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Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within Paperback – October 4, 2004


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Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within + Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, 2nd Edition
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; 1 edition (October 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156029782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156029780
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Finally, someone has come along to tell would-be writers the two words they desperately need to hear: get real! Women, especially, entertain fantasies of quitting their day jobs to spend countless uninterrupted hours at the keyboard, whereas the reality is that in today's hectic world, they're lucky to get 15 minutes. But, the author advises, if you plan it right, those 15 minutes should be all you need. A professor of creative writing, editor, and journalist, DeMarco-Barrett has developed a wealth of 15-minute plans, each one designed to help aspiring writers find not only the time but the focus they need to hone their writing skills while juggling the rest of their daily demands. Through challenging exercises, tips from established authors, and her own personal experiences, DeMarco-Barrett demonstrates precisely how writing-on-the-run can produce satisfying results. With an encouraging attitude and inspirational approach, DeMarco-Barrett covers everything writer-wannabes want to know, from finding an agent to finding your voice. The result is a supremely relevant guide to the writing life. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR PEN ON FIRE
"Pen on Fire is a gym for writers with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, who teaches, coaxes, and cheers us on." -Diane Leslie, author of Fleur de Leigh's Life of Crime

"A wonderful mix of the practical and the inspirational." -T. Jefferson Parker, author of Cold Pursuit



"Barbara DeMarco-Barrett's wonderful, practical guide teaches us to value our craft and, thus, ourselves."
(Ayelet Waldman)

"With an encouraging attitude and inspirational approach…everything writer-wannabes want to know, from finding an agent to finding your voice."
(Booklist)

"Soars with inspiration and crackles with joy. It's a blessing for anyone going crazy trying to find time to write."
(Carolyn See)

"PEN ON FIRE is a fitness gym for writers with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, who teaches, coaxes, and cheers us on."
(Diane Leslie)

"The simple tips and easy lessons herein will provide inspiration to beginning and seasoned writers alike. I recommend it highly."
(Jo-Ann Mapson)

"PEN ON FIRE is a beginning writer's dream cocktail of fortitude: equal parts compassion, inspiration, and fabulous limbering exercises. "
(Jodi Picoult)

DeMarco-Barrett knows the writerly type. Her book perfectly combines inspiration and practical advice.
(Library Journal)

"A creative dynamo, a true writer's writer."
(Pages Magazine)

"What a little gem! Gulp down this cocktail of compassion, inspiration, and wizard limbering-up exercises."
(poisonedpen.com)

"PEN ON FIRE has got a wonderful mix of the practical and the inspirational."
(T. Jefferson Parker)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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And I'm delighted to say that it has been one of the best books I've read on writing in the past few years.
Catherine Franz
Through practical tips and practice exercises writers will soon get their creative juices flowing and find ways to get their works of fiction or non-fiction published.
Amazon Customer
I read somewhere that we are always afraid to start something that we want to make very good, true, and serious.
Kiril G. Kundurazieff

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Amy Senk VINE VOICE on October 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Writing guides are tricky: They can be pompous, they can be technical, they can too basic or too specific. But in Pen on Fire, author Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has combined inspiration and practicality, creating one of the best how-to writing books I've ever read.

The subtitle of the book is "A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within," and some of the text definitely has a feminine slant. Women who work, who raise children, who have trouble taking time for themselves, are encouraged to write in any and all available chunks of time. Waiting for red lights, for the water to boil, in the dentist's waiting room, all can be opportunities to get words on paper, or in laptop.

But make no mistake - any aspiring writer, male or female, at almost any level, will benefit from spending time with Pen on Fire. DeMarco-Barrett begins on a gentle note, cajoling and urging and promising to guide us into a writer's life, even if it's in 15-minute chunks. She offers suggestions for mining your own life for ideas, for developing your knack for dialog by eavesdropping.

She even tackles the touchy issues of whether you should write about friends and family. How much should you make up? How much should you show them in advance? What if they read a journal and take offense? DeMarco-Barrett covers it all.

One of the greatest features in this book are the extensive use of interviews of well-known authors, whom DeMarco-Barrett meets while producing a Southern California radio show called Writers on Writing. There may be no absolutes when it comes to, say, discussing a work in progress, or how much plotting needs to be done in advance, or how much research is too much. But it's fascinating to hear from successful writers about how they manage their craft.
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76 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
For this reader, this how-to book on writing is sufficient for anyone (particularly a woman) who aspires to Chic-Lit or magazine articles in women's publications, but this author's approach belies the serious nature of a woman who truly desires the discipline to write professionally. Starting with the obligatory 15 minutes a day suggested by most teachers, the groundwork for any writing is universally understood to be that critical designated amount of time.

The author puts her finger directly on the pulse of the problem in the chapter on obstacles to writing. For example, she says that she had her cable TV removed from her home, because to have "a writing life", you must "spend all spare moments writing to get momentum going". This in itself is a major obstacle when for anyone with an active family.

My guess is that few families would be willing to give up access to television for their writer-in-residence. That discipline may be up to the writer; certainly it is possible to write in a location that is far removed from the family entertainment center.

DeMarco-Barrett also discusses the problem of housework vs. writing, but this, too is a specious argument. Add to this list the author's confessed addiction to email and whatever other incidentals interfere with the scheduled writing. It isn't helpful, once I am this far into the book, to address such issues so simplistically. The chatty format is user-friendly, but hasn't the weight of serious discussion, although I am aware that the author is appealing to her reader in this fashion by design.

DeMarco-Barrett mentions such details as the importance of rituals, workspace, and the chapter-by-chapter reminder to "set your timer".
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Shena Crane on October 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett's book is stuffed with tools for generating ideas, getting going, and staying with it. She not only gives excellent `big issue' advice-how to find time, physically sit down and write, persist when you can't see the road-but also shows how to live life with the awareness of a writer. Chapter after chapter contain information and tips on how to keep track of ideas, collect words you want to use, read with a writer's perspective, and other daily habits to help a new writer "be" a writer every day.

The 15-minute exercises at the end of each chapter are particularly wonderful, akin to practical meditations.

This book is aimed at busy women who want to start writing, but I think busy men and anyone who already writes can benefit as well. It is a great book, one that should live on the desk rather than the bookshelf.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Killen on August 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
I kept putting this book down to go and write - which was the objective of course! A very readable, entertaining and inspiring guide which demystifies the writing process and makes it accessible to anyone who wants to try. It also contains some very practical tips for writing style and technique.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Judy Wagner on October 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Have you read stories in O, The Oprah Magazine and thought, I could write that.

Do you have ideas that would make a good essay, novel, memoir, or magazine article?

Have you always wanted to get started on these projects but never had the time or just plain didn't know where to start?

If so, this is the book for you.

Forget complex writing theory...this book teaches you how to translate your ideas into writing AND shows you how to work writing into your busy life. (Not just for women by the way!)

This book taught me how to:

1. Get my ideas onto paper.

2. Accept that my first draft might be crappy - but that's OK.

3. Revise my drafts until I had a finished product that I would be proud to show to the world.

It's actually pretty easy if you just follow the author's advice. There's no magic here. You don't need to wait for your 'inspiration'. Like the subtitle says, you just need to ignite the writer within.

Enjoy the book. Let me know what you think.
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