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Rebel Yell: A Short Guide to Fiction Writing Paperback – September 1, 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Lance Olsen, former Idaho Writer-in-Residence and 1998 Pushcart Prize winner, was raised in a jungle compound in Venezuela, where his father worked for an oil company, and in the hermetically sealed, climate-controlled malls of northern New Jersey, where he seldom breathed unfiltered air. He received his BA (with honors, 1978) in English and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin, his MFA (1980) from the renowned Iowa Writers Workshop, and his MA (1982) and PhD (1985) from the University of Virginia. Since then he has taught at universities in Kentucky, London, and Oxford. In 1990 he joined the faculty at the University of Idaho, where he is professor of contemporary fiction, British and American literature, and creative writing. He lives with his wife on an eighty-acre farm near Deary.

His fiction is marked by diversity, ranging from conventional realism to vanguard experimentation, from high orbit to Moscow, Idaho, and from textured observation of suburban life to philosophical meditation on Ludwig Wittgenstein.

His first novel, Live from Earth (Ballantine/Available Press, 1991), which Booklist called "often absurd, sometimes disturbing, and wholly engrossing," is a magical realist tale in the tradition of Gabriel Garc'a Mrquez about a young woman's love affair with her dead husband. His second, Tonguing the Zeitgeist (Permeable, 1994), finalist for the 1995 Philip K. Dick Award for best science fiction novel, is a social satire in the tradition of Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange about the commercialization of the arts. His short story collection, Scherzi, I Believe (Wordcraft, 1994) is, as literary critic Thomas E. Kennedy writes, "a collection to water a parched place with laughter, delight, and that rarest of commodities as we approach the third millennium: intelligence."

His latest novels are Burnt (Wordcraft, 1996) and Time Famine (Permeable, 1996). Burnt, which Publishers Weekly calls "a funny cautionary tale" marked by "true wit," is a comic murder mystery involving a professor who kills one of his students because of his bad prose style. Time Famine, which Asimov's calls "relentless, savage, [and] hysterically funny," and which Science Fiction Chronicle cited as one of the best novels of 1996, is a literary science fiction involving smart space probes in the twenty-first century, government radiation experiments in the Northwest in the twentieth, and the ill-fated Donner Party in the nineteenth.

His most recent publication is Rebel Yell: A Short Guide to Writing Fiction (Cambrian Press), which covers everything from the current climate in publishing to jump-starting your creative muse, writing stories and novels, deciphering contracts, and getting the word out about your work after the fact. It also features over forty interviews with writers, editors, and publishers.

In addition to being a prolific fiction writer (his work has appeared in over fifty journals and anthologies), Olsen has published a chapbook of poems, nearly sixty critical essays, and more than a hundred reviews. He has also written four books about postmodern fiction, including the first study of the father of cyberpunk, William Gibson, and has edited two collections of essays on the future of American fiction. His interests include the future of the book in an increasingly market-driven publishing industry, the impact of the Internet on fiction, and (with his artist wife, Andi Olsen) the nexus where art and fiction kiss.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Cambrian Pubns; 1 edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1878914502
  • ISBN-13: 978-1878914507
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 7.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #561,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on February 26, 1999
Lance Olsen's fiction has always been on the cutting edge, and his first foray into the teeming world of writing guides is no different. Rebel Yell is your typical writing guidebook in the sense that it discusses the various genres, gives you exercises to jump-start your creative energy, and covers the various aspects of publishing. However, Rebel Yell is your atypical guidebook in that it focuses on the sometimes dismissed, or at least neglected, aspects of creative writing. Olsen covers all the major genres, and then some, especially those much aligned "gutter" genres as science fiction, fantasy, and experimentalism. He examines with brutal honesty the value of creative writing programs and what they can and can't do for you. And he allows "them that's doin' it" to express themselves through over 40 interviews (some little more than sound bites, yet insightful), providing nuggets of information and points-of-view that no other creative writing text is willing.
Rebel Yell may not be for everyone, however. If you believe that mimetic realism and the Iowa model of writing is the be-all, end-all of creative writing, then you may be initially turned off by Olsen's sometimes tongue-in-cheek tone and championing of the atypical aspects of writing. But don't think you can't learn something: this is a book for writers of all styles and experience. Rebel Yell is one of those rarities in the area of (creative) writing: it instructs, informs, entertains, AND succeeds.
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REBEL YELL is the best book of its kind: sage advice on creative writing from a collection of cutting-edge authors who do more than just give advice for making money at writing formulaic prose or satiating mainstream needs with the same-old, same-old stories. This book has guts: it is honest and passionate, broad and deep, and at every turn insightful. I've been successfully writing for over ten years and I still learned a lot from reading it. And that's because Lance Olsen tells it like it is. I wish I had a book out there like this one when I was struggling to learn how to write, and I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who has a drive to write. If you're a creative writing teacher, your students will love you if you assign this book. The advice alone cannot be beat. Neither can the one thing every reader will take away from it: its contagious passion. For in the long run, that's what reading and writing is all about!
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From the basic elements of fiction writing to the fine points of editorial etiquette, from mining ideas to negotiating specific contract terms, REBEL YELL has it all. Not just for literary insurgents, Lance Olsen's how-to is an entertaining, up-to-date guide for all writers. Aspiring novelists and published authors alike will find themselves returning again and again to this highly readable reference tool for advice, guidelines, and old-fashioned encouragement. If you're looking for platitudes, vague generalities, or pompous pronouncements from on high, find another book -- there are plenty of them out there. This one teaches the craft and the trade of writing.
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"Rebel Yell" was filled with all of your standard advice on fiction writing, such as characterization, point-of-view, revision, etc. However, it is also ripe with all sorts of new techniques and ideas. I knew I would like it in the very opening paragraphs when Olsen began bad-mouthing Balzac, who I recently had to read for one of my classes. I found myself in constant agreement with nearly everything Olsen had to say, and I am eager to try some of the techniques and exercises he has put forth. Sometimes, usually when he tries to explain more abstract concepts, he cites specific works of literature as examples. When I hadn't read some of these, it makes some parts of the book difficult to understand. However, at the same time, when Olsen mentions books and stories that I haven't read while making interesting points, it gives me an incentive to pick them up and check them out. I also enjoyed his section about college writing workshops, as I am a part of one myself. I agree that far too often young writers are dissuaded from experimenting and developing unique tactics. There is indeed a "Stepford" process that they tend to emphasize. Olsen exposes this for what it is and encourages us to violate it in whatever ways we see fit. The one negative side, besides the tendency for unnecessarily highfalutin language: Olsen too often portrays the writer as a martyr. He is constantly reminding us that they work hard, often for little money, that it is near impossible to get published, and that even when you do you won't make money. For someone who loves writing so much, he certainly paints a negative portrait of the profession. However, the focus of the book overall is on techniques and style, not marketing, and in that, it succeeds tremendously. A must-read for any writer!
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Lance Olsen is bored with literature and has a superiority complex chip on his shoulder which makes me want to slap him. While the book is very informative, I cannot help but feel openly hostile toward the man's inability to enjoy "generic fiction."
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