Work Title: Courage & Craft: Writing Your Life Into Story
Work Author(s): Barbara Abercrombie
New World Library
176 pages, Softcover $14.95
Reviewer: Christine Canfield
"You will always, always teeter between believing you have all these wonderful stories to write and worrying that the wonderful stories will not be very interesting," the author writes. In Courage & Craft, Abercrombie provides both support and instruction for overcoming the fears inherent in opening one's personal life---literal or emotional---up to the public.
Abercrombie uses her experience as an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writer's Program and as the author of adult fiction (Good Riddance), nonfiction (Writing Out the Storm), and children's books (Charlie Anderson), to write a guide that is both engaging and informative. Each chapter multitasks by explaining a specific form of writing and using that foundation to discuss everything from the psychology of writing (overcoming fear, creating a muse) to the mechanics of writing (using different points of view, writing around the constraints of a physical location), to the common denominators in each writer's life (editing work, getting published).
While many prose writers are tempted to skip the poetry chapter in a writing book, that would be a mistake here. Abercrombie uses poetry as a springboard for improving all types of writing; it forces one to focus on imagery and economize words. As one of the many exercises provided throughout the book, she recommends trying "found poems": take an existing piece, such as a newspaper article and edit...