The Company of Writers

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9780140292008: The Company of Writers

Aspiring writers are often discouraged by the solitary nature of their work. Many long for a community of peers with whom to share work, empathy, and informed and objective opinions. With The Company of Writers, seasoned writer and writing teacher Hilma Wolitzer provides a captivating, compassionate, and practical guide that shows writers how to find their own creative edge and form support networks.

Wolitzer devotes the first part of the book to creating writing workshops while the second part suggests specific topics for discussion within the group or to address on your own.

Wolitzer also includes valuable tips on building a writer's reference library, useful and provocative exercises, and generous advice from other writers. Whether you are a workshop veteran or a writing-group novice, Wolitzer's experience and encouragement will help you prepare to take creative risks and find useful feedback-and inspiration.

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Review:

"Writing fiction is a solitary occupation," Hilma Wolitzer says, "but not really a lonely one." Perhaps not, but camaraderie is nice, too. Never mind that Wolitzer's first writing-workshop experience was completely humiliating; the workshop leader, Anatole Broyard, later handed her an encouraging note, and she was hooked. Presenting one's work to a writing group, Wolitzer says, is "like having several editors examining the work." Here, she offers advice on forming writing groups and keeping them together. She suggests that the participants bring a combination of honesty and charity to the group, and that they take care to address problems (bossy members, rivalries, absenteeism, and the like) as they arise. She offers recommendations on how to run workshop sessions, including how to critique one another's work. "I always write [my comments] in pencil," she says, "to emphasize that they are only suggestions, not commandments."

In the second half of her book, Wolitzer focuses on a different element of fiction writing in each chapter--plot, setting, dialogue, humor, writing about sex, writing for children, and screenwriting. These are not tutorials; they offer Wolitzer's thoughts and experiences, and those of other writers. The idea behind the book is that these are "focus sessions" to be taken up by a workshop group, but they don't need that tie-in. Any fiction writer, affiliated with a group or not, can appreciate Wolitzer's musings. Wolitzer needn't have tried to mold her thoughts into the writing-workshop premise. Her words reflect a life lived in the company of writers--living, dead, famous, and little-known--and that is enough. --Jane Steinberg

About the Author:

Hilma Wolitzer is the author of six novels including the bestsellers Hearts and Tunnel of Love. A popular Bread Loaf lecturer, her awards include the Poets and Writers Writer for Writers award. The Company of Writers is Wolitzer's first nonfiction book.

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