I thought it would be fun to share a couple of writing craft books that I have saved over the years that aren’t Stephen King’s On Writing or William Zinsser’s On Writing Well or Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.
Those are classic writing craft books and if you haven’t read them you should and if you don’t own they buy them. Here, let me help. Click the titles above to buy them.
Today I’m going to offer three odd writing books:
- Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers by Susan Shaughnessy. Buy here.
- Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Restaurant Reviews, Articles, Memoir, Fiction and more… by Dianne Jacob. Buy Here.
- A Writer’s Paris: a guided journey for the creative soul by Eric Maisel. Buy here.
Walking on Alligators
This is the oldest writing craft book in my collection, copyright 1993. Oldest, meaning I’ve had it with me the longest. I was a freshman in college, at what is now Moravian University. I would walk between the main “north” campus and my dorm on the arts (or “south”) campus, passing the Moravian Book Shop on Bethlehem’s historic Main Street. At that time, the Moravian Book Shop was an independent bookseller, founded in 1745, making it America’s oldest bookshop. It is now owned by Moravian University.
I had several work study jobs at Moravian (copy assistant, admissions assistant) and occasionally I would receive a gift or have a little extra cash. Every three months or so I would meander through the book shop (if you’ve been there you know it snakes through the old architecture) and select a book. If I remember correctly, my biological father had sent me money and with it, I bought Walking on Alligators. The cover price on the back of the book is $10. And I have a vivid memory of having $10. And only $10. According to my notes on the title page, I bought it February 18, 1994. Late winter, freshman year.
This book of mine is well-thumbed and annotated. I would start my writing sessions with one of these meditations, which start with a quote from a writer, move into the author’s explanation and finish with a commitment.
Like on page 131:
Quote: “No one will give you wiser advice than yourself,” Cicero.
Challenge: “Today I will recognize that I already know what I need.”
Will Write For Food
Much to my surprise, when I looked up Will Write for Food, I found that the book has been completely reworked in its current (fourth) edition to keep up with the current marketplace. Bravo for Ms. Jacob! The best-selling book now has a slightly different title to reflect the modern organization of the writing and food businesses. My copy is from 2005. The latest edition was released in 2021. She has blurbs from big names like Anthony Bourdain and has stayed relevant for more than 15 years.
My first edition of the book has exercises and advice that inspired me to write a short-lived weekly column for a local weekly newspaper… and I don’t even recall what it was named. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the book tells us if it inspires us to move forward and act. I had to Google myself to find remnants of the column, which was called “GourMaybe.” I thought that was very clever.
On my website, I include a clip from GourMaybe in my portfolio. See it here. It discusses my thoughts on tipping and how the practice should not replace fair wages. Still an issue today. The BBC’s The Food Chain discussed this in a podcast last year and Flightless Bird, the podcast of stranded-in-the-United-States documentarian-from-New-Zealand David Farrier, released an episode on the topic in late August. Find it on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
A Writer’s Paris
I brought this book with me on one of my more recent trips to Paris. I honestly don’t remember if I used it, but I did walk around with it, which was a great reminder of my personal goals while in the city. It’s a beautiful volume, and the version I have has slick paper and a pristine layout. Like Will Write for Food, this book is also copyright 2005.
The chapters have enjoyable, thought-provoking titles: “a day in the Places des Vosges,” “pure flâneur,” “Sartre and inauthenticity,” and “Disrespecting Camus,” among them. It’s so delicious and rich I want to read it now even though I have no travel plans, and even my French characters are currently in North America.
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