Monday, October 27, 2008

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King
Pocket Books, 2000

The New York Times bestseller, this book is truly both a memoir and a how-to for writers. The middle section, "What Writing Is", is about 150 pages of pithy advice that can benefit writers of any genre. This is bookended by a series of forewords and instructive autobiographical material that help the reader understand King's attraction to the horrific.

A fascinating read, I have already begun to apply some of the tips provided, including the admonition to "kill your darlings". Not to worry, this merely means getting rid of anything that doesn't move the story forward. Having just killed 913 words of my latest piece, I can tell you that a lot of chopping is easily done.

A great Christmas gift for the writer in your life, even if she wouldn't typically read Stephen King.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Some Writers Deserve to Starve!

by Elaura Niles
Writer's Digest Books, 2005

Subtitled 31 Brutal Truths about the Publishing Industry, this book delivers just that - the brutal truths. As someone who's been shopping her work for the last few years (primarily children's picture books at this point), I know how difficult it is to break into the market. And even though "many of us won't make it" (Truth #31) and "sometimes the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow doesn't hold much gold" (Truth #10), I hope that the tips in this book will bring me closer to publication.

Samples of other truths: "a rose by any other name...doesn't sell" (#5), "many writers are working in the stone age" (#21), and "consults are not an Olympic sport". For more detail, seek out your own copy of this book.

I borrowed a copy from my local library, but if anybody's listening, this would make a great Christmas present!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Mistaken Identity:Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope

by Don and Susie Van Ryn,
Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak,
with Mark Tabb
Howard Books, 2008

Don and Susie Van Ryn had a 21-year-old daughter, Laura. Blonde, blue-eyed, athletic, and on fire for God.

Newell & Colleen Cerak had an 18-year-old daughter, Whitney. Also blonde, blue-eyed, athletic, and with a zest for God.

April 26, 2006. Both girls are travelling in a van back to Taylor University after a banquet. A tractor trailer driver falls asleep. His truck swerves across the centre line and strikes the van. Five people are killed instantly, one person is thrown 50 feet from the vehicle, but survives. She is identified as Laura Van Ryn.

Don, Susie, and their other children arrive at the hospital in Fort Wayne as quickly as possible. They spend five weeks at Laura's side, making decisions for her care and tending to her needs. But at the end of that time, they suspect that it is not Laura they are caring for.

This book tells the story of the Van Ryn and Cerak families, whose lives are inextricably woven together through this shocking case of mistaken identity. But mainly it is the story of their faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that enabled them to cope with unthinkable circumstances and to continue in love and hope.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A New Kind of Normal

Hope-filled Choices When Life Turns Upside Down
by Carol Kent
Thomas Nelson, 2007

Carol Kent continues the story she began with When I Lay My Isaac Down. Her new normal involves weekly visits behind a prison wire as she visits her son, incarcerated for life without any chance of parole for the killing of his wife's ex-husband.

With this book she outlines the huge adjustments she and her husband have had to make, both in terms of their way of life and where they live it, and in terms of their dreams and hopes for their son's future. In spite of an unthinkable situation and the shedding of copious tears, she and Gene have determined to live lives of hope that will honour and glorify God. They trade ashes for beauty, and use their circumstance to reach out to others who are suffering and in need of hope.

Carol uses the story of Jesus's mother, Mary, as a template for the person whose life has turned upside down and as an example for how those who hurt can choose to live within the constraints of their new normal. At the end of each chapter are questions to help the reader think through his own experience for answers that will help him.

This book is a must-read for those whose life situations have left them discouraged and despondent. Buy it for yourself or for someone you love.