Writers Workshop in a Book (A Review)

I’ve been re-reading the contributions to “Writers Workshop in a Book” (Chronicle Books, 2007), a compilation of presentations given by writers at the Squaw Valley Writers conferences over the years. Some are more interesting to me than others.

I like Michael Chabon’s “Wrecked” in part because I’m a big Chabon fan. This essay can also be found in “Maps and Legends,” his book on his writing career. A second essay “On False Starts” by Lynn Freed (1999), re-enforces Chabon’s point, which is that good fiction is rarely born from an idea. Both struggled for years trying to force an idea into a story, learning the hard way that a forced story is a bad story.

There are several other wonderful contributions to this collection.

Robert Stone’s “The Reconquest of Reality” (1994) is a strong statement justifying fiction writing.

Oakley Hall’s essay “Structure” (1994) is valuable for beginning writers – a reminder of art’s relationship to form.

Alan Cheuse’s piece on point of view (2005) is worth reading more than once. It puts into historical perspective how point of view has evolved.

If you write historical fiction, you’ll want to read Max Byrd’s piece (1993).

If you are planning on attending a writing workshop in the near future, read Sands Hall’s piece “Making Workshops Work” (2006).

Screenwriters and others will appreciate Al Young’s “Reflections on Scene and Summary,” (2006).

There are also essays on finishing (by Mark Childress), the relationship of writing to publishing (by Louis B. Jones) and one’s second book (by Amy Tan).

It’s worth owning in print or ebook form.

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