Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True

Overview

Elizabeth Berg touches women's lives with heartbreakingly funny and true novels — including the New York Times bestseller Talk Before Sleep — that distinctly capture the essence of their lives. Now this critically acclaimed author and writing instructor offers an inspiring, practical handbook on the joys, challenges, and creative possibilities inherent in the writing life.

Both autobiography and primer, Escaping into the Open interweaves Elizabeth Berg's story of her own journey...

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Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True

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Overview

Elizabeth Berg touches women's lives with heartbreakingly funny and true novels — including the New York Times bestseller Talk Before Sleep — that distinctly capture the essence of their lives. Now this critically acclaimed author and writing instructor offers an inspiring, practical handbook on the joys, challenges, and creative possibilities inherent in the writing life.

Both autobiography and primer, Escaping into the Open interweaves Elizabeth Berg's story of her own journey from working mother to published novelist with encouraging advice on how to create stories that spring from deep within the heart.

With wit and honesty, Elizabeth Berg provides numerous exercises that will unleash individual creativity and access and utilize all of the senses. Most important, she tells how to fire passion — emotion — into writing itself; to break through personal barriers and reach one's own outer limits and beyond.

Author Biography: Elizabeth Berg won the NEBA Award for fiction for her body of work, and was a finalist for the ABBY for Talk Before Steep. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Ladies' Home Journal, Redbook, and the New York Times Magazine. She has also taught a writing workshop at Radcliffe College. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

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Editorial Reviews

Nan Goldberg
Berg's publishing career began in her mid-thirties when she won first prize in an essay contest sponsored by Parents magazine. That auspicious beginning led to hundreds of feature stories, essays, interviews and humor pieces-and the desire to write a novel.

Now, fifteen years later, she's written seven wonderful novels. And that is more than enough reason to listen carefully to the advice she offers for writers in Escaping Into the Open. Berg's principles are simple: "Find your own voice and believe in it"; "Relax"; "If you want to ride, stay on the horse." There is some information here that can be found elsewhere; then again, she includes recipes ("Food for Creative Thought") that you're unlikely to find in any other writing guide. In all, it's a practical, warm and encouraging invitation to the writing life.

Meanwhile, Berg's latest novel, Until The Real Thing Comes Along, concerns Patty Ann Murphy, a woman who makes her emotional commitments quickly and irrevocably-whether she's choosing houses, best friends or men. She's funny, charming, a little insecure and totally loyal. Patty's in her mid-thirties as this novel begins and afraid her biological clock is starting to wind down. The problem is she's still single and there's no solution in sight because Ethan, the man she has always loved, is gay.

Berg's best strength, of an endless array, is her seemingly effortless movement from one character's perspective to another. Whether it's a gay man fleeing the relentless AIDS deaths of friends by trying to will himself straight or the loving husband who tries to maintain a cheerful front while caring for his Alzheimer's-stricken wife, Berg presents authentic people with an ease and honesty that is breathtaking.

