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Thomas Chandler has commented on (9) products.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Thomas Chandler, October 22, 2011

More inspirational that instructional, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird is a witty, entertaining look at her life as a writer, and while I would warn other writers against blindly emulating any writer's process, there's certainly plenty here worth stealing.

Most interesting is her approach to teaching the craft; if you're writing for money, fame, approval or other forms of validation, Lamott suggests you're probably already in trouble.

In one sense, she's probably right; writing is a tough way to make a living unless something in the writing process feeds you (the writing world is filled with people more interested in the lifestyle than the work itself, and for them, Lamott's book should serve as a wakeup call).

Most of her specific advice isn't exactly new (notice things, take notes, use what you know in your stories, your first draft probably bites), yet when told in the context of her career, her advice is compelling -- especially to those without fully formed reasons for entering the business.

Don't expect bullet points or any of that comically oversimplified "1. Write Book; 2. Get Agent..." crap. Lamott's all about writing for the sake of writing, and this book focuses on her processes -- including a chapter on dealing with jealousy.

That's not exactly normal "how to" fare, but at the very least -- to a writer with plenty of experience in copywriting but little in Lamott's part of the writing universe -- it's amusing stuff.

A few lucky writers find the resources they need at critical parts of their career (I stumbled on Ogilvy On Advertising when I was starting to wonder about making a living in the advertising world), and given the kind of grounded, real-world inspiration it offers, I think "Bird by Bird" should probably be handed to every college student captured by the thought of arranging words for a living.

Lamott's a witty and revealing writer, and though I'm not a memoirist or fiction writer, it's hard not to be inspired by this book.
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The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
The Writing Life

Thomas Chandler, October 22, 2011

Annie Dillard is a brilliant writer, but this book -- a collection of meditations on writing -- meanders around her writing career, sometimes stopping for a minute or two to kick at the dirt.

Sprinkled throughout are stories about other writers and adventurers, and while some sparkle, others feel forced, left to dangle.

The Writing Life is not a how-to manual or a bulleted list of pointers for young writers (no one said it was) -- and it's clearly the kind of meditation that invites the writer to wander -- but while the prose is typically beautiful and the glimpses into her life are interesting, The Writing Life ultimately feels unfocused.

It's a thin book and because it's written by Annie Dillard the prose is at times breathtaking, but it doesn't reach the level of a book that will find a permanent place on my shelf.
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The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey
The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

Thomas Chandler, October 1, 2011

Interesting and often downright riveting, The Wave is the story of the ocean's giant and rogue waves -- and the people who try to surf them.

Half the book focuses on the science of giant waves and their effects on coastal communities and shipping; the other half follows big wave surfing's best-known names as they traverse the globe in search of giant waves to surf -- including the mythical 100' monster.

The science portions are almost as interesting as the picture Susan Casey paints of Laird Hamilton, the world's premier (and best known) big wave surfer.

Hamilton and a close-knit of friends chase waves so big they almost literally can't be surfed, and to fall invites severe injury or even death (several big wave surfers died while Casey was writing the book).

It's a wholly worthwhile, very interesting read (even though I'll never go near the ocean again...).
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Shimmer by Eric Barnes

Thomas Chandler, June 17, 2011

Excellent book. Barnes knows how to sketch out an engaging character, and his story--about a fast-growing tech startup that was based on a lie--continually picks up steam. I'd buy another Barnes book.
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