A succinct, clear, and encouraging companion for aspiring writers.



Practical writing advice from an acclaimed storyteller.

Prolific writer Le Guin (The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories Volume One: Where on Earth, 2012, etc.)—author of more than 60 books of fiction, poetry, drama, and translation and winner of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, among other awards—brings her experience as a writing workshop leader to this revision of her 1998 publication. In 10 chapters, the author considers basic writing topics, such as sound, rhythm, grammar, syntax, parts of speech (especially verbs, adverbs, and adjectives), and point of view. Each chapter contains examples from literature: an excerpt from Austen’s Mansfield Park demonstrates the author’s “vivid and versatile” syntax; a “glaringly bright scene” from Dickens’ Little Dorrit shows the power of a “single word…repeated like a hammer blow.” In addition, Le Guin has created short exercises “to clarify and intensify” awareness and hone technique. One exercise, “Am I Saramago,” (alluding to the Portuguese novelist who uses no punctuation), asks readers to write a 150-350–word narrative with no commas, periods, or paragraph breaks. A four-part exercise on point of view calls for writing a 200-350–word narrative and retelling it from the point of view of participants, a detached narrator, an observer-narrator, and an involved author. Le Guin guides readers in evaluating their work by themselves and in giving and responding to peer critiques. “While being critiqued,” she advises, “make notes of what people say about your story, even if the comments seem stupid. They may make sense later.” The book’s title emphasizes the author’s belief that writing is essentially a craft that can be learned, practiced, and improved through attention and self-discipline. “Forced to weigh your words,” she writes, “you find out which are the Styrofoam and which are the heavy gold.”

A succinct, clear, and encouraging companion for aspiring writers.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-61161-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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