You may recall that I am enrolled in a Creative Nonfiction class at the VMFA Studio School this spring. The first day of class Amy Ritchie Johnson distributed a page of books labeled “resources” and “writing craft.” Resources turn out to be books she considers to be well-written examples of the the variety available in creative nonfiction—ranging from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) by James Agee and Walker Evans to a couple of local blog writers.
Under writing craft, the first book listed is Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (1986) by Natalie Goldberg. If you’ve ever taken a writing class, pretty much anywhere, you’ve probably come across Goldberg fans. Writing Down the Bones is now out in the 30th Anniversary Edition. Yep, it’s been around that long—and is still relevant as ever, including writing advice and get-going exercises.
If Writing Down the Bones is already an old, familiar friend, check out some of her other books. Consider her memoir and poetry. But if you really want to focus on writing craft, you can do that, too.
So, I wasn’t surprised to see Writing Down the Bones on the class booklist. But seeing Ursula K. Le Guin there knocked my socks off.
Apparently this book first appeared in 1998. This is now the 2015 edition. Le Guin labels the book “a handbook for storytellers—writers of narrative prose.” And it is just that. As you can see by the chapter titles, she’s organized it by the nuts and bolts of saying what you mean.
Although the topics sound mundane—if not actually boring—the book isn’t. Each section has excellent exercises and variations, and a very informative discussion of the topic. The extended sailing metaphor wore on me a bit, but the book is a very manageable 140 pages.
Although I read some of her fiction decades ago, I never knew of her as a writing teacher. She died recently and this is her only book on the craft of writing. Buy it!
I’ll mention just one other book on the recommended list. I’ve had Bird By Bird on my shelves forever but haven’t read it. Maybe this year.
Last but not least, consider this bi-mothly magazine for writers. This is the January-February issue and could be useful all year with the 52 IDEAS TO BOOST YOUR CREATIVITY IN 2018. You can see from the cover what the main topics are for this issue. In spite of the focus on poetry, much of the magazine is of interest to virtually everyone.
Lots of the contents never age, but the classifieds section is the exception. Calls for submissions and contests can be time sensitive.
Bottom line: there are a lot of helping hands for our craft. Take one or two—or more!