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This thorough primer on the craft of creative writing is evidence of LaPlante's valuable classroom expertise (she teaches creative writing at both San Francisco State and Stanford universities). The organization is familiar: the text begins with definitions of fiction and creative nonfiction and then moves through a discussion of the writer's impetus for putting words to paper. It continues with chapters that discuss the short story, description, narration, point of view, dialog, plot, character, and revision. Each chapter (except the last) has the same three-segment structure. In Part 1, LaPlante explains and illustrates a topic; in Part 2, she gives the reader corresponding exercises; and in Part 3, she offers short stories and essays for further illustration. LaPlante is especially helpful when she addresses clichéd writing axioms, acknowledging the foundational premises of catch phrases such as "show, don't tell" while warning against their tendency to limit truly creative writing. Because she emphasizes the importance of reading good writing as a means of self-improvement, her guide, though presented in textbook format, recalls Francine Prose's recent best seller, Reading Like a Writer. Suitable primarily for academic libraries.
—Stacey Rae Brownlie