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Customer Review

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 12 Interesting Things and 9 Writing Tips, November 9, 2011
This review is from: We Wanted to Be Writers: Life, Love, and Literature at the Iowa Writers' Workshop (Paperback)
We Wanted To Be Writers tells the tale of The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop during the 1970s, a time when literary theory cold-cocked craft and creative writing congealed into a career instead of a calling. 30 graduates of the program and survivors of life after an MFA offer up a master class over seven chapters, what they call "a compendium of reflections we wish we had before we arrived naked in Iowa City ..."

You can turn to any page of We Wanted To Be Writers and learn something. But it's much more enjoyable to go slow and allow that cumulative effect to take hold. It's the difference between glancing at the sky or lying on your back and staring at clouds - eventually the patterns that make a difference introduce themselves and ask for spot beside you on your blanket.

Here are 12 interesting things I learned by reading We Wanted To Be Writers:

1. A 3-step Primer For Writing An Authentic Literary Narrative
2. 99 Books Writers Read by Nightlight
3. Whether Or Not Writing Can Be Taught
4. 32 Statements About Writing Poetry
5. A 16 Book Reading List On Creativity
6. The Pennybacker-Schaeffer Realistic Dialog Method
7. The Importance Of Beer, Clear And Cold And True, Like A Trout Stream In Spain
8. Three Writing Assignments Sure To Unblock Writers' Block
9. The True And Untold Story Of The Great Writer Riot Of 1976
10. Eight Writing Quotes No Moleskin Would Be Complete Without
11. Why Accumulation and Consumption Are Crucial To Creative Success
12. The New Yorker's Three Rules and Five Step Formula (see comments for explanation)

There's much more to We Wanted To Be Writers than these 12 things, but that's why you need to find a copy to keep on your shelf! In fact, I recommend you consider adding We Wanted To Be Writers to any shelf dedicated to writing well.

We Wanted To Be Writers also teaches you that you can be more creative than you thought possible if you remember the example of the 15th century Italian painter who threw artichokes at a waiter, rocks at Romans, and murdered his tennis opponent.

Author Doug Unger, in We Wanted To Be Writers says says,

I think it's important to learn how to write wherever and whenever you get a chance. I recall a story about Isaac Babel, how he wrote some of his later short stories while on the run from the Czarist police. He had to sit down on tree stumps and pen off a story, then mount up and keep moving. Or I think about Caravaggioand some of the truly great smaller paintings he did when he was being hunted by the Papal Guards - he was able to make a painting in a few hours - beautiful, seductive portraits.

You might think, "Easy enough for a professional who studied writing for two years to say, but I'm a busy [insert your preconceived label here]."

To which I'd be forced to bellow, "That's a load of bollocks!"

Here's the deal: you may not have the time to attend The Iowa Writers' Workshop; and you may not have the resources to read We Wanted To Be Writers; but you can easily apply these nine writing tips to be more creative than you thought possible.

1. Anthony Bukoski - write the things out of yourself in order to understand them. Look for the odd angle of vision that leads to the unusual turn of phrase or imaginative image.
2. John Irving - you've got something you do too much of, something you do to an irritating degree; try doing that thing insanely nonstop and breathlessly.
3. Jayne Anne Phillips - writing, or art, is a calling, not a career!
4. Jane Smiley - you can't be a novelist by being a perfectionist; production, not perfection is the key.
5. Sandra Cisneros - don't think too much, then you'll be able to say something wiser than your years, bigger than yourself. Trust that the nonsense you're writing will take you somewhere.
6. Rosalyn Drexler - be a worker. Don't wait for inspiration; it comes afterwards, not before.
7. Sherry Kramer - everyone finds their way into the world of their work differently. There's no wrong way, but your first draft is the treasure map, it's the truest representation of what your work wants to be.
8. Marvin Bell - always write with abandon. Say yes to whatever comes along and be interesting to yourself.
9. Allan Gurganus - work every day and only write about things that interest you profoundly.
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 15, 2011 10:02:49 AM PST
FANTASTIC review!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write it.

Posted on Mar 5, 2012 5:47:03 PM PST
Killer review, Sean. Thanks.
Don't know how I'd never heard of this book before but I'm ordering it right now.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2012 8:45:27 AM PST
You won't regret it! I've got a list of 70+ writing books if you want it. I asked everyone I knew what books influenced them and I made a list. You can email me at sean dot giorgianni at g mail dot com. Keep doing great things!

Posted on Dec 12, 2013 2:37:22 PM PST
What a giving and insightful review. big thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 12, 2013 5:55:35 PM PST
Thank you for the best response I've ever received to a review! It's a worthy book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
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