Monday, June 2, 2014

A MUST Book for Every Writer's Bookshelf!


I’ve been chomping at the bit while I awaited my scheduled posting time, that’s how eager I am to share Dani Shapiro’s STILL WRITING: THE PERILS AND PLEASURES OF A CREATIVE LIFE (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013) with our TeachingAuthors readers.

How did I ever miss this book when it released last November!
It’s a MUST book for every writer’s bookshelf that beautifully delivers the front flap copy’s promise: “Shapiro offers a gift to writers everywhere: an elegant guide of hard-won wisdom and encouragement for staying the course.”

Part personal memoir, part meditation on the artistic process and part advice on craft gleaned from a twenty-year writing and teaching career, STILL WRITING inspires, encourages, informs and delights, and much like a children’s book, leaves the writer with hope.

When it comes to writing, Dani Shapiro bares both the good and the not-so-good.  As a result, I closed the book and was once again reminded that – at least when it comes to my writing, I am normal.

I’m NOT alone. I’m not the odd-woman out.  I’m not the only one struggling here.

Much like Anne LaMott did in her BIRD BY BIRD instructions on writing and on life, Dani Shaprio gave me permission to do what I cannot not do, i.e. write.

I like how Shapiro divided the book and the creative process into Beginnings, Middles and Ends. Her insightful and instructive bon mots within each section never fail to speak the truth whether addressing topics such as Riding the Wave, our Inner Censor, a Corner (start small) or Building the Boat, Courage, Rhythm and Distance or Exposure, Risk, Tribe and Envy.

My three favorite quotes from STILL WRITING?

“The only reason to be a writer is because you have to.”

My words are my pickax, and with them I chip away at the rough surface of whatever it is I still need to know.”

And, finally, these words Shapiro shared about approaching her Writing Workshops, which had the writing teacher inside of me weeping:

“We – this ragtag group of ten or twelve – are going to become a single organism. A collective unconscious.  We are going to set aside our petty concerns and focus, instead, on the sentences in front of us.  We will train our best selves – our empathic understanding, our optimism, our critical eye – to understand what each of us is trying to do.  We are going to laugh, possibly cry, argue, roll our eyes.  But we’re going to do it with respect, and even with love.”

I can’t wait to begin each of my Summer Newberry Library Workshop sessions with relevant readings from this life-affirming/writer-affirming book. 

As an aside, I openly confess: I have a writer’s crush on Dani Shapiro.

I’m taken with her smarts, her raw courage, her honesty, her talent, and most of all, her generosity in sharing all she’s come to live and know first-hand, as a writer, as a teacher, as a daughter, as a wife, as a mother, as a friend, all in the service of keeping writers keeping on.

I’ve now read her poignant, beautifully-written memoir SLOW MOTION: A Memoir of a Life Rescued by Tragedy.                                                                                                                         
Her memoir DEVOTION: A Memoir and the novel FAMILY HISTORY top my book pile.

I’ve also sent on links to Dani Shapiro’s blog to several of my students and writers.

"There is only this moment,” Shapiro writes, “when we put pen to page.”
STILL WRITING will help you do just that.

Enjoy! And do share your thoughts once you lose yourself as I did in Shapiro’s book and writing.
Esther Hershenhorn


11 comments:

Carmela Martino said...

Hi Esther, I'm SO looking forward to reading Shapiro's book! I requested my library purchase a copy and mine is the first of what are now SIX holds as the book is being processed.

Dawn Malone said...

Thanks for the heads-up about her book! I'm always on the lookout for new writing-related books to add to my shelf.

Mrs. Pilkington said...

Just finishing this now -- it's fabulous!

jan godown annino said...

And how did I not know Dani Shapiro?
Will ask our library to order it as others have, here.

Your elegant post feels like it matches the elegant but accessible Dani & her new book will lean snug with a shelf of writing workshop/crit group
book catalysts such as the one you mentioned BIRD by BIRD & also -

This post's head's up makes me fell that Dani's book has the joy, honesty & feeling of TOUCH MAGIC (Yolen) (CLIMB INTO THE BELL TOWER (Livingston) POEMCRAZY (Wooldridge) & TELLING TIME (Willard) among other guides I turn lean on especially in the doubtful hairpull times.
Eager to add a new one to the closeknit bookbuddy pack.
more thanks...

Rosi said...

I hadn't heard of this. Thanks for telling me about this.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

I'm so glad readers are embracing my shout-out for Dani Shapiro's STILL WRITING!
And, thanks for adding YOUR writing book recommendations, Jan.
I need to check out TELLING TIME.

Anne Bromley said...

Thank you, Esther, for recommending this book. I'm in line for a HOLD at my library, but I may not wait that long. We "band of brothers (and sisters)" need this kind of cheering on when the going gets tough. I'd also recommend THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield. It's another classic that is ever new.

Susan J. Berger said...

Thank you, This sounds great. I will definitely check it out.

Pen N. InkBlog said...

My favorite is writing down the Bones and Writing on the right Side of the Brain. Glad to check out a new one.

LInda Baie said...

This sounds wonderful. Thanks for telling about it. I don't know this author! Many to search for here!

Jill said...

You've convinced me, Esther! :)