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Friday, July 19, 2013

Writing Reviews


Writing Reviews

My writing desk is a hamster’s nest.  Books sit in heaps on either side of the writing space (ever shrinking), and on the chair next to the desk, as well as on a bureau.  This small room doubles as a guest bedroom with a bed and two large bookcases, my desk, two chairs and lamps, and the bureau.  Cozy?  Yes, if you’re into books.  My husband warns if the stacks aren’t balanced, they could topple, injuring guests as they sleep.  My worry is I’ll lose the bookmarks and sticky notes marking important “stuff”, if the piles fall.  C minus for hostess attitude.

What to do?  I will return the borrowed books to friends or to the public library and tidy the towering dangers and squeeze a few more into the book cases around the house.  Perhaps I’ll write book reviews on those which have been helpful to me, teaching me about poetry and writing; then pack those away.  Somewhere … under the bed, in a closet; there has to be a space somewhere.

Last week, I attended a workshop entitled “Reviewing 101” with Laurie Glenn Norris.  It was part of the week-long Maritime Writers’ Workshops organized by University of New Brunswick College of Extended Learning in Fredericton.  Laurie is a regular contributor to “Salon”, the Telegraph-Journal’s arts and culture supplement, as a book reviewer.  She has also written reviews for Atlantic Books Today, Arts East, the Daily Gleaner, the Telegraph-Journal, the Journal of the NB College of Craft and Design and MUSE.

Laurie is the author of Cumberland County Facts and Folklore (2009) and Haunted Girl:  Esther Cox and the Great Amherst Mystery (2012) both through Nimbus Publishing.  Haunted Girl was shortlisted for the 2013 Atlantic Book Awards – Democracy 250 Award for Historical Writing.

The workshop provided an introduction to book and visual arts reviewing.  Laurie shared how to research and write reviews for fiction and non-fiction books, and for museum and art gallery exhibitions.  She offered supportive information about current markets and how to pitch reviews to potential markets.   Following the workshop, Laurie sent her power point presentation (35 slides) to each participant by email. 

One slide gave general guideline questions, though there were many others with detailed instructions about how to write the reviews.

                        Keep asking yourself

                        What do my readers want to know?

 What do I want my readers to know?

 What are the theme, purpose and scope of the book?

 What were the book’s strengths and weaknesses?

The workshop encouraged me to think of my mounds of books, not as mess but as potential information to be shared, information which might help others and might help me to be more focused on what I have learned.  I was grateful to Laurie Glenn Norris for her efficient presentation, her expertise and her enthusiasm.

If I lived in Fredericton, I’d be able to afford to attend the whole week of Maritime Writers’ Workshops each July, as there would no extra costs for travel and accommodations.  But I don't, so I can't.  What I can do is attend those which are possible for me, each summer.  What I can do is begin reviewing some of my volumes, sharing what’s been instructive to me.

What else?  Well, I can stop typing this blog entry and organize the nest of clutter on the desk, the chair, the bureau.  Oh my … but there is a book on hold at the library for me right now.  The email notice just popped up.

What to do?

Words typed in red will take you to another site with additional information, if you click on them.


Crafty Green Poet said...

you can never have too many books (though storage can be an issue).

I love writing little book (and film) reviews on my blogs, but I'm not sure i have the patience to write too many full length reviews. i think reading as a reviewer can destract from the enjoyment of reading as a reader!

Carol Steel said...

Thanks for your comment CGP. I agree with you that it is easier to write the shorter reviews as blogs and to enjoy the books instead. But it was helpful to learn about doing it well.