Resources for Writers
If you have resources to suggest or if any of these links don’t work, please e-mail me at email@example.com
Addonizio, Kim and Dorriane Laux, The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, WW Norton, 2010. This book has got everything from getting started to getting published, including lots of poems to read and lots of writing exercises to try.
The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing: A Professional Guide to the Business, for Nonfiction Writers of All Experience Levels. If writing and selling articles is your thing, this book ought to be on your shelf. The members of ASJA are the pros who make serious money with their writing.
The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual, Perseus Books. This is the tool that most newspaper editors use to decide how to handle numbers, capitalization, hyphenation, abbreviations and other style matters. It is jammed with fascinating information, and it will help you avoid the little things that drive editors crazy. Look for more information on this at http://www.ap.org.
Baer, William. Writing Metrical Poetry: Contemporary Lessons for Mastering Traditional Forms. Writer’s Digest Books, 2006. If, like me, you somehow never learned enough about the different forms of poetry to actually try writing a ballad or a villanelle or a sonnet, check out this book. It explains all the various types of formal poetry, with great examples and assignments to try writing them. Even if you don’t want to write in iambic pentameter or any other form, it’s fun just reading all the classic poems and understanding how they came about.
The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition. It doesn’t have much of a plot, but if you want to know the proper format for all kinds of things, including dates, addresses, numbers, titles, and much much more, invest in a copy of the most popular guide used by editors. It’s handy to have the actual book on hand (I bought mine used), but if you don’t want to put out the money, you can subscribe to the online version at http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org. Give it a try and make your editors smile.
Clark, C. Hope. The Shy Writer Reborn. Self-published, 2013. This is a new version of a nine-year-old book designed to help introverted writers deal with the need to come out of the safe secluded place where they write and face the reading, publishing world. Many of us are uncomfortable networking, giving talks, pitching, selling, and all that stuff, but if we want to succeed as writers, we have to do it, just as Clark, founder of Funds for Writers, has done. Since the original book, social networking, e-books and self-publishing have gone viral. So much has changed that this needed to be a whole new book. Some of this edition ventures uncomfortably into pop psychology, but the book is loaded with advice about how to plan and carry out a writing career in spite of being shy.
Clausen, John. Too Lazy to Work, Too Nervous to Steal: How to Have a Great Life as a Freelance Writer. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 2001. Beyond the delightful title, Clausen offers 207 pages of information and inspiration for freelance writers. He intertwines straight how-to with his own experiences and those of other successful writers who plunged into the business and flourished. One of the ways he pays the bills is by writing advertising, junk mail and press releases for various companies, and he tells us how to do it. For those of us who would rather not get involved in business writing, there’s still plenty of good information on how to make it in magazines, newspapers and other media. This book is straightforward, optimistic, and very useful.
Editor & Publisher Newspaper Data Book 2013: The Encyclopedia of the Newspaper Industry, Book 1: Dailies (Editor & Publisher International Year Book). This book costs several hundred dollars, and the CD-ROM version costs even more, so you’ll want to look for it at the library or use the references posted online, but it lists virtually every general-interest newspaper and some specialized newspapers in the United States and beyond. Contact names, deadlines and other information are provided.
Fletcher, Ralph, Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out, HarperCollins, 2002. What a delicious book. Like chocolate for poets. Fletcher writes for and works with children, and this book is designed for young poets, but I found it extremely useful. Fletcher emphasizes content over form, although he gives a touch of form, too. For him, the “pillars of poetry” are emotion, image and music. In his chapters, he tells how one can use poetry as a vessel for feelings, how to take a snapshot of the world around us, and then how to put the rhythm and music into it by playing with sounds and words. Fletcher offers many wonderful poems as examples, some of them his, some by other published poets, and some by his students. He also includes interviews with several poets and a list of poetry books to read. A good writer reads more than he writes, Fletcher says. This book says nothing about marketing or publishers. Instead, Fletcher describes some informal ways to share poetry, including putting together one’s own book, holding a BYOP–bring your own poem–party, giving poems as gifts, or memorizing them and keeping them close like a special treasure.
Forché, Carolyn and Philip Gerard, Writing Creative Nonfiction, Story Press, 2001. This is both a textbook and a reader for fans and writers of the slippery genre called creative nonfiction. Brenda Miller discusses braided essays; Alan Cheuse talks about “using the whole pig,” or in plain English using every bit of your life in your writing; Philip Gerard talks about taking yourself out of the story, and Philip Lopate discusses the necessity of turning oneself into a character. There are articles on biography, humor, writing overseas, getting published, legal land mines and more. And there are wonderful essays, including Brenda Miller’s “Basha Leah” about her grandmother, Richard Shelton’s “Going Back to Bisbee” about the Arizona desert; and Annie Dillard’s “Flying in the Middle of Art” about a stunt pilot and her experience doing barrel rolls in the air. For those grappling with what this genre is and whether they can fit into it, this is an important book to read.
