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The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life Paperback – July 1, 2010

52 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0984242108 ISBN-10: 0984242104

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Wallingford Press (July 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984242104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984242108
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #456,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Photo by Tony Ober.

Priscilla Long is a Seattle-based writer of poetry, essays, creative nonfictions, fictions, science, and history. Her book of poems, Crossing Over: Poems is due out in July 2015 from University of New Mexico Press. Long is a longtime teacher of writing to developing professional writers. She is author of The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life (2010). The Midwest Book Review called it "a choice advisory and very highly recommended."

Her blog-column, Science Frictions, appeared for 92 weeks on The American Scholar website. In Science Frictions science rubs up against the rest of life. The complete set of Science Frictions essays are available
here: http://theamericanscholar.org/the-complete-science-frictions/.

"My Brain on My Mind," an abecedarium, appears in the Winter 2010 issue of The American Scholar. "Genome Tome," which also appeared in The American Scholar, received a National Magazine Award for best feature writing.

She is author of Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America's Bloody Coal Industry (1989). Christopher Hitchens called this "an intense and accomplished social history" (New York Newsday). Barbara Kingsolver called it "One of those rare works that asks and answers important questions about who we are...as a nation and how we got to that point" (Women's Review of Books). Howard Zinn commented, "As a piece of historical investigation, it is superbly done. But it is more than a history of the coal industry; it illuminates the development of the American corporate economy in the late 19th and early 20th century, and gives a rare picture of intense class conflict in a country often presumed to lack that. Her account of the Colorado coal strike is not only impeccably accurate but recaptures the drama and excitement of that astonishing event with rare skill."

Priscilla's essays, short stories, and poems appear widely in literary journals such as The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Fourth Genre, Southern Poetry Review, Raven Chronicles, North Dakota Quarterly, The American Scholar, Ontario Review, The Seattle Review, Chattahoochee Review, Passages North, Painted Bride Quarterly, Under The Sun, Michigan Quarterly Review, and The Cincinnati Review.

She was a Hedgebrook Writer in Residence in 2012 and a Jack Straw writer in 2009. Her awards also include the Richard Hugo House Founder's Award and awards from the Seattle Arts Commission and the Los Angeles Arts Commission.

She reads her poetry and prose widely, and performed with the Seattle Five Plus One poets during most of the group's existence in the 1990s.

She serves as Founding and Consulting Editor of www.HistoryLink.org, the online encyclopedia of Washington state history.

She graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and has the Master's of Fine Arts (MFA) degree from the University of Washington.

She was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and grew up on a dairy farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Her grandparents on her mother's side were Pennsylvania Dutch. Her paternal grandmother was Scottish, and her paternal grandfather, Walter Long, was descended from the Winslow family, English farmers who migrated to New England in the 1600s.

Walter Long was a reporter for The Philadelpia Bulletin and his grandfather, Stephen Winslow (1826-1907), edited the Philadelphia Commercial List and was known as "the grand old man in the newspaper life of Philadelphia."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Carol Pierson Holding on July 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was a writer in a tough spot: for six months, I worked on one particular story, revising and rewriting it until it was as lifeless as a PowerPoint presentation. Looking for any way out, I re-read my favorite writing instructors --Dorothy Brandt, Jon Franklin, Ursula LaGuinn, Natalie Goldberg, Robert Pinsky -- and came up with nothing. I sent my drek to a published writer friend, who polished some more but couldn't save it. Then I was introduced to Priscilla Long's gorgeously written The Writer's Portable Mentor. Long is a National Magazine Award winner and it shows -- the book is a great read and as inspirational a guide to writing theory as any of the classics. And like the classics, Long includes sublime examples from other authors best suited to making her points. But what's so different is that Long's is also a Field Guide that takes you by the hand to learn by doing. Her exercises are so compelling that I would stop reading The Writer's Portable Mentor to take out my writing journal and, using the subject of my frozen piece as the focus, try them out. And they worked. I highly recommend Long's The Writer's Portable Mentor to writers at all levels and those who just dream about writing, in short to anyone who wants to read what a master has to say about the craft of writing.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Penrose on July 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
I was one of those writers that Priscilla Long describes as "having worked for years doing pretty good work," yet the quality of my writing remained "merely competent." Then I took classes from Priscilla. I learned how to approach language actively, ensure productivity, mine writing lessons from first-rate authors, and ask questions that deepen my subject. My writing improved and my short creative nonfictions began to get published. Now Priscilla's classes are captured in this book. Writers no longer have to live in Seattle, where she is based, or attend writing conferences, where she also teaches, to profit from her guidance. The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life puts her wisdom at hand, 24/7/365. Open the book and do an exercise. Use a piece you are working on. See your writing improve.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Martinez on February 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After the first page I knew this was entirely different from every other writing book I own. Twice during the reading and study of this book I felt compelled to post two blog entries announcing to the world what a great book this was. So far I have given this as a gift at least five times.
This is material I review on a continual basis. Ms. Long has packed this book with everything from lessons on productivity, grammar discussions, lessons on diction and syntax, and something I haven't seen in many books: instructions on how to observe the world and turn what we experience into words. Unlike many books which simply address craft elements from the author's perspective, she addresses the topic of reading, urging us all to become closer readers and learn from the masters. She covers topics like the "virtuoso sentence" and discusses how to study the work of writers we admire. Instead of explaining what sells, she urges us to strive for greatness.
The book is practical, she encourages us to use current work, and revise that rather than churn out orphan paragraphs based on arbitrary exercises. To create new work, she offers examples of ways to start new projects, like listing topic sentences or collecting information for a collage essay. With this book I was finally getting a glimpse in to the world of a professional writer.
After she covered the different types of sentences my brain ached-in a good way, like my legs do after a long run. She then covered four types of paragraphs. At the end of the section on paragraphs there is an exercise that asks you to make a list of ten sentences, the topics for your ten paragraphs, and poof- there's a 1,000 word piece.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Kathie W on July 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This how-to-write book is big on productivity. How to keep producing new work, how to rewrite and make better what you've already written. It's not big on psychology or self analysis, which is one of its strengths. The Writer's Portable Mentor presumes that you're serious about your work and acts like an in-house editor. The section on Writing to See is worth the price of the whole book.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Corry Venema-Weiss on July 31, 2010
Format: Paperback
Most writing books focus on building blocks like narrative, dialogue, character building. Not that these things aren't important, but let's face it: babies play with blocks. The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life is like getting an erector set when all you've had to play with is Lincoln Logs.

If writing can be taught the most influential teaching opens your eyes to a new way of seeing, primes you for a breakthrough in your practice and points the way to a new level of mastery. Masterful writing is a more-than experience, both in the crafting and the reading and the magic of writing lies in the details of choice, in the how to's and where to for's of word placement. Priscilla Long's book, her teaching, shows you how to break the code: how to examine works you admire and make those tricks, those tools, those moves your own.
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