Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


****Take Joy

A Book for Writers

by Jane Yolen

Reviewed July 29, 2003.
The Writer Books, Waukesha, Wisconsin, 2003.
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #1, Other Nonfiction 

I found this book wonderfully inspirational.  I’ve always thought that if writing is suffering, it would be better to find something else to do.  Yet it is hard to get busy and do it sometimes.   I like her reflections on these ideas, that writing should be a joy and most of the suffering comes from wanting to get published.

Here’s a passage I loved:
“For several years now I have had a handwritten sign over my desk that reads: ‘Value the process, not the product.’  I put it up there one New Year’s to remind myself that books are not products, that what I enjoy and do in joy is the writing.  If a book is the result, good on me.”

Another wonderful passage:

“Only when I hear that ringing, that battle horn, that vision, that tapping, that clear argument, do I know there is a story I have to tell.

“Then I must invoke the magic word.  Oh, yes—there is one.  All truly successful writers know it.

“I shall whisper it in your ear:      

“It stands for Butt In Chair.

“Really.  Hard work is the only real magic there is . . . if the book in your head is to get onto the page.”

She also provides some practical tips for writing.  I didn’t find these quite as helpful.  She admits that she is not an outline user.  She talked about writing a book with Bruce Coville, who wanted to work out the plot before he wrote the book, despite her resistance.  She said that Bruce Coville also reads maps.  Well, I just love maps, and I also like outlines.  (Are those two things related?  I think Jane Yolen’s right, and they probably are.)  I find it interesting that I faulted one of Jane Yolen’s books for its lack of structure.  Different people like different things.

Anyway, this book is a lovely and encouraging book for writers, whether you’re a plotter or more of a free spirit.  There are things to think about and ideas to try, but mostly it’s a simple reminder:  Enjoy the writing!

Other books I've reviewed by Jane Yolen:
Girl in a Cage
Sleeping Ugly
Sword of the Rightful King
The Wizard's Map

The Pictish Child
The Bagpiper's Ghost

Hippolyta and the Curse of the Amazons 
Mightier Than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys
The Perfect Wizard:  Hans Christian Andersen

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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