am also the director and I’m all of the actors and I’m the special effects guy and the lighting technician: I’m all of that. So if it’s good or bad, it’s all up to me.”
-George R. R. Martin
“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.”
“Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.”
“I just give myself permission to suck. I delete about 90 percent of my first drafts … so it doesn’t really matter much if on a particular day I write beautiful and brilliant prose that will stick in the minds of my readers forever, because there’s a 90 percent chance I’m just gonna delete whatever I write anyway. I find this hugely liberating. I also like to remind myself of something my dad said in [response] to writers’ block: ‘Coal miners don’t get coal miners’ block.’”
“If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”
“As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says ‘you are nothing’, I will be a writer.”
-Hunter S Thomson
“When you’re a writer, you hear your internal critic, and that’s really hard to get over. And then sometimes you hear critiques from classmates and stuff. But when a book comes out, it’s just hundreds of opinions and you have to learn to separate out the ones you want to listen to or figure out many you want to listen to.”
“Don’t ever let the other stuff get in the way of your inherent skills as a kick-butt storyteller. Move the reader, make them happy and sad and excited and scared. Make them stare into space after they’ve put the book down, thinking about the tale that’s become a part of them.”
“It’s not easy. I got lots of rejections when I first started out. If you want to write, you have to believe in yourself and not give up. You have to do your best to practice and get better.”
I mentioned in an earlier post that I have written a book. It is one of my greatest passions and I would like to tell you a little about it.
On a side note I am presently editing the book, literally as this post flies into your virtual mailbox so to speak, I am scratching out lines, clarifying ideas and biting my nails to hone this work into the best it can possibly be.
I began writing “Expecting Sunshine” when I was pregnant with my now year old son Eden. Eden’s older brother died in my arms at birth from a cardiac tumor. Life was impossibly flawed from that moment on. When I became pregnant with Eden, after a difficult time I call my “Year of Distraction,” I realized I must deal with my grief before my next child arrived.
“Expecting Sunshine” is about the 40 weeks of pregnancy leading up to Eden’s birth. It shows me at my lowest and ugliest, struggling to let go of one child while my stomach grows with another. “Expecting Sunshine” is an ode to loss, a goodbye to innocence and a picture of the practical struggle of one woman learning to hope and believe again.
My goal is to expose my experience and the paths I traveled to find healing after loss. It has been a nightmare but in the end, love is worth it all and my sons, Zachary and Eden, and my daughter Hannah have taught me so much. If I could change my circumstances, I would without a second thought. Of course I can’t, so instead I have labored at grief and “Expecting Sunshine” is my story.
As I am new to the publishing game, I am still working out the details in the concrete matter of ‘how will I get my book into your hands,’ but I’m not worried. It will happen when the timing is right.
I am extremely passionate about helping others who have lost a child. If that is you, please connect. I’d love to hear from you. If you would like to read “Expecting Sunshine” please let me know, send me your contact info, and I will keep you updated. Until then, you can read more about my experience on my blog Wanted, Chosen, Planned – Life after the Loss of a Child.
I had the privilege of attending the Canadian Authors’ Association Gala last weekend. Not only was it my first day on the job as Secretary for the CAA board, taking minutes for the AGM, but I had the privilege of photographing the main event: readings by authors nominated for the Exporting Alberta Award and the award presentation. I have to say, the evening was immensely enjoyable! Even my hubby who is not a writer had a great time.
The Exporting Alberta Award is given to the CAA Alberta Branch member who has the best book published in the last year. The $1,000 prize money assists with out-of-province book promotion.
The event was MC’ed by one of the current Writers in Residence, Lee Kvern, at the tail end of her term. Boy, does Lee have a huge personality! Here are some photos of the event.
This is not excessive preparation. I kid you not. Participating in the 3-Day Novel Contest with two kids is a challenge. I have stocked the office with whatever I may need to hole myself in to prevent my beautiful two and a half year old daughter from seeing me. If she locates me or even hears a noise from the office she will remember I am not with her and will hone in on my whereabouts until she is nestled in my arms. This is a wonderful trait – but counterproductive on a weekend such as this.
Thus, I am stocked with snacks: water, cup, almonds, wheat crackers, apples, oranges, chocolate pudding cups and spoons, peanut m&ms, and the always delightful Orville Redenbacher’s sweet & salty kettle corn.
Plus care and distraction objects for my newborn, who will invariably be hanging out with me while I write: baby swing, swaddling blankets, play yard and mobile, floor play gym, breast feeding pillow and change station with pad, diapers, wipes, bum cream and the all important change of clothes for life’s little accidents.
