Writing a Book That Makes a Difference
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Writing a Book That Makes a Difference [Hardcover]

Philip Gerard
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

February 2000
Why did Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, a memoir of his poverty-stricken childhood, touch millions? Why did John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Upton Sinclair's The Jungle incite social change and become literary classics? Why did Sebastian Yunger's real-life adventure A Perfect Storm leap onto the bestseller list? In this book, Philip Gerard analyzes books that made a difference-fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary-distilling out the elusive ingredients that make a work memorable, one that changes our minds and our lives. Beginning with the importance of choosing powerful subjects and themes, Gerard encourages writers to explore what is closest to their hearts. He then presents dozens of practical storytelling strategies that engage readers and move them- to tears and laughter, or to action. As in his much-praised Creative Nonfiction, Gerard's instruction is always accessible and a pleasure to read. Anyone who dreams of writing a book that makes a difference will come away with a clear understanding of what it takes to succeed.

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There are countless would-be authors out there who would be thrilled to write a book, any book. Writing a Book That Makes a Difference is not for them. It is for those writers ready to tackle what its author, Philip Gerard, calls the Big Book, "the book that will take the best that is in [them] and every bit of craft [they] can muster." Think The Grapes of Wrath, Angela's Ashes, The Perfect Storm. Those with ambitions to write a book that will change their lives and the lives of their readers will find Gerard a wise companion, with guidance on choosing and researching your subject, discovering your themes, and building your book, be it fiction or nonfiction. Respect your subject, your material, yourself, and your reader, Gerard urges. Work with integrity, and don't let your experiences (or lack thereof) restrict you. According to Gerard, "No subject is off limits. To any writer. Ever." --Jane Steinberg --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Philip Gerard is the author of three novels, most recently Desert Kill, and a memoir, Brilliant Passage. He is also the author of Creative Nonfiction, published by Story Press. His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous magazines, and his radio essays are heard regularly on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. He is the director of the creative writing program at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Story Press; First Edition edition (February 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1884910440
  • ISBN-13: 978-1884910449
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #991,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"I believe in the writer as a witness to evil, as a reporter of injustice, as a chronicler of human compassion, even on occasion of greatness, as one whose skills illuminate the Truth with a capital T, without irony. I believe it is the job of the writer to put into words what is worst - and also what is best - about us. To light up our possibilities, discover the finest lives to which we can aspire, and to inspire our readers to greatness of soul and heart."

The Patron Saint of Dreams book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsvexuZ8Q7
Pocket Biography
Philip Gerard was born in 1955 and grew up in Newark, Delaware. He attended St. Andrew's School in Middletown, Delaware. At the University of Delaware, he earned a B.A. in English and Anthropology, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. After college he lived in Burlington, Vermont, writing freelance articles, before returning to newspaper work in Delaware and then going west to study fiction writing at the University of Arizona writers workshop. He earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing in 1981 and almost immediately joined the faculty at Arizona State University as a Visiting Assistant Professor and later as Writer in Residence. He remained at ASU until 1986, then taught for a brief time at Lake Forest College in Illinois before migrating to coastal North Carolina.
Gerard has published fiction and nonfiction in numerous magazines, including New England Review/Bread Loaf Quarterly, Creative Nonfiction, Hawai'i Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, New Letters, Arts & Letters, Fourth Genre, and The World & I. He is the author of three novels: Hatteras Light (Scribners 1986; Blair/ Salem paper 1997, nominated for the Ernest Hemingway Prize), Cape Fear Rising (Blair 1994), Desert Kill (William Morrow 1994; Piatkus in U.K. 1994); and four books of nonfiction, including Brilliant Passage. . . a schooning memoir (Mystic 1989) and Creative Nonfiction-- Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life (Story Press 1996), which was a selection of the Book-of-the-Month and Quality Paperback Book Clubs. Maryanne Culpepper, director of story development for National Geographic Television, writes, "It is the manual for nonfiction storytellers. . . Creative Nonfiction is on every bookcase at National Geographic Television."
He has written nine half-hour shows for Globe Watch, an international affairs program, for PBS-affiliate WUNC-TV, Chapel Hill, N.C. , and international broadcast, and scripted two hour-long environmental documentaries, one of which, "RiverRun- down the Cape Fear to the Sea," won a Silver Reel of Merit from the International Television Association in 1994. Two of his weekly radio essays have been broadcast on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."
Gerard's Writing a Book that Makes a Difference (Story Press, 2000), combines his dual passions of writing and teaching. His latest book of nonfiction Secret Soldiers (Dutton 2002; Plume softcover 2004) tells the story of an unlikely band of heroes in World War II: artists who fought the Nazis by creating elaborate scenarios of deception, conjuring phantom armored divisions out of sound effects, radio scripts, pyrotechnics, and inflatable tanks. River Run: Adventuring Through History,Nature, and Politics Down the Cape Fear to the Sea is forthcoming from UNC Press.

He teaches in the BFA and MFA Programs of the Creative Writing Department at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, which he chairs. He has won the Faculty Scholarship Award, the College of Arts & Science Teaching Award, the Chancellor's Medal for Excellence in Teaching, the Graduate Mentor Award, the Board of Trustees Teaching Award, and a Distinguished Teaching Professorship, and the Faculty Excellence Award given by the MFA students. The Philip Gerard Fellowship, endowed by benefactor Charles F. Green III to honor Gerard's work in establishing and directing the MFA program, is awarded annually to an MFA student on the basis of literary merit. Gerard has also been writer in residence at Bradford (MA) College and Old Dominion University (VA), has taught at the Sand Hills and Bread Loaf Writers Conferences, and has conducted workshops at the Chautauqua Institution , the Wildacres Summer Writers Retreat, and the Goucher College summer residency MFA program in Creative Nonfiction.
In keeping with his conviction that writers should give something back to their profession, he has served on the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Writers Network and from 1995-98 on the Board of Directors of the Associated Writing Programs, for two of those years as President. He has been appointed by Governor Bev Perdue to a second three-year term on the North Carolina Arts Council.

