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Book Reviews
Book Reviews - June
By Anthonly Ackerley
June, 2007, 08:59

Tune into IN reviews for the best of books about writing all genres from high adventure to haiku, from fact to fiction, cookbooks to commentary, and much, much more. Always check IN to see what's in. We only publish the best and our rating scale below is based upon the values of the three Es: Easy To Read, Educational, and Entertaining. If you have a how-to-write book that you would like us to read and possibly write a review about (we only publish reviews of books that we deem are best of the best) please send it to us. Our snail mail address can be found at Contacting IN.

Title: Finding Your Voice: How To Put Personality In Your Writing
Author: Les Edgerton
Publisher: Writer's Digest Books
ISBN 10: 1582971730
IN Rating:

Review: Amidst all the elements of style, grammar, ideas, and outlines, it is easy for a writer to forget one of the most fundamental rules of any well-written piece of work: Make your voice your own. It is Les Edgerton's goal to teach us how to find our own voice, and ensure we use it. And he does so in a voice that is clearly his own.

In a book with subject material such as this, it is important for the author to come across in a unique and memorable way. It shows the reader that the author is making an effort to practice what is preached. From the very beginning, Mr. Edgerton makes use of it in his own writing. Edgerton presents his advice in an up-tempo, off-beat, humorous way that is easy to relate to and understand, and keeps you turning pages. Even the table of contents could not escape his voice, as he briefly explains what information will be contained in each chapter. The result is by the time you finish this book, you have not only received a vast array of writing advice, but you also have a better idea of who Les Edgerton is as a person.
 
Finding Your Voice is very well organized, in a building-block type of way. The reader is never given new information without the foundation for it having been laid out prior to receiving it. Edgerton first defines why it is important to write in our own voice and how it helps us. He then identifies several road blocks ("da rules"), which keep us from using our own voice or even developing one in the first place. He builds continuously from there, moving back and forth between the technical (tone, vocabulary, imagery, etc.) and the psychological ("The importance of molten, fiery, hot passion . . .") using the same friendly tone throughout every page. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his thoughts or methods, Mr. Edgerton's voice has a way of making you listen and consider.

Chapter Four, It's Okay to be Yourself, is a real gem. With so many rules to keep track of in their daily routines, writers may forget that no one achieves perfection right out of the gate. We're confronted with literary giants such as Shakespeare, Steinbeck, and Hemmingway, and we automatically want to achieve the same level of. Logically (or so it seems) the quickest way to do that is to copy their style as closely as possible. Edgerton reminds us that it's all right to have a voice that doesn't sound like someone else. In fact, it's preferable. Reminding us of that while we're reading and before we sit down to write is a way for Edgerton to effectively reinforce his lessons.

You'll be able to take away quite a bit of useful information from this book and apply it immediately to your own work. Listening to Les Edgerton's voice will inspire you to find and use your own.

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Title: How To Write And Publish A Classic Cookbook
Author: Hays, Rolfes, & Associates
Publisher: New American Library
ISBN 10: 0452257328
IN Rating:

Review: The number of plans or designs that promise quick money, immediate success, and fast notoriety far out weigh the number of those designs that actually deliver what they promise. It is nothing more than a marketing ploy designed to put money in the creator's pocket first. It was this idea that caused me to approach How To Write And Publish A Classic Cookbook with a healthy dose of scepticism. However, I walked away with a much different attitude.

To be honest, it was the word "classic" that was the cause of my misgivings. A "classic cookbook" is something quite different from an ordinary run of the mill cookbook a notion the authors made quite clear from the beginning. I could find no fault with the way they defined a classic cookbook. But could they really help their readers achieve such results? Maybe, maybe not. Each person who comes across this information will interpret and use it differently; some will succeed in their journey, some will fail. I believe that if you're looking to write a cookbook that sells well and endures the test of time, your odds of achieving success are far greater having read this book than if you pass it by.