Formicelli, Linda and Diana Burrell, The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success. Marion Street Press, 2005. What a great book! If you are trying to make a living as a freelancer article writer, buy this book. Easy to read, full of the real skinny, this book will move you out of the world of tiny checks and stalled careers and onto the road to the big time. Formicelli and Burrell write so well together even they can’t tell who wrote which parts, but it doesn’t matter. The book lists all the rules writers are taught and then explains why, how and when we should break them. Chapters include developing ideas, “no-fear querying,” contracts, research, interviews, writing, getting paid, developing a renegade attitude and “Thriving, Not Just Surviving.” Several appendices offer useful connections to help writers move on beyond the book. Also check out their Renegade Writer website.
Glatzer, Jenna. Make A REAL LIVING as a Freelance Writer: How To Win Top Writing Assignments, Nomad Press, 2004. Glatzer cuts right through the BS to tell the real story of what it takes to succeed as a freelance writer. It isn’t always a pretty story. It requires guts, persistence, and the willingness to toss out the usual rules when all they do is hold you back. This book is full of useful information, honesty, truth, resources, and reality. Beginners may be scared away, .but if one can write and follow Glatzer’s advice, one will succeed.
Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, 2nd Edition, Shambhala Publications, 2005. This book is a classic, offering lots of writing advice, plus tons of exercises to get your pen moving.
Herman, Jeff. Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents: Who They Are, What They Want, How to Win Them Over, Three Dog Press. This book, revised annually, is a gold mine for any writer trying to publish a book. Herman, who is a literary agent himself, goes far beyond the listings in Writer’s Market. In great detail, he lists book publishers of all sorts, including the big corporations and the imprints they own, independent presses, religious presses, and university presses, and explains very clearly what a writer needs to do to get in. The heart of the 900-page book is the agent listings. He offers extensive interviews which show us not only the types of books the agents are looking for and how they want them presented but gives us a clue to their personalities, their backgrounds, and what we can do to become their clients. And then, just when it appears we have seen all the good stuff, we find 200 pages of additional advice and information for book writers. There are sections on contracts, self-publishing, book doctors, scams, ghost writing, queries, proposals, how agents work, how publishers work, and more. In each case, Herman gives examples. Here is a query letter, here is a successful proposal, here is a sample contract. If you really want to publish a book, read this.
Kachuba, John B., editor. How to Write Funny, Writer’s Digest Books, 2001. This book is loaded with advice from writers who really know how to make us laugh. It’s available in print and as a Kindle e-book.
Katz,Christina. Get Known Before The Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths To Grow An Author Platform, Writer’s Digest Books, 2008. These days if you want an agent or book publisher to buy your book, you’ve got to have a platform. What’s that? It’s an established presence in the world that makes people know who you are and creates a ready-made audience for your book. Katz, self-promoter extraordinaire, tells us step by step how to create our own platforms. Chapters include Internet promotion, public speaking, giving classes, publishing articles, and lots more. She includes exercises and links, with the assurance that if we follow the steps in the book, we will have a platform on which to build our writing careers. This book offers much useful information, presented in a friendly, optimistic style.
Katz, Christina, Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids, Writer’s Digest Books, 2007. When Christina pitched her book at the 2005 Willamette Writers conference, the agents and editors jumped on it. The girl knows how to pitch a book. The result, Writer Mama, is a tad deceptive because it’s really a guide to freelancing for all writers, not just mothers. One could delete every reference to motherhood and still follow the steps in this book to a successful career. I do wonder if one could follow all these steps with multiple children and if one can really produce serious prose scratching out a few words during naps and soccer practice. But all that aside, Writer Mama is a fun and easy read. Sidebars, helpful hints and exercises are sprinkled through its short chapters. The layout is colorful and snappy, and there’s a lot of wisdom packed in here at a surprisingly reasonable price.
Katz, Christina, The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques From Your Writing Career Coach. Katz, writer, teacher and platform powerhouse, has put together 366 tips, tasks and techniques to get you going. Writing, network, marketing, climbing out the swamp when you can’t write–it’s all here.
