In a splendid display of show-and-tell, 26 writers tell a story and lift the curtain to reveal how they did it.
Though students of literature or writing are often told to stick to the text-to avoid guessing at authorial intention and process-the dictum doesn't squelch their curiosity. Fledgling writers, especially, wonder how the pros get the job done, where they find their inspiration and how they can tap into those creative wells. This rich anthology, which offers shrewd insight into writers' approaches-thereby sating our desires for their secrets while validating our own eccentric quirks-reassures all lovers of good writing that there is no one correct way to craft a good tale. The contributors, all recent faculty members at the Warren Wilson Program for Writers in Swannanoa, N.C., offer model short stories followed by informal mini-essays on how they came to fruition. Antonya Nelson credits the seedling of "Strike Anywhere" to a student; Jim Shepard owes much of the title story from his new collection, Love and Hydrogen, to a flurry of research; while Tracey Daugherty cagily tips his hat to both imagination and autobiography, admitting only of his story, "City Codes," "it's all true except for the parts I made up." Writers' experiences couldn't be more different, with Robert Cohen "cackling" his way through the feverish high-speed ride of composing "The Varieties of Romantic Experience," while Ehud Havazelet took years to pen "Pillar of Fire." By sharing their stories as well as their struggles, their risk-taking and rule-breaking (Charles Baxter claims to have "violated most of the narrative norms" he tries to instill in his own students), these authors remind us that writing is a messy, fascinating and highly individualized process. This collection is a treasure trove of literary encouragement and wisdom. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.