I was quite impressed with the comprehensive nature of this book. It seemingly covered every topic in the process from the conception of the book (why write a cookbook?) to editing recipes, finding a publisher, and even marketing the book once it has been published. Step by step this book walks through the process, giving helpful advice and insightful tips, all in a text that is easy to understand and follow.

The book is set up to give nearly equal space to each topic within, giving the reader a broad scope of general knowledge. For example, editing and crafting recipes. This will provide a good overview. If you're looking for more detail on this area, the appendix in the back of the book is a good place to start. This appendix also provides lists of publishers and editors, complete with names and addresses, which I found to be quite useful. However, names and places change over time, and you may find the contact information is stale. But, overlooking that aspect, the reference material is nearly as indispensable as the book itself.

For one who enjoys both writing and cooking, this book covers a topic that is near and dear. If writing a cookbook is something you have considered doing, give this book a chance. It should prove a valuable reference tool in any area of the writing process, including one of inspiration. Take this book off the shelf, flip through and maybe turn your mind in a different direction to start envisioning your marketing strategy when the project is complete. You can relax and get a fresh perspective when returning to the recipes. Writing a classic cookbook does hinge on more than just reading this book. But it most certainly won't hurt.

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Title: Take Joy: A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft
Author: Jane Yolen
Publisher: Writer's Digest Books
ISBN 13: 9781582973852
IN Rating:

Review: In her own unique voice, Jane Yolen gives us permission to take joy in the writing process, which many authors have called "agonizing" and "painful." She shows us that it's not necessary to bleed through our pens in order to write well, and that it's all right to have {gasp} dare I say it? Fun.

Take Joy is a take it or leave it kind of book. By that, I mean Yolen offers her opinion while acknowledging that her way may not work for everyone. She doesn't want to change the reader's way of thinking, she simply offers another option possibly previously unexplored. Reading this book was like getting advice from a trusted friend who never judges, only supports.

One of this book's strengths is how it's arranged. The chapters are brief and easy to digest. The language is simple, without sounding condescending or clinical. Smart enough for the seasoned professional, patient enough for the uncertain beginner everyone should be able to learn and apply the information and techniques to their own writing system. With uplifting and thought provoking quotes at the beginning of each chapter, and condensed anecdotal advice at the end, this is a book the reader will want to come back to repeatedly for inspiration and advice.

I would classify Take Joy as a page turner, though it's more of a leisurely stroll through the forest on a warm summer's day. It's your journey, so you may move as quickly or as slowly as you'd like. I did feel the pace stumbled in a couple of spots, however. In chapters eight and nine, for example, discussing the definition of a poem and voices in your writing respectively, there was too much explanation, which slowed things down too much. Having said that, Yolen does a wonderful job at breaking things down to their most fundamental level in these chapters, and, overall, these rough spots were most certainly exceptions to the norm.

My favourite part of the book was Chapter 5, The Alphabetics Of Story. In a nod to our  preschool days where everything was new and fascinating (and fun!), Yolen provides 26 building  blocks for the art of building a story using each letter of the alphabet (A is for Architecture, B is for Belief, etc.). These lessons are invaluable to any writer and should be kept nearby for easy reference. Sometimes a letter has several pages devoted to it, sometimes just a few lines, but each one is clearly and expertly explained to ensure the reader gets the most out of it.

Jane Yolen wishes to dispel the notion of the angst-ridden writer who must live a life of despair to be able to write well as the only way to do things. Take Joy is an informative and entertaining read that will leave you with the sense of joy that Yolen touts so highly within its pages.

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If you like this review, take a look at Our Members Library Of Recommended Reading for books that have made a significant difference in our members' writing careers.

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Anthony Ackerley is a professional writer who lives in south west Ohio. He has worked writing for a newspaper, been published in an online children's magazine, and currently has an adult romantica novel out. He enjoys sports, cooking, and playing games. See his novel at Lulu.com


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