Rita Mae Brown
Crystal clear, bracing as icewater, Escaping into the Open should be read by all scribblers regardless of material success.
C. Michael Curtis
As a writer Elizabeth Berg hit the ground running. Her very helpful advice to would-be authors is the equivalent of a good pair of track shoes. She knows how the publishing industry works, how sentences work, and why writers need to answer only to themselves. —Atlantic Monthly
Ronna Wineberg Blaser
Elizabeth Berg's writing exercises are wonderfully inventive. They capture the play and pleasures of writing. Her book is an insightful guide.
Mary Mitchell
Elizabeth Berg has shown herself to be an author of astonishing talent. What is even more astonishing is the generosity with which she now shares her insights and wisdom on the process of writing.
Eileen Herbert Jordan
I'm grateful as can be for having Escaping into the Open. It's part of my library now, and I'm recommending it to anyone with the slightest urge to write—it tells it as it is.
Alexandra Johnson
While this book will make its way into classrooms across the country, its biggest classroom is the invisible one: someone sitting at a desk or a kitchen table trying to write but not knowing how. Elizabeth Berg's book is as close as you can get to having someone sitting right there with you, giving you quietly wonderful tips.
Stephanie von Hirschberg
All the qualities that I have loved in [Elizabeth Berg's] fiction are here in great, generous dollops: intimacy, honesty and humor, and that feeling that you are hanging out with your best friend who is confiding amazing stories to you. I would recommend this book to anyone in the grip of the writing muse.
Reader's Edge
If your dream is to be a "Writer" with a capital "W," we're pleased to recommend Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True, a wonderful new guide by gifted novelist Elizabeth Berg (Talk Before Sleep, Joy School.Imagine that a bestselling author was available to give you encouragement and practical advice—that's exactly what you'll find here. The key to writing that works, according to Berg, is finding your authentic voice so that you can write from the heart. You'll be inspired by her own story as well as the creative exercises she provides.If you've always wanted to write, but were afraid to get started, Berg will have you at your desk, pen in hand, soon after you finish her first chapter.
Library Journal
July is a busy month for Berg. She's publishing a new novel with Random called Until the Real Thing Comes Along (see Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/99) and also this writer's guide, which explains how she got from working mother to best-selling novelist.
Booklist
“This is a really good book . . . anyone who ever needs to write anything will find bright shards of useful stuff here.”
C. Michael Curtis
“As a writer Elizabeth Berg hit the ground running. Her very helpful advice to would-be authors is the equivalent of a good pair of track shoes. She knows how the publishing industry works, how sentences work, and why writers need to answer only to themselves.”
Rita Mae Brown
“Crystal clear, bracing as icewater, Escaping into the Open should be read by all scribblers regardless of material success.”
Mary Mitchell
“Elizabeth Berg has shown herself to be an author of astonishing talent. What is even more astonishing is the generosity with which she now shares her insights and wisdom on the process of writing.”
Ronna Wineberg Blaser
“Elizabeth Berg’s writing exercises are wonderfully inventive. They capture the play and pleasures of writing. Her book is an insightful guide.”
Eileen Herbert Jordan
“I’m grateful as can be for having Escaping into the Open. It’s part of my library now, and I’m recommending it to anyone with the slightest urge to write—it tells it as it is.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060191795
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/7/1999
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.75 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg's work has won the NEBA Award for fiction and has been included twice on the ALA Best Books of the Year list. Her novel Open House was an Oprah's Book Club pick, and her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Ladies' Home Journal, Redbook, and the New York Times Magazine. She lives outside Chicago, Illinois.

Biography

Elizabeth Berg made her mark as a promising writer with the publication of her first novel, Durable Goods (1993), the story of Katie, a 12-year-old girl reeling from her mother's death while her abusive father drags her from town to town. The book, like Katie, was tough but tender, and the American Library Association named it a Best Book of the Year.

Since then, Berg has written subsequent novels, most of them, like Durable Goods, sincere, unpretentious, somewhat sentimental, and focused on an event that changes a woman's life. In Joy School (1997), a continuation of Katie's story, the crucible is her first taste of romance; in What We Keep (1998), it's a girl's abandonment by her mother; in Until the Real Thing Comes Along (1999), it's a woman's love for a gay man. All are grounded in the realistic minutiae of family life: irksome marriages, tempestuous parent-child relationships, love, betrayal, and resolution.

Although her books have received mixed reviews from critics, Berg remains immensely popular with readers who appreciate her fine powers of observation and honest descriptions. Her command of authentic details is on best display in her medically-themed titles. Before she became a full-time writer, Berg was a registered nurse, where she accumulated an endless store of observations related to sickness, healing, and the emotional toll that health crises take on people. In Range of Motion, Berg wrote about the experience of a comatose man; in Talk Before Sleep, about a nurse caring for a good friend who is succumbing to cancer; in Never Change, about a nurse treating an incurably ill man who also happens to have been a childhood acquaintance.

Although Berg's plots can occasionally be predictable, equally predictable is her taut, intelligent foray into the forces that shape ordinary people's lives -- especially women's lives -- and her exploration of the infinite resilience of the human spirit.

Good To Know

Berg had an experience she used for the straight-gay relationship in Until the Real Thing Comes Along: Her college love later came out to her after the two had broken up. The character of Ethan is modeled on that college boyfriend.

Berg hasn't managed to get her way when it comes to titling her books, usually getting overruled by her agent and editor. She wanted to call Durable Goods The King of Wands, after a tarot card; Range of Motion would have been Telling Songs; and Open House would have been The Hotel Meatloaf. Perhaps Berg should be thankful for her handlers?

