If I were moving to a new state far way and I could only bring five of my outrageous 40-plus collection of writing books, these are the five I would choose. Why? Check out some brief synopses below.
Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
I read this book during high school, over and over again, when it felt like everyone around me hated books. This was the first book to really get me out of my element; Goldberg has short chapters (only a page or a few pages long) followed by fun writing exercises. She tells you to never put down your pen. She mixes Zen and writing and learns to recognize when she’s in a meditative state versus just being lazy. Without this book, I might never have reached the level of detail I currently have in my writing.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
My mom gave me this book at the start of her creative revival. (She’s a lawyer who just got into Emerson, where she’ll soon study Creative Nonfiction!) This is the book to pick up when you’re feeling like creativity is a waste of time, and who are you to even dare try anything so useless? This is the book to slap every person who ever told you that you can’t, who said dreaming was a waste of resources, who promised to never support you in your decision to follow your passions. It’s a great book and I suggest reading, out especially for the artist who struggles emotionally.
Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success, by Kelly James-Enger
This was my first truly adult foray into the world of magazine writing. I’ve tried for well over a decade to get started on this, but it wasn’t until I got this book only a couple of years ago that I really started making an effort. Although she offers 101 secrets for freelancers, there’s a lot more information here, and it’s a valuable book to page through, underlining and taking notes. She reminds us that freelancing is a business, and that means you’ve got to act like a professional, whether others act like you are or not. This book has proven remarkably helpful during my freelance career, with reminders to follow up on pitches and to set my bar high.
Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction, by Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz
My good friend Sue gave me this book because she thought I’d like it and I do. It’s dense, somewhat expensive, and brimming with knowledge. When I get back to teaching Creative Nonfiction, I plan on using this book. Even if you’re a seasoned essayist or memoirist it’s a good read—the authors put into words what some of us only think about, but don’t know how to say: “Creative nonfiction is less about providing answers and more about struggling with questions. Readers are drawn in (58).”
The Six-Figure Travel Writing Road Map by Gabi Logan
Logan is a remarkable coach and businesswoman. She created a whole industry around writing for travel magazines and working with travel companies. She runs travel writing retreats (I went on one just last month!) and attends many writing conferences including The Muse and The Marketplace in Boston, and ASJA in New York City. In this book she offers readers a choice: Do you want to make money, get published in big name magazines, or travel for free? You choose one, and then follow it through, paying attention to the math and various elements involved. She even has an online magazine database that is kept up to date fairly well. If you want to get into travel writing, or even just magazine writing, you’ll probably want to check out some of her services.