From Kate’s Writing Crate…
As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.
Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don’t generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice and/or creativity.
I read three highly recommended novels for my post this week, but two failed to keep my attention and the third was good, but not masterclass good so I searched my bookshelves and decided Snoopy’s Guide to the Writing Life met all the criteria.
Before you dismiss this as a joke, 32 authors/writers including Ray Bradbury, Sue Grafton, Elizabeth George, A. Scott Berg, and Elmore Leonard penned essays on The Writers’ Life based on their favorite comic strips of Snoopy sitting in front of his Olivetti typewriter on top of his doghouse which illustrate this tribute to writing.
In the Foreword, author Monte Schulz writes about his beloved father, Charles, their relationship as well as how important literature was in their lives.
“When I was young, my father gave me some of his favorite adventure books to read, like Driscoll’s Book of Pirates and Red Rackham’s Treasure. He wanted me to become as entranced by the storyteller’s art as he was…He own reading was astoundingly eclectic. He loved poetry and prose, fiction and non-fiction…” (page 3)
“Once I’d reached the age where literary art is appreciated as much as bravado storytelling, my father began recommending literary books for me to read. Years later he told me that one of his fondest wishes had been that one day I’d grow into an appreciation of literature so that he and I could share and discuss the same books, some he would find to read, some I’d share with him. And finally we did…” (page 4)
“…Without a doubt, my father used Snoopy the author to express his own love and frustration with the creative process, to illuminate the writer’s life by poking fun at the often incomprehensible divide between author and publisher while showing the amazing resilience of the everyday writer struggling for acceptance and acknowledgment…” (page 11)
In his Introduction, Barnaby Conrad gives readers a glimpse into Charles Schulz’s writing life describing his working day, writing space, and some of his habits that he caught while interviewing him for The New York Times Magazine. Schulz shared his views on writing, art, music, and genius as well.
In the 32 essays by other authors/writers, they offer advice, reflections, and warnings that are enlightening. Not every essay appealed to me, one even offended me, but here are a few quotes I loved:
“My biggest piece of advice is don’t use desperately boring description to elaborate on something technical or dole out heavy explanation...The reader will ignore it and be bored. Describe it in dialogue. The vision in the in the mind of the reader flies so much faster, and the reader actually understands and enjoys hearing what the characters say about it.
--Clive Cussler (page 36)
“The rules for writing a best-seller are simple:
· Take an idea you really, really like.
· Develop it until it is brilliant.
· Rewrite it for a year or two, until every word shines.
Then bite your nails, hold your breath, and pray like mad.
--Sidney Sheldon (page 40)
“The joy about writing is that as long as you write from your heart, a thousand English degrees cannot compete with that. And remember, an editor can always correct your spelling and fix your grammar, but only you can tell your story.”
--Fannie Flagg (page 69)
“To me, writing a book is a two-part process. The first part, and probably the toughest, is starting a book…
The second part, which I’ve always considered much easier, is completing the book. It’s much longer than starting, but also considerably easier—because now, momentum is on my side.”
--Jay Conrad Levinson (page 112)
“I always tell my writing students to become completely aware of their bodies as they write. I tell them that their minds will lie to them all the time, but their guts will never lie to them. You know when you are afraid, don’t you? You feel it; you don’t think it. You know when you are excited, too…you have to learn to apply that gut reaction to your writing…”
--Elizabeth George (page 123)
I wish I could reprint Elizabeth George’s entire essay as she gave great advice, but you will have to discover it for yourself. She ends with:
“I think the writing life is the best there is. It’s also the most challenging. It’s filled with a heck of a lot of difficult moments, but overcoming them is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.” (page 124)
I have to agree.