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Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True Reprint Edition

46 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060929299
ISBN-10: 0060929294
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Amazon.com Review

Elizabeth Berg (Talk Before Sleep) is a can-do kid. Forget the common wisdom--that writing is difficult and getting published nearly impossible without contacts or an agent. "What you need most," she says, "is a fierce desire to put things down on paper." And if a gentle nudge will help you on your way, well, Berg wishes to provide just that, cheerfully, with Escaping into the Open. For Berg, writing--and success--comes easily. In fact, she says, "What I like doing best is writing.... I feel like a drug addict with an exceptionally wise drug of choice."

It is refreshing to come across a book so positive and friendly--even if a there is a little too much emphasis on the author's own experience (did she really have to include a five-page essay by an envious friend and three pages of topics about which she herself has successfully written?). Still, how could one not appreciate a writing guide that espouses napping, eating chocolate-covered cherries, and standing by your "man(uscript)," and that likens passionate, risky writing--the only kind that's worth anything--to great sex? Berg encourages her reader to look (and listen and feel) deeply, to learn from children, and not to let life interfere with writing any more than it has to. She addresses--sometimes with help from her friends--writing classes, writing groups, and the writing life. In a chapter called "If you're a man, be a woman," she offers up 30 pages of writing exercises. Berg is personable, whimsical, amazed by her good fortune, and direct. "There's only one person who can stop you," she says gravely at book's end, "and we both know who that is." --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

-A gem of a handbook about creative writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Berg begins with her own story; after writing articles for her small town's newspaper, she got her first big break when she won an essay contest sponsored by Parents magazine. She describes her craft with frankness and humor and gives aspiring authors practical advice based on her own experiences and those of others. Most chapters conclude with writing exercises she calls "homework," designed to provide concrete applications of the points made in the chapter. The chapter titles provide clues to her teaching methods: "If You're a Man, Be a Woman: Exercises to Unleash Your Creativity," "The Good Liar: Making the Move from Nonfiction to Fiction," and "Writing Classes: Take Them or Leave Them." She ends her discussion of "Who's in a Writing Group?" by declaring, "Perhaps most important, a good group member is that most old-fashioned and wonderful of things: kind. That means she has an ability and willingness to be careful not only with another writer's words, but with that person's heart." The clarity and directness of Berg's own writing shine throughout.
Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: HarpPeren; Reprint edition (May 30, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060929294
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060929299
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 6.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,388,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elizabeth Berg won the NEBA Award for fiction for her body of work, and was a finalist for the ABBY for Talk Before Steep. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Ladies' Home Journal, Redbook, and the New York Times Magazine. She has also taught a writing workshop at Radcliffe College. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Marion VINE VOICE on June 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is as chatty and inspiring as all of Berg's books. Reading her books is like having a conversation with a good friend over a hot cup of coffee. I love the fact that she did not start out in a career as a writer, but as a nurse with an interest in writing. I particularly enjoyed the writing exercises which were simple and direct. This one now has its place on my shelf next to "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott and "Wild Mind" by Natalie Goldberg. I'm looking forward to Ms. Berg's next book due out in July. I highly recommend this book and all of her fiction.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark D Burgh on July 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
Elizbeth Berg's book is worthwhile for many reasons: her comfortable prose, her reassurances, her authority, but most of all for her writing excerizes.
Not that these sorts of exercizes aren't in other books, but Berg's (no relation) way of explaining them is clear and helpful. I used them, and they were, for me, effective. To wit:
two stories I wrote beginning with these exercizes have been published. No higher praise than that is due.
Some men might be put off by this book which is excessively sprouty, true, but Elizabeth Berg's writing is worth looking into, and so is this book.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Cade Foster on July 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a true "writing workshop." It doesn't talk down to the audience; it makes it clear that publication is not the only measure of success; it explodes many "writing myths." I graduated from an MFA program (in Boston, no less) and can honestly say that this book would have been a fine substitute.
Ms. Berg is a self-taught writer who doesn't revel in her own neuroses or go too far overboard with the New Age schtick. (I admit I haven't tried any of her recipes yet...) She's a writer's dream mom: nurturing and sensible, smart and savvy. Far superior to Anne Lamott. buy this book!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bearette24 VINE VOICE on May 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
Elizabeth Berg's voice is just as engaging when she writes nonfiction as it is when she writes novels. Which is perhaps to be expected, because she started out by writing essays and articles for women's magazines.

Throughout the guide, Berg dispenses many tips, such as: show a man is old by describing the dime-size age spots, rather than saying he's old; mood can be reflected in description; go to a restaurant and write down everything someone does for 10 minutes; crash someone's funeral, if there's a tasteful way to do it; and keep it simple when sending query letters to agents (i.e., no perfumed paper or candy boxes).

She also includes interesting tidbits such as a discussion on how to deal with success, and the envy one's friends might begin to harbor. Her friend Phyllis contributed 5 pages to the book concerning the jealousy she felt when Berg made it to the New York Times bestseller list. She also includes tips on how to handle rejection (in the scheme of things, it's not a big deal) and choose a writing class (be wary of teachers who don't write).

Perhaps most valuable are the thirty pages of writing exercises, intended to unleash your creativity. She goes for variety, breadth and depth by giving you sentences to complete, scenes to write, and gender-bending exercises (for example, if you're a woman, write about what it feels like to find out you impregnated someone).

Another great thing about the book is how encouraging she is. She devotes a whole chapter to debunking myths about writing, and insists that she started out without contacts or an agent.

Definitely worth your time if you're at all interested in writing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jenna Mindel on August 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
When I read this book, I think of meeting a friend who understands and encourages me - and we're having tea. Elizabeth Berg's charming voice comes through clear and strong as she encourages, gently nudges and inspires writers to celebrate their calling. I loved it! Whether you're just beginning, experienced, published or unpublished, this book is warm like a treasured quilt on a cold night. Buy it and enjoy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mary Chrapliwy VINE VOICE on April 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
Ms. Berg begins her book with some personal notes about her life and how she came to write -- she's an ordinary person just like you and I, who loved to write and followed her dream. Reading this book made me feel like I could conquer the world -- of writing that is. Ms. Berg helps you knock your feelings of inadequacy aside and dive into the written word. Throughout the book she gives homework and writing exercises that are very inspiring and thought provoking and ends the book with a couple recipes, which I thought was a nice, quirky touch. I love my copy of this book. It is the first one I reach for when I need to explore another writing exercise, to get those creative juices flowing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The best thing about this book is the glimpse into the life of Elizabeth, herself. Her quirkiness and insight is delightful. There is no one whose advice as a writer I'd trust more (although Natalie Goldberg's Banana Rose is beautiful). Her book even includes inspirational fattening recipes! What a brilliant idea! And the writing exercises are fantastic--I really got into them. I must say that while I've read criticisms of her inclusion of her own life, I appreciated (reveled in, more specifically) the anecdotes of her personal experiences. This is a wonderful guide to writing, but it is also a captivating read.
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