Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Book Review: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I was looking for On Writing by Stephen King to give to my Dad for Christmas. The book store did
not carry the book, but the bookseller insisted Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott was even better. "Even my friends who don't write loved this book. It's hilarious!" With no time left to shop, I took her word for it and bought the book for my Dad.

A year and a half later, he lent me the book. (I'll admit, I pestered him about it ever since I gave it to him!) While I wouldn't say it is better than On Writing, I would say it is as good as On Writing. They are, of course, writing about different experiences and genres, but they had some striking similarities. Both are recovering alcoholics. Both encourage you to write every day and both are excellent storytellers.

I highly recommend this book to all writers. It gives excellent advice on why it is important to write, even if you never get published. I gives writing dignity far beyond publication.

It reminded me that writing a book as a gift is a wonderful idea. My book Expectations was a birthday gift to my sister. I think my other books were gifts to myself; books I wanted to read. I want to try Lamott's suggestion to write a book as a gift to a writer I really enjoy reading. She also recommended writing letters to friends and family, describing important things in detail to be remembered. Lamott had beautiful, poignant things to say about writing, reading and life throughout her book. While I recommend you read it for yourself, here are a few gems:

"Ever since I was a little kid, I've thought that there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were little gods or sorcerers." (xxvii)

(Lamott's answer to why she writes.) "Then I add that other than writing, I am completely unemployable." (xxviii)

"Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave." (15)

"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts." (25)

"The writer is a person who is standing apart, like the cheese in 'The Farmer in the Dell' standing there alone but deciding to take a few notes." (97)

"I honestly think in order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing?" (99)

"Becoming a writer can also profoundly change your life as a reader. One reads with a deeper appreciation and concentration, knowing now how hard writing is, especially how hard it is to make it look effortless." (233)

"Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. they deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul." (237)

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Summer Reading: Audiobook edition

Our family recently returned from a two week family vacation that covered 3 provinces, over 3000 kilometres and at least 40 hours in the car with two 40-somethings, a new teenager and a ten-year-old. We learned several years ago that the best way to do this is with a stack of audiobooks.
This year, our family listened to several Stuart McLean stories from the Vinyl Cafe, Louis Sachar's Wayside School Series and our favourite The Tiger in the Well (Sally Lockhart #3) by Phillip Pullman. We listened to the first book in this series (The Ruby in the Smoke) the summer before and loved the story, so we picked up what we thought was book 2. Unfortunately we missed the book between, but we were still able to enjoy and follow the story.

Expectations on amazon
I've been hoping to turn one of my books into an audiobook. I looked into Audiobook Creation Exchange which sells audiobooks on Audible, amazon and iTunes, but at first, they weren't open to Canadian clients. Then, just before our holiday, I received the good news that now accepts Canadian authors. I signed up as soon as I could and submitted a script for potential actor/producers to read. I began to lose hope when I hadn't received an audition before I left. A few weeks later, I had a message. Someone was willing to narrate my book!

It was a thrill to hear my book Expectations, read by a British woman. I listened several times and shared it with my husband and kids. They confirmed that she was the one. She has currently accepted my offer and I am awaiting her first 15 minutes. I will be sure to post with updates. Can't wait!