Durable Goods was never meant to have a sequel, Berg says in a publisher's interview, but she ended up writing Joy School (and later True to Form) because she missed the original characters. Berg explains: "There was just a time when I was lying in the bathtub, and I thought about Katie, and I got out of the bathtub and started writing about her to see what she was up to."

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    1. Hometown:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 2, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      St. Paul, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      Attended the University of Minnesota; St. Mary’s College, A.A.S.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation - it is the Self escaping into the open.
-- E. B. WHITE

11 am sitting in a coffeehouse, listening to the big band music they play here, to the explosive sounds of the espresso machines, to the subtler noise of cash registers and conversation. Across from me, a man of about sixty takes the hand of a woman about thirty and looks at her, sighing. Then he starts speaking in a low and urgent tone, in a language I can't understand. Two tables away from me, there is a serious-looking young man with a notebook before him, writing. He was here yesterday, too, doing the same thing. His handwriting is small and cramped, and he keeps one hand over what he's just put down. I'm dying to read it. I want to go up to him and say, "Can I see?" But I won't. Obviously, he's not ready to share. I watch him sipping his coffee, bending over the page to write a few lines, then staring into space, thinking.

It could be that the man is writing a term paper. Or a letter to his father, or to his girlfriend. But I don't think so. There is something about his face, about his manner. I think he's writing something more creative than that, answering an insistent call to transfer what's in him, out.

Last night, as we ate dinner, I told my partner about what I'd done that day. I said I had been to the pet store, where I watched the owner kiss a gray parrot that kissed him right back. I told him about the ragged V shape of the Canadian geese I saw fly across the sky, about the one goose in the rear that honked and honked,complaining about his seat assignment, no doubt. I described the waitress in the restaurant where I ate lunch, a stringy-haired blonde with cigarette breath who talked tough to all her customers, but who made one man finish his orange juice, because he had a cold. And then I told about a taxi driver I'd seen, a man who stood patiently waiting at the cab's open door while his fare walked toward it. She was an old woman, using a walker, and her progress was remarkably slow. But the cab driver did not look at his watch and curse his fate at having a customer who required so much extra care. Instead, he stood smiling, nodding, telling her to take her time, that she was doing just fine. It was a wonderful example of common kindness, the kind of thing that makes you think people are a pretty swell specie's after all. Everyone who saw that cab driver helping the old woman seemed to experience a certain elevation of spirit, as I did.

My partner listened quietly, as he always does when I tell him all the details of the things I've seen. He knows I have a need to tell stories. But whenever I say them out loud, there is something missing for me. To really tell a story, I need to write it. It's then that I understand what it is that I'm really trying to say. I find the deeper meaning -- and the deeper satisfaction.

The same is true of many others. So many people have things they want to say on paper. Some of these people write freely, and share what they write, even publish what they write. Others, who have wonderful stories inside them, don't tell them. Or if they tell them, they don't share them. If they don't want to share that's fine. But I believe many people do want to share, do want to write, and are afraid to try. They need a gentle nudge to get going. It is my mission and my high privilege to try to make this book that nudge.

There are people who have never studied writing who are fully capable of being writers. I know this because I am an example. I was a part-time registered nurse, a wife, and a mother when I began publishing. I'd taken no classes, had no experience, no knowledge of the publishing world, no agent, no contacts. What I did have is the same kind of passion I see now in that young man sitting two tables from me. And what I want to say to that young man is what I want to say to anyone who wants to write: You feel the call. That's the most important thing. Now answer it as fully as you can. Take the risk to let all that is in you, out. Escape into the open.

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    Excellent!

    This is an excellent book for any aspiring writer! Berg's writing is thoughtful, informative, and inspiring. The writing exercises are helpful and thought provoking. Her personal account of her journey as an author gives struggling writers hope for a successful future in the publishing industry.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Perfect

    A great read for any aspiring writer. Very little B.S. Better than Stephen King's On Writing. Unlike King, she doesn't come accrossed as thinking she knows everything...she's actually humble and gives you very useful tips on the writing business, along with a bunch of cool exercises.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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