Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True

Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True

by Elizabeth Berg


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062200440
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/21/2012
Series: P.S. Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 821,684
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.62(d)

About the Author

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.


Chicago, Illinois

Date of Birth:

December 2, 1948

Place of Birth:

St. Paul, Minnesota


Attended the University of Minnesota; St. Mary¿s College, A.A.S.

Read an Excerpt


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.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction xiii
My Story
Getting Started
In Your Own Words
If You're a Man, Be a Woman: Exercises to Unleash Your Creativity
The Passionate Writer
The Good Liar: Making the Move from Nonfiction to Fiction
Make the Ocean Your Desk: Techniques for Getting Unstuck
Writing Classes: Take Them or Leave Them
Myths to Ignore
Writing Groups
The Business of Writing
Food for (Creative) Thought
Last Lines

What People are Saying About This

Eileen Herbert Jordan

The first time I read a page of prose by Elizabeth Berg I was a working editor and thereafter I quit for the day-it couldn't get better than this! I thought then that someone ought to bottle her; while I have the lingering suspicion that there is a secret ingredient that is forever hers (like the magic in the Coca-Cola recipe), still 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. -- (Eileen Herbert Jordan, freelance writer)

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 in Escaping Into the Open. -- (Mary Mitchell, Writing Instructor at the Adult Learning Center in Framingham, Massachusetts)

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. -- (C. Michael Curtis, Senior Editor, Atlantic Monthly)

Rita Mae Brown

Crystal clear, bracing as ice water, Escaping Into the Open should be read by all scribblers regardless of material success.

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. -- (Alexandra Johnson, author of The Hidden Writer: Diaries and the Creative Life)

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 that will help both beginning and experienced writers tap into the world of the heart and imagination-places where all stories are born. -- (Ronna Wineberg Blaser, President of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Writers Alliance)

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Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Valtrajay More than 1 year ago
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.
jilleey on LibraryThing 6 months ago
So many creative writing exercises you won't know where to begin or end. An honest account of Berg's own writing techniques and how to adapt your skills. Fun, easy to follow. A great tool for those who want to write.
truesally on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I love Elizabeth Berg's stories, so naturally I enjoy reading about her techniques for getting at the best writing within herself. She includes many fun & effective exercises for becoming better, more perceptive writers.
ChuckB on LibraryThing 8 months ago
How would you like a ZILLION (roughly) creative writing exercises? This is a fun book. Gotta go--I have to write a sexy scene that takes place in a laundry room and then name three things an ear looks like...
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago