This guide to literary success is wonderfully original and smart and funny and down-to-earth—just what desperate beginning writers desperately need.”
“This is a terrific and extremely useful book for anyone who wants to write. Carolyn See is brilliant and funny, crabby and tender and wise.”
“Wise, witty, practical, mordant, funny, this is the only guide to becoming a writer that may actually work. It’s a primer on Carolyn See: great artist, large soul.”
“Carolyn See doesn’t just tell you to sharpen your pencils, she shows you how to sharpen your wits.”
—Rita Mae Brown
“After reading Making a Literary Life, I have decided to abandon my present career and become an aspirant writer, this time guided by Carolyn See’s wonderfully instructive (and readable) book.”
—William F. Buckley, Jr.
“Carolyn See has been giving me lessons on writing and living since my first book came out, and when Carolyn See talks, I obey. I bow down in gratitude. We should rejoice at this serious, joyful, irreverent, and very practical book.”
“If everyone who wants to be a writer would read this book there would be many more good writers, many more happy writers, and editors would be so overwhelmed by sweetness they would accept many more good books. So what are you waiting for? Read it!”
—Ursula K. Le Guin
Novelist and memoirist See (The Handyman; Dreaming: Hard Luck and Good Times in America) offers a how-to guide for the wannabe writer who can take the time to "write 1,000 words" per day. Viewing writing as a lifestyle as well as a vocation plays to See's strengths as a storyteller: her advice is salted with anecdotes she's picked up in years as the head of a literary household (her daughters are also writers) and as a teacher of university creative-writing classes. Starting at the beginning, she advises neophytes not to tell anyone about their aspirations, as "that bores people to death." Later she suggests sending a handwritten note of praise ("charming notes," she calls them) to someone admired in the literary world each day, five days a week for the rest of your life. Her advice is practical and folksy, and much of it wouldn't be out of place in an upscale women's magazine. The approach is comprehensive: aspirants are encouraged to "pretend" to be a writer, "make rejection a process," set up a travel account for that first trip to New York and deduct part of the cost of their clothing from their taxes as a "costume" expense. Practical chapters on "Character," "Plot," "Geography, Time, and Space" and "Building a Scene" are a little thin, but generally sound. Though not for the experienced writer, this is an easy-to-read beginner's guide, long on chat but somewhat short on technique. Agent, Anne Sibbald. (On sale Aug. 13) FYI: See makes much of the importance of Publishers Weekly, which we appreciate, but we don't endorse her suggestion to fabricate a publicist to get our attention. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
This wonderful book manages to integrate perfectly advice to writers and would-be writers with delightful snippets from See's literary and teaching career she has authored nine books, teaches English at UCLA, and reviews regularly for the Washington Post. Mostly, this is a collection of anecdotes and name dropping (from her family and inner circle to well-known authors), and at times you'll feel as if you were listening in on one of her classes. See offers advice on how to write those "thousand words a day," behave like a writer, and get published after dealing first with myriad rejection letters. There are also sections on character, plot, and point of view, but don't think See approaches any of these topics in a formulaic way. She uses her wealth of experience to offer valuable, and sometimes hilarious insights into the writing process and the importance of revision. Whether you're a writer, a would-be writer, or just a reader who enjoys good writing, this book is a pleasure to read. Highly recommended. Herbert E. Shapiro, Empire State Coll., Rochester, NY
A beginner's guide to the craft of writing and the business of publishing, from veteran novelist See (The Handyman, 1999, etc.). "This book is for the timid, forlorn, and clueless," declares the author, who is none of the above. Her chatty, breezy text aims to build the confidence and coping skills of people who, like the 32-year-old Californian divorced mother of two See once was, dream of making a career as a writer but don't know how to go about it. Part One, "Before," offers a framework for getting down to work. The fundamentals? "A thousand words a day, five days a week, and one charming note written to someone in the literary world who makes your hands sweat-five days a week, for the rest of your life." The charming note, along with the cheerful replies to rejection letters that See also mandates, make aspiring writers human to the jaded New York insiders who determine their literary fate: "like everyone else in the world, [publishing professionals] like to hang out with their friends instead of strangers." Sound but unsurprising advice on identifying your material, startling but not entirely flaky suggestions about using affirmations ("I'm powerful, loving, and creative") to bolster your courage, and straightforward guidance on how to send out a manuscript round out this section. Part Two, "The Writing," covers character, plot, point of view, scene setting and construction, and revisions-it's helpful if not innovative material presented with the sharp humor and judicious use of personal anecdotes that enliven the whole. Part Three, "During and After," is a must for first-time authors who don't realize how much their successful publication depends on their efforts, from throwingtheir own parties to arranging local bookstore signings, and how short the time frame is. ("Four months after your book is published, it's dead.") See's comments on magazine writing-forget query letters; send notes describing the piece, then send the piece-are equally shrewd. "Living a literary life is a marriage," she writes: romance is part of it, but so is hard work. Smart, savvy, and sensible.