Kaufman, Carolyn. The Writer’s Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately about Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior, Quill Driver Books, 2010. Are you writing about a character who is mentally ill? Want to give him the right symptoms for the right illness? Want to know what kind of therapy he might have or what drugs he might be prescribed? Are you writing an article about mental illness? Even if you just want to know for yourself, you can get all the facts here.
Kawa-Jump, Shirley. How to Publish Your Articles: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publication Say Yes, Square One Publishers, 2002. This is the book I used for my freelance article writing classes for several years. Kawa-Jump says it the way I would. It is clearly written, attractively laid out, up-to-date and full of information writers need to know.
King, Stephen. On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft, Scribner, 2000. Even if you don’t like King’s horror fiction, you should read this book. King will touch your heart with his struggles to be a writer, and he gives wonderful advice on the craft and the business of writing.
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anchor Books, 1995. Every writer I know quotes this book. Lamott’s advice about building a writing practice still rings true almost 20 years later.
Lara, Adair. Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay, Ten Speed Press, 2010. Lara, a longtime columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and author of 13 books, as well as a popular teacher and writing coach, has packed this book with information that will help you write personal nonfiction that will get published. Topics include: finding the question that drives your essay or memoir, establishing tone and voice, mining your emotions, figuring out what to keep and what to take out, how to craft a scene, how to submit your work to editors, and more.
Maas, Donald. Literary agent Donald Maas knows how to produce books that sell, and he shares that information in his books for writers: Writing the Breakout Novel, The Breakout Novelist: Craft and Strategies for Career Fiction Writers, and The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great. His books cut through the gobbledygook and tell you what it really takes to succeed as a novelist.
Mettee, Stephen Blake, The Portable Writer’s Conference: Your Guide to Getting Published, Linden Publishing, 2007. This is a great book, filled with useful information. Just the resources at the back of the book are worth the 20 bucks. Here in one place you can find standard manuscript format, proofreaders’ marks, the facts on copyright and royalties, lists of organizations, web sites and books for writers, and samples of guidelines for books and magazines. In addition, as promised in the introduction, this anthology allows you to absorb presentations on more topics by more presenters of more workshops than you would ever be able to attend in person. Fiction, nonfiction, marketing, grammar, alternative presses, agents, research, the business of being a writer and more are all here. The only glitch, aside from a few typos, is that the Internet references are out of date. Ignore that and buy yourself a copy anyway. Keep it handy and read the parts that apply when you need them.
Moore, Dinty W., editor. The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, Rose Metal Press, 2012. This book is a collection of essays from various writers, each one offering their thoughts on an aspect of nonfiction, followed by an example and an exercise. Dinty W. Moore is the editor of Brevity, the online magazine of short nonfiction, and several books of creative nonfiction.
Page, David M., MD. Body Trauma: A Writer’s Guide to Wounds and Injuries (Get It Write), Behler Publications, 2006. Want to know what it’s like to have a broken leg without actually breaking your leg? Ever wonder what a bullet does when it enters the body or what injuries your character is most likely to sustain in an auto accident? Body Trauma gives you the nitty gritty about all kinds of injuries and wounds so you can get them right in your writing.
Raskin, Julie and Carolyn Males, How to Write and Sell a Column, Writer’s Digest Books. The title says it all. If you want to write a column, this book tells how to write it and market it.
Salidas, Katie. Go Publish Yourself! Rising Sign Books, 2012. This little book gives you everything you need to know about self-publishing in a clear and easy format. If you’re going to self-publish, get this book.
Sedge, Michael, Successful Syndication: A Guide for Writers and Cartoonists, Allworth Press, 2000. This is not for the faint of heart. Sedge gives a very realistic view of syndication and what it takes to become a household name like Dave Barry. The first chapter, “Realistic Expectations,” lays out the challenges for the would-be columnist, including the need to produce another column every day or week or month, no matter what; the difficulties of breaking into the market; and the need to spend at least half of one’s time selling the column. He goes on to discuss how to approach syndicates, how to self-syndicate, and how to submit one’s columns or cartoons. A large portion of the book is devoted to appendices and resources, including complete guidelines from five of the biggest agencies, a detailed analysis of a sample contract, examples of each element of a successful query package, promotion tips, and information on invoices, taxes, pricing and incorporation. Daunting? Yes. But this book is essential to anyone who seriously plans to sell a column or cartoon.
Shapiro, Dani. Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. Grove Press, 2013. Shapiro, author of five novels and two memoirs, addresses many aspects of the writing life in this book. She talks about writer’s block and finding time to write, common subjects in books for writers, but she also discusses insecurity, trust, envy, and luck. She shares generously of her own life, of her successes and failures and her struggles to balance family and art. Her reflections are personal yet universal because we are all equals as we face the blank page.
