Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Book Review: Page After Page by Heather Sellers

If any book about writing will leap off the shelf this one will. The title, "Page After Page: Discover the confidence and passion you need to start writing and keep writing (no matter what!)" might be a mouthful but every writer I’ve ever met has struggled with these aspects of their career and many continue to face the daily grind caused by wending passion and lax confidence.

When it comes to inspirational guides that help you tap into your creativity Heather Sellers, "Page After Page" is a must-have for writers. Each chapter of this book ends with at least one exercise designed to get you writing, right away. I actually found this frustrating, because the chapters were captivating and the exercises enticing that I was torn between reading on or doing the exercise.

In the end, I did a number of exercises before putting aside my paper and finishing the book, cover to cover. It's the kind of book that is worth returning to regularly. Many of the exercises are worth repeating. Our thoughts and goals change as our careers progress so it is important to return to some of these exercises to see where you are now.

Heather Sellers, who lives in Holland, Michigan with her husband and sons, has a modern, easy-going voice that is rich with experience but light-hearted and full of enthusiasm for her topic. She covers experiences writers face every day in a matter-of-fact way, with explanations and techniques that work to conquer the writing demons and get your "butt in chair".

Chapters you'll love include:

Lover on the Side, Lover in the Center
"When you have a lover or a baby, you fall out of time, and into the beloved. Love is the only time in our lives when we are out of time. To create a writing life, you will need to fall in love - deeply, seductively, passionately - with your writing life. It will become not a habit or a job, but a lover." page 27-28

Sleeping With Books
"With books, I am promiscuous. You can't get too far off track as a writer if you are reading. In fact, I don't know any successful writers who don't read. Writers read." page 50

Butt in Chair
Button chair, Butt in Chair - regardless of how you spell it, the concept is an old one: You have to stay in your chair. You can't do the laundry. You can't clean things. You can't take a bath, a shower, a walk. You can't do any of the healthy necessary things you have been meaning to do: practice yoga, call your mother, write letters. All of those holy pure acts will seem appealing. You must resist bettering yourself in those ways. You sit in the chair. Whether or not you are writing." page 56-57

"Writers are people who are comfortable with intense contradictions. They are the people who live with a high degree of anxiety. Becoming a writer means learning how to write, every day, without missing a day. In order to do this, writers have to gently embrace ambivalence, anxiety, not-sure-ness. While unpleasant, this practice of writing while in a state of anxiety is key to making a writing life. It's way more important than learning plot or prosody or publication tips." page 77

Blank and Cranky
"The secret to getting more work done is a little bit tricky, because it feels completely counterintuitive. If you want to pay your bills or get caught up on six months of unbalanced checkbook or start a new writing routine or do yoga, for that matter, the first thing you must do when the inevitable cranky horror mood strikes is nap." page 103

"Finding your material is just like maintaining a compost pile. Slowly, over years, you take your best stuff out to a secret, hidden away place in the backyard, and you dump it there. You cover the pile. You can buy things to help digest it (therapy, self-help books, and art classes equal worms, enzymes, wood ash). But it will digest on its own, too. Without any intervention from you at all." page 118

Little Loops
"If you had unlimited talent, a five-hundred thousand dollar grant, and a cabin in Vermont, what would you write?" [...] "Do you seize up? Does your mind go a blank? After the rush of the first idea what do you think and feel?" page 159

"In each of us, there is a wise self. Whenever you ask yourself, your wise self, a question, she or he will always give you the right answer. You just have to ask. our mentor is right inside of you with fabulous advice, great contacts, and a deep enriched understanding of you and all your you-ness." page 184

and A Wave Suspended
"That's the kind of confidence you develop as you move from beginning writer to being a writer. You're never totally safe or sure. You're floating. You don't know if your writing is good or not that day, not yet. But you learn to trust that you will come up for air, able to tell later what went on down there." page 223

Earlier this year I did the first fifteen exercises in an older blog. Feel free to check those out (forgive the lazy language; these are unedited personal blog entries). I'd love to get my hands on a copy of Heather Sellers' other writing book, "Chapter After Chapter".

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Anonymous Sue said...

Hi there! Anne from smellshorsey tagged me to play the 'Eight Things You Don't Know About Me' game, and since you started it, i thought you might like to read mine.
I look forward to coming back and reading your site in detail, but I'm up against it at the moment— see thing number 1 on my list!!!


4:50 PM  
Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

Great review, Rebecca!

I've been admiring Page After Page for awhile now, but have never given in and purchased it (seems something else always comes up, doesn't it?).

I've seen Chapter After Chapter as well.

Two more books on my long list of "wants!"

Thanks for sharing ;0)


12:45 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

Hey Sue! Great to see you here. I'm afraid I can't take all the credit for the Eight Things Meme. I was tagged too but I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope you enjoy my blog. I'm off to check out yours!

Great to see you as always Michele. I have a super long wishlist when it comes to books as well. There are so many great ones out there. I've actually been thinking I should get my hands on a couple of spare copies of some I've read and reviewed so I could give them away in a contest or something. What do you think?

9:10 PM  
Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

Hi Rebecca,

Yes, it seems my wish list of writing related books is growing at top speed!

A contest? Sounds great! I've heard some bloggers say it sure is more work than they'd imagined, but I'm sure you could handle it ;0)


11:34 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

These sound like great additions to my writing library. I actually live within 100 miles of Holland, Michigan (which is a lovely little college town) where the author from.

Great review!

4:03 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

Hi Becca, Wow, close enough to have the opportunity to run into her. :-) I often feel at a disadvantage living so far away from the central focus. Western Australia isn't very big on writers. It would be great to explore the hometowns of our favorite writers.

12:09 PM  

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