Books About Writing

a writer at workOur house in Nova Scotia still echoes with the voices of the six writers who were here last week, taking part in our Seaside Writing Workshop/Retreat – a stimulating and inspiring group. Among many books recommended as we discussed the writers’ works-in-progress were a number about writing.

Writing Picture Books: What Works & What Doesn’t by Kathy Stinson. An updated e-book version of a book that has been guiding writers through the creation and editing of picture book texts, and what to expect if your manuscript is accepted for publication, for over 20 years. Available in EPUB, PDF, MOBI, and Kindle editions.

A Passion for Narrative: A Guide to Writing Fiction by Jack Hodgins. So packed with wisdom about characters, setting, plot and other elements of fiction that it bears careful reading with each new project a writer undertakes.

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby. Uses analysis of lots of movies to help writers analyze what makes for effective storytelling through film or in books.

So You Want to Write a Children’s Book by Peter Carver. Lots of practical advice for writers and illustrators who want to see their work published. Lots of additional resources to consult as well.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Explores with grace and humour the emotional side of what it’s like to be a writer. The title essay and “Shitty First Drafts” alone make this book worth having on your bookshelf.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. A classic in the category of books that inspire writers to pick up their pens and write.

Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer’s Life by Bonni Goldberg. Loaded with essays, exercises, and quotations to inspire experienced writers and those just starting out.

In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit. A valuable resource that examines a wide range of styles and offers exercises that stir the imagination and guide a writer through the honing of their technical skills.

Care to add to our list? Please feel free to recommend your own favourite book about writing. And if you’d like to be among the first to know when we’re accepting applications for next year’s Seaside Workshop/Retreat, let me suggest that you subscribe to my blog. Between now and then, you’re sure to find some good reading here (and nice pics too).

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Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.

Kathy Stinson


  1. Zoom on September 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    I got a lot out of Stephen King's book, On Writing. Which is strange, because I don't much like his novels and I consider him a much better storyteller than a writer.

  2. Kathy Stinson on September 21, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Good suggestion, Zoom.

    Another book that I should have listed here is A Very Large Soul: Selected Letters of Margaret Laurence.

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