Professional Reading: WRITER TO WRITER by Gail Carson Levine

Writer to WriterLevine, Gail Carson. Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink. Harper, 2015. 295p. $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227530-1.

Adults and older high school students interested in writing fiction will enjoy this conversational follow-up to Levine’s earlier work, Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly (HarperCollins, 2006). Writer to Writer is based on Levine’s blog: www.gailcarsonlevine.blogspot.com, and she consolidates some of the posts and comments to offer advice on writing. Her number one tip is repeated throughout the book – “Have fun, and save what you write!”

After the introductory section, there are two solid sections on writing strong, memorable characters. Levine describes how the character’s thoughts, feelings, speech, appearance, and other aspects can help the reader grasp who the character is. We need to know how the character thinks, not just what she looks like.

Each chapter concludes with three or more writing prompts. For example, have your main character do something foolhardy, or give the character a problem to solve. All of her tips are concise and clear, and the overall tone of the book is friendly. This isn’t a textbook but a dialogue with the reader on how to write.

Later sections talk about plot, theme, metaphor, and choice of verb tense. There is an entire section on poetry that was not previously on her blog. The concluding section describes how to start and maintain a useful writer’s blog. The in-depth index is quite helpful, so readers can check out certain aspects of writing for which they might need advice.

As mentioned above, the one area of the book that was not previously on her blog is the section on writing poetry. In this section, readers are shown how writing poetry can inspire creativity that can be used when writing prose fiction. The prompts ask the reader to write poems that help introduce a character, or retell a fairy tale. This section isn’t a manual on how to write various types of poems, but how writing poetry can get a prose writer out of a rut.

Levine uses excerpts of her own books, and other books for youth, for examples of what she is discussing. For example, in the poetry section where she addressed novels in verse, she has a short entry from Virginia Euwer Wolfe’s Make Lemonade.

In many ways, the adult nonfiction area on creative writing may be the most suitable area of the library to place this book (Dewey 808.02). But high school libraries will also find this a helpful and popular book on creative writing.

Penny Peck,  SJSU iSchool

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