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Book Reviews
Book Reviews - July
By Anthony Ackerley
July, 2007, 08:50

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: Will Write For Shoes: How To Write A Chick Lit Novel
Author: Cathy Yardley
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN 10: 0-312-35899-7
IN Rating:

Review: Cathy Yardley's Will Write For Shoes may be the first (and only) how-to book you'll want to read by candlelight while taking a bubble bath. An invaluable source for all things chick lit, this book will have its readers laughing, thinking, and getting excited about their plans for the future.
Whether you believe it's a fad or here to stay, chick lit has an ever-growing fan base of readers who absolutely love the genre. As a relatively new genre though, would-be chick lit authors may not have a clue as to where to begin. That's where this book comes into play.
Readers will immediately be struck by the conversational tone of the writing. Unlike some instruction/advice guides, you never get that classroom feel while you're absorbing the information. You won't be running for the dictionary or struggling to keep your eyes open through endless technical instruction. Instead you'll be pleased by the author's candour, amused by her anecdotes, and touched by her insights.

One of my favourite chapters is entitled You've Got a Voice, Use It! because it clearly demonstrates that Yardley is someone who practices what she preaches. The voice that made her a best-selling author and one of the most well-known writers in the genre is in full effect throughout this book, giving it an entertaining, contemporary feel despite it being nonfiction.
If helping the reader write a chick lit novel wasn't enough, Yardley takes you through the next steps of the process, giving advice on how to find an agent/editor/publisher, telling you what to do and what not to do, which can be just as important, if not more so. There are several appendices that cover both the technical aspects of the writing process and what to do with your completed manuscript. These resources are reason enough to keep this book on your shelf. Though the lists are by no means all-inclusive, they are a wonderful jumping-off point for any writer.

It has been a long while since I have read a how-to book that fits its material so perfectly. Cathy Yardley not only gives her readers the tools to write in the chick lit genre, she gives them the excitement to go along with it. The only reason you'll want to put this book down is to get started on your own work.

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Title: Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course
Author: Jerry Cleaver
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN 10: 0-312-28716-X
IN Rating:

Review: The subtitle of this book could not be more accurate. That is exactly what you get when you read Immediate Fiction a course's worth of information in 271 pages, and you don't even have to qualify for financial aid.

Heed this warning: Do the exercises in the book as they come up. (Cleaver makes the same recommendation.) Although it is possible to read straight through and skip over the writing lessons while still enjoying this book, actually doing the work as you read enhances your experience and will give you the feel of being under a mentor's guidance. Those who find it difficult to get started writing or maintain a steady output will have no problem whatsoever if they follow along, because starting with chapter two, and in every subsequent chapter, there are several exercises presented in a wide variety of ways, designed to keep the writer busy and productive.
Overall, Cleaver gives the reader confidence to set goals and the necessary knowledge to achieve those goals. The book is dedicated to helping people write now. Cleaver uses a simple, no frills approach that will work for everyone. One of the things I enjoyed most about his technique was his tendency to break things down into math equations ( i.e.: Conflict + Action + Resolution = Story; Want + Obstacle = Conflict). In using this method, Cleaver takes the process to its most fundamental level, allowing his readers to see, understand, and most of all, remember the things that will be the foundation for anything they write in the future.
The language is simple and the tone personable, making for an easy read. Although his repetition was a bit distracting, it was excusable because most often he repeated key elements that deserved to be emphasized. Perhaps if he had changed the phrasing but kept the intent the same, it would have been less noticeable. While I think the repetition was somewhat excessive, I don't think it hurt anything in the end. It slowed the book down in spots, but Cleaver more than makes up for it with his wealth of information.

Cleaver mentions his own mentor several times, and that's the kind of vibe the whole book has: that of a mentor-student relationship. Immediate Fiction will serve as a jump-start to a writer's work and then remain a guide throughout a writing career. This book deserves a permanent place on your shelf.

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Title: The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice For Beginning Poets
Author: Ted Kooser
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press * Lincoln & London
ISBN 13: 978-0-8032-2769-8
IN Rating:  

Review: Ted Kooser, Former Poet Laureate of the U.S., brings his unique knowledge and experience to the table in an effort to teach and guide a new generation of poets. One only has to listen to his voice and read his work to see the truth in what he says.
Anyone looking for a poetry book that teaches form should look elsewhere. That is not what The Poetry Home Repair Manual is about. Kooser does touch on specific forms briefly, but he takes an artistic approach to the process, believing that form does not dictate the poem, the poem dictates the form. Kooser teaches how to take an idea, a random collection of thoughts, and piece them together into a poem that others will want to read. He provides guidance against common mistakes and advises on reaching a broader audience.

The reader doesn't get bogged down in technical jargon and complex guidelines, which is quite easy to do when working with poetry. For those who might like to dabble in the various forms, Kooser does reference several other books for a more in-depth lesson, which I found to be quite helpful.
This book is linear in that it takes you from the first steps of creation to the last steps of publication in order, but it is presented in a way that will allow readers to return at another time, open up to any section, and start reading. So if you need a refresher course on rhyming, just flip through, find the chapter you need, and settle in. The information contained in the pages of this book is well worth a second (and third, and fourth, and...) read. 
Overall, Ted Kooser speaks to all poets, beginners and veterans alike, in an intelligent, enlightening, and above all, encouraging voice. His talent and experience allows him to explain things from a perspective few can ever hope to achieve and gives his readers the desire to achieve great things with their own work. This is one of the best books on creating poetry you will ever read.

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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

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