From Publishers Weekly
This collection from the Squaw Valley writing workshop, one of the oldest in the U.S., boasts an impressive list of alumni among its contributors, including Amy Tan, Michael Chabon, Richard Ford, Anne Lamott and Mark Childress. Rather than exercises and suggestions, however, this "workshop" is populated with literate, thoughtful essays on different aspects of crafting fiction. Ford's foreward begins with some blunt advice: one "should treat the decision to write like a decision to get married: try to talk yourself out of it if you can." Standouts include James D. Houston's essay on the role of setting, which shapes not just "grounding and location," but "the dreams you dream... your view of history, sometimes your sense of self." Janet Fitch advises a deep plunge into sensual details: "Take a bite of a tangerine... and try to work your way into the place it came from, to a time and a place and a season." A new or struggling writer will get the most out of Lamott's "The Clinic," in which she advises, "write what you want to come upon," what makes "something inside of you... go 'oooh.' " Aside from a few clunkers-Robert Stone's hodge-podge of flourishes among them--writers will find much of these new and previously published essays worthwhile and motivating, perhaps none more so than Tan's essay on "Angst and the Second Book," which first appeared in the pages of PW.
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