Look for his new book of narrative essays, The Patron Saint of Dreams, from Hub City Press in Spring 2012.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiration to Set the Bar High October 22, 2000
Philip Gerard takes on a seemingly grandiose goal in this guide: how to write a book that will not merely get published, not merely sell, but make a profound impact on many readers. That may seem daunting, and indeed intimidating, but Gerard has a way of nudging the reader (and aspiring writer) to think grandly and take big chances. He teaches primarily through example here, exploring some of the really great books, and telling what makes them so.
Gerard shares anecdotes about how these books started out with more modest aspirations, and if not for the author's impulse to envision a grander purpose, may have been destined to become minor, even forgettable works. For example, Steinbeck originally wanted to do an investigative report on migrant workers, before convincing himself that a novelization of his findings, "The Grapes of Wrath," would tell the story with much more impact. Similarly, Truman Capote took an audacious step (for the times), when he decided that the details of a chilling murder (and his own connection to one of the murderers) would work best as a "factual" novel.
This book explains bold and innovative writing by examining the concrete examples of authors who have succeded in that pursuit. As such, it should appeal not only to aspiring writers, but also to those who simply would like a run-down of great books and some rationale for their admired stature. The one drawback here is that Gerard has a habit of bringing in new dimensions of great writing, but being a little strident in summarizing the cited works. One sometimes gets the feeling that he merely scratches the surface of an important style, and then moves on to an altogether different one. Even so, this is a book that both writers and readers are likely to appreciate and find valuable.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, a book on writing serious fiction October 27, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are so any books on writing fiction, as any budding writer will see. Hundreds of them, on the wider scope of novels, on the specifics of short stories, or on the techniques of dialog, scenes and plot. Many of these books are useful, but they all tend to focus on popular, commercial fiction, generally genre fiction.

I guess if you want to write genre fiction (nothing against it - I read plenty of it), then these books are fine. But for me, embarking on writing serious fiction, none of these books helped very much. Philip Gerard's book fills the gap that these other books have left in the market. It approaches writing fiction for those who want to write novels that make readers think. He covers enough of the basics (tone, point of view, style) to make this a good generalist book, but, above all, doesn't talk down to the reader. In addition, he inpsires you to think of the broader aspect of writing a serious novel.

As a full-time writer of non-fiction, I'm hoping to leap over the fence into fiction. This is the best book I have yet found that gives me the inspiration and the tools to do so. I have already read it three times, and have gotten more out of it each time. If you want to write serious fiction, this is the only book that really helps you do so.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the best books on writing June 4, 2005
For those who have mastered the craft of writing, but feel like they are missing the art of truly touching an audience, this book is amazing. It talks about how to move your work to a higher level, achieving the sort of resonance that the great books have. It not only breaks down some of the effects used by classic works and authors, but also details why and how to create them yourself.

i am a confirmed how-to-write book addict--but this is one of the few that really steps above the rest to present a new approach. It speaks to the power that fiction (and non-fiction) can have to affect the reader--something many writers aspire to, but don't know how to consciously approach. In classic how-to style, it even includes exercises after each chapter! I picked it up on a whim, but I will be recommending it to all of my writing buddies who feel that their work, while technically excellent, is lacking the spark that will really bring it to life.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whoa What's This??????How Does He Know Me? May 3, 2002
I was shocked to open this book and find the author's words targeting the very soul of my writing. It is a book about craft, not a pop culture "I wanna write a book" manual.Gerard shows a great understanding of the motivation behind the need and desire to write well. He speaks to those who are willing to put effort and excellence where their pen meets the page.I heartily recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful for opening your mind, improving your work December 26, 2007
No instruction manual can really tell you how your book should be written. In fact, many can dull your senses and arouse doubts in your mind about structure, organization and other aspects of how you want to tell your story. Nonetheless, desiring to do exactly what the title of this book describes, "writing a book that makes a difference," I found it very useful in stimulating my thinking. It helped rather than hindered my choices, although, as I suggested, it really couldn't tell me what I needed to do. Only after reading many such books did the winnowing process of my own brain absorb a little from this and a little from that. So if you too want to write such a book, go ahead and buy this early on in the process.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The content of this book lives up to the title ...
The content of this book lives up to the title. It is packed with information on how to approach the writing of fiction, but also touches on non-fiction. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Bookworm2
5.0 out of 5 stars How to write a coherent book
So that your book will make a difference: One of my pet peeves with all the new e-publishing is that books get published before they have become books. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Janet Mackie
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the book I recommend.
Once I answered their questions about child custody they asked for advice on how to write a book.
Each answer I gave spawned a new question; the questions covered the same... Read more
Published on March 8, 2010 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing a book that sells
It sometimes seems like every one feels, at one time or another, that they have a book deep inside them that is begging to be written. Read more
Published on May 29, 2007 by Bill Armstrong...the Sage of Sedona
1.0 out of 5 stars I confess ...
Before reading this book, I read "Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life" by the same author. I found "Creative Nonfiction" terrible. "Writing ... Read more
Published on April 1, 2006 by The Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars Gerard gave me courage to write
While I contemplated writing "Remember Cynthia Rose: grandparents fight to keep their grandchildren," I read Philip Gerard's book. Read more
Published on September 11, 2003 by Jeanne Sinclair Krause
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