I don’t think they run them anymore, but I always kind of liked Capital One’s “What’s in Your Wallet?” campaign. My fondness for the ads might have something to do with the fact that Alec Baldwin and Samuel L. Jackson make excellent spokespeople. I’m just saying.
I thought it might be fun to put a writerly spin on the tagline by asking, “What’s on your [writer’s] shelf?”
Here is my writer’s bookcase in situ, so to speak:
It’s a utilitarian piece of furniture that I found via Craig’s List many years ago. It sits to the left of my cat bed-adorned writing desk. (You can see one of my two cats in the photo. She looks surprised and slightly guilty because I caught her in the middle of a catnip snack.)
And here is a closer look at the contents of my shelf:
- This section is a mish-mosh of writing-related books including classic favorites like Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones as well as less well-known works like Jessica Abel’s Out on The Wire and Christina Baldwin’s Storyteller. It also includes some fairly new works including Don Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel and Shawn Coyne’s The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know. I’ve also got a couple of books that are more about story in culture: The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall and Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.
- Section two is comprised of books about structure and inspirational books. On the structure side, we’ve got Story by Robert McKee, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up (on creative nonfiction) by Lee Gutkind, A Story is a Promise by Bill Johnson, Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland, and Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. On the inspirational side, we have Letters to a Young Novelist by Mario Vargos Llosa, On Writing Well by William Zinsser, The Trickster’s Hat by Nick Bantock, and Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art Speech.
- This section is books that I haven’t really read, but which I keep around because I have good intentions: First Words edited by Mandelbaum, in which we get to read the earliest works of favorite contemporary authors; the workshop edited by Tom Grimes, in which we explore seven years of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop; the Norton Anthology of Poetry (probably a hold over from my college days); and Short Novels of the Masters edited by Charles Neider, a book I bought through a book club more than a decade ago and haven’t yet opened. <sigh>
- These are not writing books. These are orphan books that couldn’t find a home on any of my other bookshelves, so they landed here: Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin, Irene M. Pepperberg’s Alex & Me (about her work with an African Gray parrot), Emma Ford’s Fledgling Days (about falconry), Hand Wash Cold by Karen Miller (Zen), French Women Don’t Get Fat (don’t ask), and The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison (a book I am terrified to read because I am sure it will make me bawl like a baby).
- Most of these books are also not about writing, but about other creative practices including graphic design, zentangles, drawing, and painting. There are a few, however, that have to do with the written word including a couple of quote anthologies, a book of Regency and Victorian insults (Deadlier Than the Male, compiled by Michelle Lovric), Rotten Rejections (a collection of literary rejections edited by Andre Bernard), and an odd little collection of lessons for grown-ups from children’s books called What the Dormouse Said collected by Amy Gash.
- Style and grammar books: The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition; Strunk and White (of course!); Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Trauss; Lapsing into a Comma by Bill Walsh; A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker; The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi; Roget’s International Thesaurus, and the beautiful (and hefty!) American Heritage Dictionary.
- These are mostly marketing-related books, but my collection includes a few writing-related references: Everybody Writes by Ann Handley, Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, and The Well-fed Writer by Peter Bowerman.
- This last section is also a bit eclectic, most notably including No Plot? No Problem! by NaNoWriMo founder, Chris Baty and a fun little flip book of writing prompts by Jason Sacher called The Amazing Story Generator.
So, that’s my collection.
If you’d like to play along and share your writer’s book shelf, please share publish a blog post (and share the link below) or post an image to either Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #whatsonyourshelf … I’d love to see what you’ve got!
Books I’m Reading:
I am actually reading books (four at once, actually … a bit more than I usually tackle, but there are extenuating circumstances), BUT I still haven’t FINISHED any. Next week. I promise!
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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:
- The 7 ways to beat writer’s block: composers on Reddit share their tips by Elizabeth Davis (a different kind of writing, but the scenarios still apply!)
- 5 Ways to Develop Your Writer’s Voice by @jenlouden
- Storytelling: An Exercise in Empathy by @LizLazzara
PUBLISHING & MARKETING
- How to turn social media connections into an actionable audience by @markwschaefer
- Why LinkedIn is the Only Social Media I Use by Matthew Oleniuk
- 3 Myths About the MFA in Creative Writing by @DIYMFA
- The Writer Runs This Show [SlideShare] via @copyblogger
- When time travel isn’t possible, make a tiny roar by @keemasaurusrex
THE WRITING LIFE
- Should You Write Faster? Here’s What Four Indie Authors Do (Plus My Take) by @aliventures
- Dear Name Redacted: Why Typos Happen, Dammit [Reader Questions] by @AnnHandley
- Pacing Myself by @AnneRich66
- Does Art Have to Imitate Life? by @CEMcKenzie1
Sundry Links and Articles:
This coming Wednesday – July 27th – Jane Friedman is partnering with Bryan Cohen to present a free training about writing sales copy that will help you sell your book. The sign-up page for this free event lists the following as part of the presentation:
- The foolproof system for writing compelling book descriptions
- How to turn your new description into a click-worthy ad
- How to boost your ad results with a few small changes
- Plus… Live Q&A with Jane and Bryan
I’m a long-time fan of Friedman’s work, so I’m betting this will be a worthwhile event, even if there is a sales pitch at the end of the presentation.
Finally, a quote for the week:
Here’s to appreciating our own libraries and dreaming about all the libraries we have yet to explore.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.