Stafford, Kim, The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft, University of Georgia Press, 2003. If you are feeling overwhelmed by all the books about marketing and computers and manuscript formats, this book will take you back to why we write. Stafford draws his inspiration from the world around him and shows how you can do the same. He also makes you believe it doesn’t matter whether you publish in the New Yorker or post your words on the bulletin board at the laundromat; it’s all good.
Stegner, Wallace, On Teaching and Writing Fiction, Penguin Putnam, Inc., 2002. This skinny book contains all the wisdom a writer needs to know and much of what a teacher of writing needs. I’m tempted to underline every paragraph. It is full of gems like: “It begins in the senses, it is done with words, its end is communicated insight.” Or: “One MacBeth on stage is worth a thousand essays on ambition.” Or: “the people who are really going to be writers don’t need urging to pay attention to their lives and experience. Experience strikes them . . . Any life will provide the material for writing, if it is attended to.” And so many more. In addition to writing and publishing many novels and short stories, Stegner was the director of the Stanford Writing Program for many years. This book does not offer any help on getting published. But it gets to the heart and soul of writing in a way that every writer should read and keep next to his Bible.
Strunk, William Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, Longmen Publishers. This tiny book is a classic reference on grammar and word usage that should be in every writer’s library.
Wooldridge, Susan Goldsmith, Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words, Three Rivers Press, 1996. Here’s another tasty book about poetry. I don’t think you have to BE a poet to play with poetry. Try it. It’s fun. Wooldridge offers a delicious blend of personal experiences and exercises sure to get you scribbling. I got this book from the library, but I had to go buy my own copy because I think I’ll be enjoying poemcrazy for years.
Writer’s Digest, Inc., Writer’s Market, published annually both in paperback and online. The online version costs a little less and is updated more often. This is the bible for freelance writers, with extensive listings for book publishers, magazines and newspapers, agents, contests and more. The articles included in the book apply to all types of freelance writing. Many libraries have Writer’s Market in their reference sections. Look for the most recent edition because things change quickly in the publishing business.
Zinsser, William, On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction, Harper Perennial, 2006. Teach your words to sing with this wonderful book on writing.
Fiction Addiction. Find information, resources, prompts, articles, interviews and more here.
The Free Dictionary–This is just what it says, a free online dictionary, which not only tells you how to spell and pronounce words, but offers synonyms, derivations and other helpful information. And not just in English. Try it!
itools.com. Want to know the zipcode of Bismark, North Dakota? Need a picture of a rhinoceros? Need to translate a German phrase into English? It’s all here, plus more.
Libraryspot.com. Find links to hundreds of library and reference sites here.
Marketlist.com. This is exactly what it appears to be, a wonderful list of markets for writers, with an emphasis on genre fiction.
refdesk.com. You can look up just any fact about anything this site.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Get news and advice about writing and publishing in these popular genres. The sites Writer Beware section posts information on scams, publishers that don’t pay and other writer ripoffs.
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. News and resources for those who produce books for kids.
U.S. Copyright Office. Everything you need to know about copyright.
Worldwide Freelance–markets, articles, advice and more.
Writers Digest.com–markets, contests, story prompts, and other aids for writers.
Writing-World.com–articles, classes, market listings, a newsletter, and an extensive list of references for writers. For those interested in writing for publications beyond the U.S., check International Writing Resources
Writer’s Digest, 1507 Dana Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45207.
The Writer, 85 Quincy Ave. Suite 2, Quincy, MA 02169
Poets & Writers, 72 Spring St., New York, NY 10012
Willamette Writers–Oregon’s statewide writing organization with several branches, a newsletter, and an annual conference.
Oregon Writers Colony–With a leaning toward literary writing, this group holds workshops, contests, and writing gatherings on the coast.
California Writers Club–With branches all over the state, this organization is a great place to network with other writers
American Society of Journalists and Authors–Writers need to qualify to join, but this organization offers resources that will help you join those who earn their living writing.
National Writers Union–Got a problem with a publisher or need information on the writing business? Find it here.
National Society of Newspaper Columnists–for all those budding Erma Bombecks and Dave Barrys out there.
Society of American Travel Writers–Lots of information for those who want to travel and write about it.
Society of Professional Journalists–The emphasis here is on writing for newspapers and other news-oriented publications.
Copyright 2015 Sue Fagalde Lick