WRITERS DREAMING

TWENTY-SIX WRITERS TALK ABOUT THEIR DREAMS AND THE CREATIVE PROCESS

It's well known that Coleridge dreamed, word-for-word, his great poem ``Kublai Khan''—but not that William Styron wrote the opening paragraphs of Sophie's Choice after dreaming of a woman with tattooed numbers on her arm, or that Stephen King based the horrific Marston House of Salem's Lot on a dream he had as an eight-year-old. Here, Epel (host of a Berkeley-based radio show) presents commentary from 26 writers on how dreams have influenced their work and their lives. Though the commentary derives from interviews, Epel has edited out her questions and sewn the answers into smooth-flowing essays from the likes of Maya Angelou, Clive Barker, Elmore Leonard, Gloria Naylor, Reynolds Price, Anne Rice, Robert Stone, and Amy Tan—a remarkable number of whom keep close track (often in dream-journals) of the dreams from which they draw literary ideas or at least inspiration: John Barth says that once every four years or so, he enjoys a ``Charles-Dickens-scale dream,'' one ``with lots of complications and even subplots.'' And it's interesting to note that, perhaps in keeping with the intimacy of the dreaming that influences them, a number of these authors disavow word processors in favor of more intimate writing tools: Elmore Leonard writes in longhand and then transcribes using an Olympia manual typewriter, while Spalding Gray corrects his longhand again in longhand, with a red-ink pen. Full of surprising insights, these interview/essays make a genuine contribution to our understanding of the writing process. (Twenty-six b&w photos—not seen)

Pub Date: June 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-517-58982-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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