This month, as we revel in the written word, I've invited a local bibliophile to write a guest post on Books for Writers. Louise Parkinson is the owner of the Bookcase independent bookstore in Huntsville. She's also the driving force behind the NorthWords Literary Festival which brought a number of stellar authors—including Margaret Atwood, Terry Fallis and more—to town this fall.
Louise has provided an excellent list of resources along with some sage advice for writers and aspiring writers. And to top it off, she is generously offering a discount on books at her store this month. See details below.
I hope you enjoy Louise's guest post as much as I do. If so, please take a minute to let her know—either in the comments here or in person at The Bookcase.
Happy reading everyone,
I’m Louise Parkinson and I own the Bookcase in beautiful downtown Huntsville. Jackie has asked me to be a guest blogger to talk about what I feel are the best books out there for writers. I am a writer myself so I have personally seen and read many books on writing. I have also spoken to many authors about the tools and books they use for reference. And yes, surprisingly, there is a lot of consistency in it. Let me share some of the titles that keep popping up.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B.White
Everybody’s bible on writing. Small but very powerful. An absolutely must have for all writers – no question! If you haven’t got it, you need to go out and get this invaluable resource right now.
On Writing by Stephen King
Don’t be put off by the author here. I am in no way a Stephen King fan, but this is one of the best writing books out there. It is part memoir, part inspiration and part instruction booklet. After reading this you will have no choice but to sit down and create your own masterpiece!
Reading like a Writer by Francine Prose
If anyone has had the pleasure of reading anything by Francine Prose, you will know that she is one of the greatest writers of our time. Her work is stunningly beautiful. It makes sense that what she has to say on writing is worth hearing. She insists that we need to know what good writing looks like before we are able to do it ourselves and in this book she teaches us how to do exactly that. A valuable resource.
Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott
"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” Anne Lamott
Anne Lamott is another author that if you are not familiar with, you should seek her out. I know a lot of people who just adore this woman’s work and for good reason. One of the main messages of the book is start small and don’t let the bumps along the way derail your attempts. Told with humour and grace.
How to Write a Sentence by Stanley Fish
Fish obviously loves the written word and you will too after reading this. His insights into crafting the perfect sentence every time are invaluable to any writer. He uses examples from the great masters of fiction to ensure you are able to recognize and create sentences that will inspire and move you. Outstanding book.
There are many books out there on developing characters and plot and other matters of form, to help you develop your skills. One that I seem to go back to time and again is The Writer’s Notebook Craft Essays from Tin House, Various Authors. Tin House runs a well established writer’s school in the States which offers writer’s craft courses each summer. This book is a compilation of the best classes and essays from the program presented by some of the best in business. A great resource to have on hand.
Finally, I would like to add the most important tool of all for would-be writers and one that is surprisingly often overlooked, and that is reading. To be a good writer you need to be exposed to good writing. Read everything you can from your genre and everything you can from outside your genre. If you are writing picture books for kids, read every picture book you can find, study them and find out what makes them work. If you are writing fiction, read fiction voraciously, looking at different styles and techniques. It takes time and effort but it is the only way to learn. Unfortunately most people don’t bother to do it.
Good luck with your writing. If you are in Huntsville, come by and say hello. Come in the month of November and mention this blog and I will give you 20% off all books.
93 Main St. E
Huntsville ON P1H 2B9
705 789 9111