And now for something totally different…
We don’t review much nonfiction on this site, and when we do we choose nonfiction that has close connections with reading SF and F. This anthology, on the other hand, is about writing, and while not everything in it is about SFF specifically, that is its main focus, and all of the pieces are good advice.
This collection is basically the Clarion West Writers Workshop in written format, a series of short reflective and didactic pieces by people who’ve attended the workshop as instructors, guests, and students, providing support and encouragement for writers whatever stage they are at, whether newbie, experienced, or somewhere in between. As a writer myself who has been in something of a dry spell during most of the Covid period, reading these articles has been balm for my soul; they are like written kaffeeklatsches with people you feel you could be friends with, telling me what I need to hear in a way that allows me to hear it. What I love best is how much the pieces themselves reflect the voice and advice of the person who wrote them, showing us how to write well and not just telling.
As is usual, we will review each piece separately, and link the individual reviews back here when they’ve been published.
- “Being and Becoming a Writer” by Karen Lord
- “We All Have to Start Somewhere: Finding Your Process and Making it Work for You” by Tina Connolly and Caroline M. Yoachim
- “Setting the Scene” by Nancy Kress
- “Thickening the Plot” by Samuel R. Delany
- “Some Thoughts on Exposition” by Tobias Buckell
- “The Devil Is in the Details” by Connie Willis
- “Coincidentally . . .” by Stephen Graham Jones
- “Channeling Voices” by Andy Duncan
- “Status” by Helen Marshall
- “Neowise” by Paul Park
- “The Old Marvellous” by John Crowley
- “The Three Laws of Great Endings and My Two Shameless Hacks” by James Patrick Kelly
- “Diversity Plus: Diverse Story Forms, Not Just Diverse Faces” by Henry Lien
- “Researching Imaginary Worlds” by Ken MacLeod
- “Something to Cry About” by Nisi Shawl
- “The Narrative Gift as a Moral Conundrum” by Ursula K. Le Guin
- “Tapping the Source” by Elizabeth Hand
- “Feed Your Engine” by Jack Skillingstead
- “Congratulations on Learning to Juggle — Now Get on the Unicycle” by Daryl Gregory
- “Writing in the Age of Distraction” by Cory Doctorow
- “Going Through an Impasse: Evading Writer’s Block” by Eileen Gunn
- “On Mentors and Mentees” by Cat Rambo
- “Pitfalls of Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy: General Useful Information & Other Opinionated Comments” by Vonda N. McIntyre
- “Positive Obsession” by Octavia Butler
- “* Take As Needed” by Hiromi Goto
- “Matters of Life and Death” by Susan Palwick
- “Proverbs of Hell for Writers” by Ian McDonald
I’m not normally one for taking advice on how to write from other writers. But I’ll make an exception for this book, and would recommended anyone else do too, whatever stage in your writing development you’re in. I can easily see this book becoming a sort of reference/trouble-shooting text for when you’re having trouble with a particular thing.