Tag Archives: writing

Still No Word from You: Notes in the Margin by Peter Orner

As I’ve done before when reading a book by Peter Orner, I found myself murmuring, “That’s beautiful!” or “That’s stunning!” Not so much about the topics in this latest book of essays (though they are well worth mentioning) but because his way with words is a tribute to the English language.

It’s not flowery, not the type of writing style where you need to keep a dictionary nearby. It’s just the way he uses words in a perfect way. No wonder he’s been a professor or writing, “preaching the gospel of fiction”, as he describes it.

His essays in Still No Word from You: Notes in the Margin speak of quite ordinary things, for the most part: life, love, loss, piano lessons, wills, disinheritance, and his many family members. He also talks about other authors or poets as a jumping off point for a topic he muses about. The title of the book references his grandfather, in the military during World War II, who wrote home every day to his wife, without receiving a like number of responses from her in return. “Still no word from you…” he finally told her, asking for at least some communication from her.

But Orner makes up for the communication about his grandparents, as well as his mother and father, by relaying simple stories that made an impact on him. Speaking of his grandfather, he recollects that he’s only been gone 24 years – “a youthful dead” in the grand scheme of things, he says.

Even the author’s description of rain as “pecking the windows like somebody’s down in the alley throwing pebbles” against the window is simplistic, but beautiful and accurate. He turns a scene from “Death of a Salesman” with Willy Loman into a musing on losers, death, and the supposed importance of being liked.

There’s something painful and relatable about his essay on the last days of his dog. Most animal lovers have been in that situation, but few could capture the essence of the feeling of it.

With all of his references to other writers, it’s the quite often humble Orner here who deserves the same appreciation. This book of essays is a sometimes humorous, often touching master class in the art of writing, and not one to be missed.


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Essential Books on Writing – Boxed Set by Bryn Donovan

Successful author, editor and teacher Bryn Donovan loves to make lists, and writers should be very thankful for that. The set of books is sure to motivate, inspire and light a fire under anyone wishing to begin or complete a project.

This set is comprised of three books on writing and can benefit writers no matter their experience, genre, or skill set.

Every aspect of the craft is addressed, from writer’s block or procrastination, straight through to delivering the final product.

This boxed set is highly interactive, with exercises pertaining to many topics recently discussed. If anger or an argument is the issue, for example, readers are encouraged to craft a scene showing this predicament (with prompts from the author) through the eyes of the characters involved.

Speaking of characters, attention is paid to choosing their personality traits, any psychological disorders, their occupation, name, eye or hair color, and even the clothing they wear.

A section on crafting the best title was of particular interest to me, since I consider it a weakness of mine. Another fault of many authors (myself included) is the tendency to avoid writing for fear it won’t be good enough. But a quote provided by Donovan is very encouraging: “…you need to be willing to write, even when you know it’s not going to be perfect.” In other words, just get something on paper and revise it later.

Many authors are frightened about writing sex scenes, though they may be required for the genre being used. But even this receives assistance from Donovan.

The author says her many lists, including actual ideas for stories, are not “cheat sheets” but instead are meant to provide inspiration. A boost of energy and a desire to move forward was certainly the case for this reviewer, and I suspect it will do the same for many others.

If there’s one book (or actually three books) needed to complete any writer’s library, this is it. Expect to refer to it often and receive motivation as you do so.

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