Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 4

Happy International Translation Day. Perhaps you are wondering why there is yet another Hallmark-like day for this. I had to look it up too. Wikipedia, that font of never-ending rabbit holes, er, wisdom, says that FIT (International Federation of Translators) had designated this day in 1991 for the official celebration of translation because it is also the feast of St. Jerome, the Bible translator considered the patron saint of translators. Of course, the celebration is for all countries, not just Christian ones. And, earlier this year, the UN also passed a resolution declaring September 30 as International Translation Day to recognize the role of professional translation in bringing nations together. At the outset, let me say that I believe all of us, readers and writers alike, are translators. The very act of reading involves translating and interpreting the writer’s meaning and intent. The act of writing involves translating and interpreting one’s own meaning of everything we have ourselves read, seen, heard, experienced. So, translation to me is not simply the act of converting words from Language A to Language B. And, as such, I have found the following books on translation important to me as a reader and a writer above anything else. Continue reading Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 4

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Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 3

In 2014, I wrote a six-part series about bibliomemoirs published from 1990-onwards till early-2014. This month, we have three bibliomemoirs featured in that series — Rebecca Mead on George Eliot; Alexander McCall Smith on W H Auden; and Janet Malcolm on Chekhov. First, why bibliomemoirs? Read Part 1 of the series for that. For now, let me share Joyce Carol Oates’ definition: “Rarely attempted, and still more rarely successful, is the bibliomemoir — a subspecies of literature combining criticism and biography with the intimate, confessional tone of autobiography. The most engaging bibliomemoirs establish the writer’s voice in counterpoint to the subject, with something more than adulation or explication at stake.” Second, why bibliomemoirs as writing how-to? I find that when we dive deep into how a particular literary work has been written — peeling back the layers of biography, history, writing process, narrative structure, etc. — we gain a much deeper understanding of both the work and the art and craft of writing. It helps, of course, when the literary work is one we also enjoy and admire. Continue reading Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 3

Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 2

Last month, I began this series to share various books I have found helpful for my own writing practice. As I wrote in that first post, these are not necessarily all traditional writing how-to books. However, they do all deal with the art and craft of writing in some way or another. This month, I am sharing three letter collections: Chekhov, Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Maxwell, and Vincent Van Gogh. If you have followed my blog over the years, you will know that I am a big fan of letter collections, especially those by writers and artists. It is, of course, a dying art nowadays, where social media has replaced both letters and emails. Continue reading Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 2

Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 1

With this new series, I plan to share my favorite writing how-to books. Not all of them will be “how-to” books in the traditional sense. And not all of them will be the popular bestselling kind either. These are books that have helped me with my own writing (particularly literary fiction but also overall) and ones that I revisit from time to time. What draws me back again and again is both the content and the writing style. For me, these books have been invaluable in my personal DIY MFA curricula (more on this in a separate post later.) [Note: I might also share a handful of online blogs/sites/columns/podcasts that have been helpful.] Continue reading Booknotes: Favorite Writing How-to Books Part 1

Booknotes: Oscar and Lucinda

Screenwriting guru Syd Field often wrote/said: When you’re writing a scene, look for a way that dramatizes the scene “against the grain.” My book notes today are related specifically to this technique of going “against the grain”, using Peter Carey’s 1988 Booker-winning ‘Oscar and Lucinda’, as example. I have loved this novel since I first read it and still dip into my favorite bits from time to time. Continue reading Booknotes: Oscar and Lucinda