The write book at the write time…

November 21, 2010 § 8 Comments

Timing is everything.
And this book was there on my “library” stack just as I was about to flee the house rather than face down an impending deadline on a very short piece that’s giving me nothing but trouble.

HOW I WRITE   THE SECRET LIVES OF AUTHORS, edited by Dan Crowe with Philip Ottermann; Rizzoli, New York: copyright 2007  was just the bridge I needed.
It’s almost coffee-table size, but not. It fits upright on a standard book shelf.
The white cover has a giant bracket with a list of all the authors inside who will be divulging.
The paper stock is superior, holds the imprint perfectly and the photos and drawings within are so book-ish, colorful, sometimes b&w, hugely appealing. To a bookaholic little writer. 

There’s a Kafka quote just inside from his diary , 24 December 1910: “I had a close look at my desk just now and realized that it just wasn’t designed for quality writing.”

When you sit in a place long enough, you become very sensitive and particular about your tools – from the paper to the pen to the keyboard to the furniture you’re using.

Anyway, here’s the thing. The authors within this book are not dishing on how to write. They are talking in paragraphs about what one thing they keep around, what objects icons, totems, rituals, souvenirs or symbols they keep present as they write. And why. It’s all in their words, on one page, maybe two, with great fonts and graphics. And photos.
They’re funny, interesting, serious and sentimental.

The editors have compiled a fine work here, a glimpse into writing life. It could be a glimpse into any profession which might be equally as compelling. But on this morning when I’ve promised myself I’d snap this laptop shut by noon and be finished with my doggerel, this book is just the oomph I needed on my way to meeting a deadline.

And it would be nice on (my) coffee table. Along with some coffee, of course. (Are you listening, Santa?) 

Here’s a peak at some of the pages.
I am not familiar with the author (above) but after reading his entry, have decided he’s an excellent story-teller and character writer. The “stovchen” refers to the little stove under the cup in the picture; it keeps the tea in the cup warm while he writes. (You’re going to love his entry in this book.)

I don’t know Will Self, either (do I?), but love his writing method and his Post-its all put into “zones” and then it all turns into a book.

Jane Smiley might be a Pisces. I have to look that up (not that I’m zodiac-ally inclined) but the water thing could just be an indication. Her piece is so good.  You’ll hear her better in her books if you take a look at this entry.

Bourdain is brash, honest (tho’ I always feel he’s doing it for the camera, like Madonna) but this is a good piece. His “thing”, btw, is cigarettes. So ’50s.

Nothing like a shadowy pub full of characters to pump the “noir” in any crime… Ian Rankin is the UK’s no. 1 crime-writer/ seller. But oh, how we all love our English pubs!

There are plenty more, approximately 70 authors included in this book. But it’s not encyclopedic, nor is it even a tad boring. Love the format. Love the stories, true stories all.


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§ 8 Responses to The write book at the write time…

  • shoreacres says:

    What a wonderful idea for a book – and what a wonderful idea to whisper into Santa’s ear!

    As for my own one item, it would be my sundial shell, plucked from a Texas beach years ago and kept as a substitute for Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s moon shell. As she wrote in Gift From the Sea, it represented that island in time and space where her most creative work could be done. Slowly, my little sundial sitting always in view on my desk, is beginning to represent the same.

  • oh says:

    what an excellent token or totem or symbol – not sure of best word but your sundial shell seems the perfect inspiration & friend as you sit, writing.

    Hmmm….it might be interesting to put together our own collection of what we all have at hand as we write. I’m going to ask around….

    And have to look up “sundial shell.” I assume it’s a shape and maybe one I’d recognize. Right now, it sounds nothing short of poetic.

    So glad you mentioned the Lindbergh book. She needs to stay in our reading (and writing) vocabulary.

  • litlove says:

    What a beautiful book! I love it and, alas, want it, and bet it is tricky to get hold of in the UK (but I am fearless is hunting down exotic books, and will get on it!). I had to think hard about what I’d have with me to write because there is no one thing in particular. And then I realised: mess. There is always mess where I’m working; a pile of books I’m referencing, notebooks, a drink of water, tissues… and I like it. I like to have all these things clumped up around me and write in the middle of it, like a nest.

    Lovely post, Oh, you do find some wonderful books to share with us!

  • Kathleen says:

    I’ve never seen anything like this before. This one looks really interesting.

  • ds says:

    Looks like a gorgeously fun book. Bourdain cracks me up–nicotine, of course! And on a black page, no less, heightening his punk-chef meets Bogie image. Gee, can you tell I’m a fan? Sigh…

    Scanning this room, I guess I am in league with litlove–it’s all about the mess. And the cat. Mostly mess. Deeper sigh…

  • Carrie says:

    Looks like it’s worth a look!

  • ds says:

    Popped back over to wish you a most happy Thanksgiving among family and friends. Enjoy!

  • bronxboy55 says:

    This book does seem like one I’d like, and I appreciate the way you’ve presented it here. But I also have to say that I greatly admire your combination of writing skill and humility (“bookaholic little writer…” and “finished with my doggerel”). You obviously care about the language and use it with thoughtful elegance, yet you seem unconcerned with blowing your own horn. That’s refreshing.

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