Have you ever wished there were an advice columnist for writers, but one who didn’t take things so damned seriously? This unique writing guide pairs questions sent in by top contemporary essayists with hilariously witty answers and essays from acclaimed author Dinty W. Moore. Taking advantage of all the tools available to today’s personal essayist—egregious puns, embarrassing anecdotes, and cocktail napkins—Professor Moore answers these questions, and more, demystifying the world of nonfiction once and for all. With a tip of the hat to history’s most infamous essay—Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals”—this book provides rollicking relief for writers in distress.
If you consider yourself any sort of grammar nerd, struggling writer, English teacher, linguistics lover, etc., I'd say you're bound to have a pretty good time with this book. I myself took a look at it largely because I feel like I pretty much came out of the womb a struggling writer / creative sort, so I eat this kind of stuff up. My favorite type of learning is when someone can teach you something useful through fun and laughter and Moore's book does not disappoint. Not only are there grammar jokes to nod along to, but also writing tips & tricks that, while amusing, are also undeniably life-applicable, such as:
~ use adverbs rarely and sparingly
~ avoid familiar metaphors like the plague
~ avoid the plague
Moore lays out these lessons in essay format as he answers questions from fellow writers. One of the ones I found most amusing was his response to Cheryl Strayed's (author of Wild) question regarding a love of em dash usage --- (<< see what I did there) something I'm rather fond of myself :-) Moore explains that there are actually multiple types of dashes: hyphen, em dash, en dash, and the forgotten enemy dash.
He also shares storytelling techniques, such as weaving a tale with the use of Google Maps. One of my favorite lines from this section was "I believe there was mescaline involved... It's made from cactus! Cactus is healthy!" Gotcha curious now, eh? ;-) If you need further creative assistance, Moore also offers a section featuring writing prompts. For example:
Helpful Writing Prompt #1: Score some medical marijuana, regress to a fetus-like 22 year old, score an ancient typewriter on eBay, and connect with your pain.
Helpful Writing Prompt #2: Write a truthful memory of your life. Then change key details to give the story more flow, and rearrange the chronology of events to create a far more graceful and pleasing narrative arc. At the top of the first page, write: Fiction.
Thus, we have come full circle. And the lesson here, my writer friends? If you want to write good, use empty transitional phrases like "thus, we have come full circle," because even though these phrases may be meaningless, they sound awfully nice, and people often nod thoughtfully in response, because the words are soothing and familiar.
In other words, if you're at all involved in writing as a profession, you're likely to see the humor here. The humor we writers laugh and nod at saying
Moore will also give you a crash course in the life of French nobleman Michel de Montaingne, considered to be "the father of the essay form" (yeah, I'd never heard of him either before this book). The one thing that was surprising to me was the distinct lack of canned stew jokes! Well, unless you count the very last sentence of his author blurb. With all the other pun-tastic humor in this, I couldn't get a stew joke?! Oh well. Still good fun for writers and English nerds alike!
Some of my favorite graphics from the book:
FTC Disclaimer: BloggingForBooks.com and 10 Speed Press kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.