Early 21st-Century Advisors for Students of Writing

I’m casually reading three books on writing at one time. I commend them to anyone in love with writing.

(Actually, I’m digging into four if I count John Steinbeck’s journal about his writing of East of Eden, which I recently purchased to read while I also view the well-known 1955 film that Eli Kazan made based on Steinbeck’s book. I understand it’s a good Bible story.)

Here’s my trifecta bibliography for writers:

1) Louise DeSalvo. The Art of Slow Writing: Reflection on Time, Craft, and Creativity. NY: St. Martin’s Griffin. 2014.
DeSalvo spent some time as an adult writer living in Sag Harbor, NY, as did John Steinbeck at one point in his career.
I also have my visitor’s familiarity with Sag Harbor, spending many teenage summers and making many visits as a collegian to the homes of an aunt and uncle and my parents. They built retirement houses on a dirt road in nearby Noyack on Little Peconic Bay close to Sag Harbor. My parents are interred in a Sag Harbor cemetery. I understand why writers gravitate to the remote peacefulness of that one-time commercial fishing mecca near the Eastern tip of New York State’s Long Island.
DeSalvo provides what essayist Anne Lamott might call “good medicine” for people hacking out words on paper (or screen).

2) Natalie Goldberg. The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language. NY: Atria, a Division of Simon and Shuster. 2013.
—Goldberg was born in Brooklyn—a decade behind me—and lived there as a youngster, many years before being seduced by northern New Mexico’s colors and expanses. As an adult, she spent 30 years studying Zen. Her book is a sequel to her earlier Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, which may be the best-known instructional writing book written in English.

3) Rami Shapiro and Aaron Shapiro. Writing—the sacred art: Beyond the Page to Spiritual Practice. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing. 2012.
—This father-and-son team provides raw truth and peaceful dissent in their words of guidance for writing students. Where one leads us to maneuver a field of razor blades, the other spreads salve. But rather than being opponents, they seem to veer down slightly different paths in their love of the craft and their enthusiasm for providing gentle—and perhaps life-changing—guidance.

I don’t think it will surprise anyone when I suggest that all four books I’ve spoken of should provide readers with some important spiritual reflections and challenges.

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