June 25 – Today is the birthday of George Orwell (pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair). In high school, his novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four were required reading.
How appropriate is it that the book I’ve chosed for this week, PEP TALKS, WARRNINGS & SCREEDS: INDISPENSABLE WISDOM AND CAUTIONARY ADVICE FOR WRITERS, published by Writer’s Digest Books, is written by another George: George Singleton.
If you’ve been writing for awhile, most likely you have several writing or reference books on your shelf. I certainly do. The Elements of Style, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Government Printing Office Style Manual, The Gregg Reference Manual, On Writing Well, On Writing, Bird by Bird, Self Editing for Fiction Writers, On Becoming a Novelist, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular–those are a few on my shelf.
So, you may be wondering: Why do I need (or want) another book about writing? Well, how about reading a book that is encouraging, gives sound advice, and puts a smile on your face? Singleton’s book combines wit, wisdom, and humor about the art, craft, etiquette, and business of writing in bite-size chunks.
A couple months ago I had the privilege of hosting George on my Donna’s Book Pub Blog, as part of the Women on Writing WOW! Author’s Blog Tour.
Singleton is a teacher and an acclaimed writer who lives in South Carolina. Okay, I admit, we’ve heard a lot about South Carolina lately, with the Governor’s mix-up over being in Argentenia rather than Appalacia, so how about some favorable press about a South Carolinaian (is that the right word?).
Singleton’s blog tour was informative–and great fun! After his visit he sent me his book, and I’ve read through it a couple times. Before my grandkids’ school let out for summer vacation, I read the book in the carpool van, and I keep it on my reading table when I need some kick-in-the-pants inspiration or a pick-me-up smile.
Singleton’s book is divided into three main parts:
Part I – Pep Talks is the longest section, with 177 pieces of advice. Some random ones are: #8, Where Ideas Come from, #9, When to Tell, #56, Perfection is Boring, and #144, In Other Words: “The more guano, the richer the garden.”
Part II – Warnings contains 67 bits of wisdom, some lengthy, some brief. A brief, but wise one is #46 – Story First: “The pressures of language are often self-inflicted. Worry about the story first.”
Part III – Screeds is the briefest, with 14 mini-sections. The final, and longest, one: “How to Write Stories, Lose Weight, Clean Up the Environment, and Make $1,000,000,” is very clever, funny, and wise.
The back cover of the book, sums it up: “Learning to be a writer is all about finding your legs, and doing your best to convince onlookers that you know what you’re doing and where you’re going.”
If you’re a writer, or aspire to become a writer, Singleton’s book will put a smile on your face while guiding you along your journey.