If you’re a writer, you know the truth: writing is hard work. Too many hours are spent staring at a blank page, willing a story to write itself. While this feeling is tough to work through, just know you are not alone. Writer’s block plagues even the greatest of authors. With that in mind, when I’m feeling stuck I often turn to the advice of some of my favorite word-wielders. Here are eight enlightening and inspiring memoirs, written by writers for writers.
Writers on Writing: 8 Author Memoirs and Nonfiction Essentials
Anthony Doerr’s commitment to the craft of writing is unmatched. The awards he has won speak for themselves. After Doerr won the Rome Prize, one of the most prestigious awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which included a stipend and a writing studio in Rome for a year, he wrote FOUR SEASONS IN ROME. This memoir describes his various adventures around the inspiring city, backed by fascinating notes on his own writing craft. Fans of Anthony Doerr’s award-winning novels will be completely enchanted by this intimate and celebratory story.
Exquisitely observed, in this book Doerr describes his varied adventures in one of the most enchanting cities in the world. He reads Pliny, Dante, and Keats and visits the piazzas, temples, and ancient cisterns they describe. He attends the vigil of a dying Pope John Paul II and takes his twins to the Pantheon in December to wait for snow to fall through the oculus. He and his family are embraced by the butchers, grocers, and bakers of the neighborhood, whose clamor of stories and idiosyncratic child-rearing advice is as compelling as the city itself.
Stephen King, the master storyteller himself, gives emerging writers the foundational tools needed to succeed. Through vivid accounts of life as a bestselling writer, King provides snappy and digestible writing advice. If anything, ON WRITING shows writers that even the most talented of storytellers live with their own struggles. King brings readers through his early life as a writer, when money and inspiration were hard to come by. He describes how he worked through family problems, addiction, and recovery. King makes the act of writing feel very human. This book stands as a perfect inspiration for those working through their own writing upheavals.
Twentieth Anniversary Edition with Contributions from Joe Hill and Owen King
Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.
“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
Jennifer Weiner’s books are known to be packed with wit, humor, and power. Her writing is a friendly reminder that the female experience is often messy and confusing. With its conversational tone, her memoir taught me how to write from experience. HUNGRY HEART executes this so well. This book, full of intimate and honest essays, will bring readers through a roller coaster of emotions as it solidifies Jennifer Weiner’s impeccable talent and the trials it took to get where she is today.
The craft of writing, as we understand it today, was molded with the Western white male in mind. But as our understanding and perspective as a society change, we’re gratefully making space for more new perspectives in storytelling. CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD pushes readers to question the foundational elements of writing, such as plot, character, and conflict, and asks how we can rethink the way we appreciate literature. This book is geared toward teachers, as it provides advice on syllabi, grading, and teaching methods. But all writers can appreciate and learn from this exceptional statement on the necessity for diversity in fiction writing.
This national bestseller is “a significant contribution to discussions of the art of fiction and a necessary challenge to received views about whose stories are told, how they are told and for whom they are intended” (Laila Lalami, The New York Times Book Review). The traditional writing workshop was established with white male writers in mind; what we call craft is informed by their cultural values. In this bold and original examination of elements of writing—including plot, character, conflict, structure, and believability—and aspects of workshop—including the silenced writer and the imagined reader—Matthew Salesses asks questions to invigorate these familiar concepts. He upends Western notions of how a story must progress. How can we rethink craft, and the teaching of it, to better reach writers with diverse backgrounds? How can we invite diverse storytelling traditions into literary spaces? Drawing from examples including One Thousand and One Nights, Curious George, Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, and the Asian American classic No-No Boy, Salesses asks us to reimagine craft and the workshop. In the pages of exercises included here, teachers will find suggestions for building syllabi, grading, and introducing new methods to the classroom; students will find revision and editing guidance, as well as a new lens for reading their work. Salesses shows that we need to interrogate the lack of diversity at the core of published fiction: how we teach and write it. After all, as he reminds us, “When we write fiction, we write the world.”
Larry McMurtry’s LITERARY LIFE is a deeply personal sequel to his first memoir, BOOKS. Fans of his bestselling tales like LONESOME DOVE will appreciate the moving anecdotes McMurtry provides as he details his life’s journey as an author. This read is a must for aspiring writers aiming to make their own mark on American literature—but also for readers who appreciate an honest life’s reflection.
Pulitzer Prize–winner Larry McMurtry follows up his memoir Books with this engrossing and deeply personal reflection on the life of a writer.
Larry McMurtry is that rarest of artists, a prolific and genre-transcending writer who has delighted generations with his witty and elegant prose. In Literary Life, the sequel to Books, he expounds on the private trials and triumphs of being a writer. From his earliest inkling of his future career while at Rice University, to his tenure as a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford with Ken Kesey in 1960, to his incredible triumphs as a bestselling author, this intimate and charming autobiography is replete with literary anecdotes and packed with memorable observations about writing, writers, and the author himself. It is a work to be cherished not only by McMurtry’s admirers, but by the innumerable aspiring writers who seek to make their own mark on American literature.
Herman Wouk pairs his wisdom as an enduring writer with charming wit as he chronicles his journey from comedic writer to Pulitzer Prize–winning author. His well-lived life of literature and fame is bursting with wise words that feel a whole lot like a conversation with an old friend. Wouk’s reflection over his hundred years of life is truly a piece to be cherished.
This master class on writing by Booker Prize–winning author George Saunders was recommended to me by several of my writing friends. For twenty years, Saunders has been teaching a class on Russian short stories to his MFA students. A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN provides a version of this class. Saunders reminds us all that writing is more than just a hobby—it involves training the mind to view the world with a new lens. It prompts readers to be open and curious in their own pursuits of fine craft.
For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times. In his introduction, Saunders writes, “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?” He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.
THE WRITING LIFE is another essential memoir for writers. This beautiful mediation on the life of a writer focuses more on why we write and less on actionable tips and tricks. Through short essays, Dillard describes not only her own writing experiences but also the passion that writers everywhere hold within themselves. Between the joys of creating a story and the burdens of sitting in the discomfort of writer’s block, Dillard pieces together the wild and unexplainable dedication we have toward the craft.
From Pulitzer Prize-winning Annie Dillard, a collection that illuminates the dedication and daring that characterizes a writer's life. In these short essays, Annie Dillard--the author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and An American Childhood--illuminates the dedication, absurdity, and daring that characterize the existence of a writer. A moving account of Dillard's own experiences while writing her works, The Writing Life offers deep insight into one of the most mysterious professions.
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