Bender, a playwright, essayist, and poet, offers an exciting foray into the inner workings of the writer's mind by focusing on the ubiquitous writer's journal. Here Bender presents excerpts from the journals of 40 talented contemporary writers along with their thoughts on the process of keeping journals. Some, like Brenda Hillman and Naomi Shihab Nye, are longtime, insatiable journalists. Many here, however, admit that their journal-keeping habits are ``sporadic'' (Israel Horowitz) and limited to notions they can't live without (Jim Harrison). A few are even ``journal writers by default, brought to it kicking and screaming'' (Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni). Some of the journals, like Ron Carlson's, are bits and scraps of paper collected in a shopping bag or file folder for future reference. Other authors (Pam Houston, Janice Eidus) find that they can't write as well for themselves as they can for good friends or lovers, so they keep copies of their letters in lieu of the traditional diary. But as much as they differ in their journal-keeping habits, almost all of these writers agree on the importance of keeping notes that they can later access as a spur to their creativity. Many of the authors provide tangible proof of the journals' muselike aspects: Linda Bierds's journal is a step-by-step guide to her wonderful poem ``White Bears: Tolstoy at Astapovo,'' which is reprinted here; Patricia Hampl presents a long excerpt from her memoir Virgin Time, in which a short journal entry is cited in full and to marvelous effect. And for those of us who would like to keep journals but don't know how to begin, Al Young offers 21 journal-keeping ideas that give a good push in the right direction. All writers, aspiring writers, and even just serious readers will be moved to pick up that ratty old diary and start scribbling again.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-31510-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Delta

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996

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



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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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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