I also have a pillow and blanket for myself because you just never know, right?
The most important detail, I have cleaned off my desk of distractions – thank goodness – as I am easily distracted.
My wonderful supportive husband has moved our home phone out of the office because, lord knows, I will be brought to profanity if another telemarketer calls me mid-thought and asks if my parents are home.
My theme music for the weekend: Patti Smith and Alanis Morissette
I still must text all my wonderful family, especially my BFF mom, to inform them that I am off limits for the weekend. I know they will understand. I am a woman on a mission.
That is all from me for now. I am off to feed my newborn and head to bed to catch my last few precious Zzzz’s before the marathon or sprint or whatever it is officially begins.
I wish all other participants a writer’s-block-free weekend!
Alexis Marie Chute will be exhibiting her artwork and selling Expecting Sunshine books at the Edmonton Woman’s Show April 29 & 30 at the Edmonton Expo Centre, Hall H. TICKETS | General (13+) – $15 | Student & Senior – $11 | Children(12 and under) – FREE
Alexis Marie Chute will be speaking to the subsequent pregnancy group at Angel Whispers in Fort Saskatchewan. She will be sharing about her book, her loss, and how she survived her own subsequent pregnancy.
Join Alexis Marie Chute as she launches her memoir in Auckland NZ! It’s book party time! Everyone is welcome at Time Out Bookstore on Mount Eden Rd – kids too! Alexis Marie will present a reading from her book, share her story, tell a few dumb jokes, and welcome questions from the peanut gallery. Please join Alexis Marie and share this invite. Let’s pack the bookstore like never before! Oh, and bring or buy a copy of Expecting Sunshine to get signed by the author.
Alexis Marie Chute and her husband Aaron Chute Will be speaking at the Sands National Conference 2017 about blogging. The conference will cater to 150-200 delegates. their aim is to provide an uplifting experience for all attendees so they can feel welcome, able to reignite friendships and start new ones with other families and professionals alike. They encourage togetherness in learning and teaching from one another and above all else, being around people who can relate to our own experiences. Sands is a voluntary, non-profit organisation that supports parents and families following the loss of a baby or infant at any gestation, any age and any circumstance. Every two years since 1997, Sands has held a national conference.This is the 11th biennial conference.
Alexis Marie Chute will be at The 40th Annual Compassionate Friends National Conference. The Compassionate Friends provides highly personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helps others better assist the grieving family. The Compassionate Friends was founded over 40 years ago when a chaplain at the Warwickshire Hospital in England brought together two sets of grieving parents and realized that the support they gave each other was better than anything he, as a chaplain, could ever say or provide. The Compassionate Friends became also established in the United States and incorporated in 1978. The conference brings together people from around the world to share their stories and show support for the global community.
Alexis Marie Chute will be presenting a Teaching Toolbox Session toLesley University students. Lesley University empowers students to become dynamic, thoughtful leaders in education, mental health counseling, the arts, and business. The Teaching Toolbox is a presentation about publishing that Alexis Marie will do for the students. She will share her insight and knowledge of the publishing world with her personal experience.
Alexis Marie Chute will be presenting a book talk at the Institute of Traditional Medicine.The Institute Of Traditional Medicine is Canada’s leading institute for professional and personal development programs and services in integrative health, sustainable medicine and social change. Alexis Marie will share with students about her book and personal story of loss and healing.
Alexis Marie Chute will be presenting a book talk to parents at The Hospital For Sick Children (SickKids). The Hospital For Sick Children serves families who have terminally ill children and those who will recover. Parents of children past and present who have been involved with the Hospital For Sick Children are encouraged to join us for the presentation. If you want to know how to become involved in this book talk please contact the hospital. Alexis Marie will discuss her book and share her personal story of loss and healing for all parents in attendance.
Alexis Marie Chute will be presenting a book talk to the Pregnancy Loss Support Program at the National Council of Jewish Women New York. They offer support groups for bereaved parents who have lost their child before or after birth. The groups they offer are for mothers and encourage fathers as well. They also offer professional references for parents suffering through the loss of a child. Alexis Marie will discuss her book and share her personal story of loss and healing.
Alexis Marie Chute will be presenting a book talk to The Baby Resource Center NY. The Baby Resource Center hosts support groups for parents who are grieving the loss of their child due to many factors. it is a place to share stories, pictures, and find support in your loss. They also encourage community outreach and advocate for better resources for bereaved families. Alexis Marie will discuss her book and share her personal story of loss and healing.