Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert; Narrated by the author #AudiobookReview

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Listeners of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process and showing us all just how easy it can be.

By sharing stories from her own life as well as from her friends and the people who have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.

Whether you long to write a book, create art, cope with challenges at work, embark on a long-held dream, or simply to make your everyday life more vivid and rewarding, Big Magic will take you on a journey of exploration filled with wonder and unexpected joys.

Anyone poking around my Goodreads profile might observe that I have read this book twice this year already, once via audiobook and one reading of my paper copy. One might rightly, assume, therefore, that this is a book which means a lot to me.

As someone who, cautiously, describes themselves as a writer and has ambitions to get her writing published one day but with no confidence that this is achievable, I am exactly the person that Elizabeth Gilbert is aiming this book at. A creative person who allows fear to hold them back in their endeavours and this is why I love this book so much. It feels like she wrote it just for me and, having someone so successful and whose writing I love, understand me, tell me that she has felt the same and that my feelings are understandable and manageable in a source of such comfort at times when I am struggling.

This is not really a practical ‘how to write’ book. It is a why to write book, and how to overcome the mental blocks that prevent us doing so. In this book, the author talks about all the things that hold us back from fully embracing and engaging in our creative impulses – not just writing but anything at all, painting, pottery, ice skating, anything you do for reasons not of pure practicality – and tries to reassure us that our fears and reservations are normal, universal and conquerable. I defy anyone who has ever wanted to do something creative but has felt embarrassed about it, fraudulent, foolish or afraid about doing so, to read this book and not see themselves mirrored back.

So, for me, this book is reassuring because it makes me feel less alone, and this is important because, as Elizabeth points out, creativity can be a lonely business and we tend to spend a lot of time in our own heads, fretting over our inadequacies and assuming no one else has these struggles. To hear that even the most successful of authors share these moments of angst and self-doubt can help to make use believe that persistence may not be futile and, if we just stick it out, maybe we can make it too.

Look, this book is not going to be for everyone. There is no getting away from the fact that some of her ideas about creativity are a little ‘out there,’ and she admits this herself. She talks about ideas and inspiration as actual living things with will and motivation and that there is real magic involved in the process of creation. Some people will find this hard to swallow and it may put them off but, even if you find these theories too wild to be credible, there is a lot in this book that will be relatable and useful.

She talks about fear and how it can cripple your creativity and this is the most personal of her comments to me. “…we all know that when courage dies, creativity dies with it. We all know that fear is a desolate boneyard where our dreams go to desiccate in the hot sun.’ She is writing my soul here. I have spent far too many hours being literally (and I do mean literally) paralysed with fear into an inability to write. To feel so understood, and also have someone tell me they can help me deal with it is of immense comfort.

“Perfectionists often decide in advance that the end product is never going to be satisfactory, so they don’t even bother trying to be creative in the first place.” She’s talking about me again! Perfectionism has been the biggest debilitating factor of my life. It has caused me more anguish, stopped me doing more things, prevented me taking pride in any achievements than anything else in my life. It is absolutely not a virtue, it is a curse and, as Elizabeth says, it is ‘just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.” Did I mention that her imagery and turn of phrase are also one of the things that make this book such a delight?

She deals with so many topics in this book. How to live with your fear (because there is no getting rid of it), what success can look like and how defining it can help you get over your fear, how to give yourself permission to write, how to trust yourself and the process. Whatever your particular hurdles are that hinder you from creating freely, I’m sure you will find something in here to help you, give you a crumb of comfort and the impetus to keep going. Certainly, for me, this is a book I keep on hand to dip in and out of whenever I need it. To keep the doubts at bay. I am not a person who dogears their books, but my copy of Big Magic has many pages with the corners turned down so I can find a favourite line or paragraph when I need a little boost.

This book tells me it is okay to be afraid. It is okay to fail. It is okay to feel like a fraud. It is okay to call myself a writer even though I have no qualifications in this area. It is okay to be a writer and never get published. Success for me is mine to define and not for others to decide. Time spent doing something you love is never wasted, even if it has no commercial value.

It’s okay to be the skinny lobster in spandex tights.

Big Magic is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Elizabeth Gilbert was born in Waterbury, Connecticut in 1969, and grew up on a small family Christmas tree farm. She attended New York University, where she studied political science by day and worked on her short stories by night. After college, she spent several years traveling around the country, working in bars, diners and ranches, collecting experiences to transform into fiction.

These explorations eventually formed the basis of her first book – a short story collection called PILGRIMS, which was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award, and which moved Annie Proulx to call her “a young writer of incandescent talent”.

During these early years in New York, she also worked as a journalist for such publications as Spin, GQ and The New York Times Magazine. She was a three-time finalist for The National Magazine Award, and an article she wrote in GQ about her experiences bartending on the Lower East Side eventually became the basis for the movie COYOTE UGLY.

In 2000, Elizabeth published her first novel, STERN MEN (a story of brutal territory wars between two remote fishing islands off the coast of Maine) which was a New York Times Notable Book. In 2002, Elizabeth published THE LAST AMERICAN MAN – the true story of the modern day woodsman Eustace Conway. This book, her first work of non-fiction, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Elizabeth is best known, however for her 2006 memoir EAT PRAY LOVE, which chronicled her journey alone around the world, looking for solace after a difficult divorce. The book was an international bestseller, translated into over thirty languages, with over 12 million copies sold worldwide. In 2010, EAT PRAY LOVE was made into a film starring Julia Roberts. The book became so popular that Time Magazine named Elizabeth as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

In 2010, Elizabeth published a follow-up to EAT PRAY LOVE called COMMITTED—a memoir which explored her ambivalent feelings about the institution of marriage. The book immediately became a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and was also received with warm critical praise. As Newsweek wrote, COMMITTED “retains plenty of Gilbert’s comic ruefulness and wide-eyed wonder”, and NPR called the book “a rich brew of newfound insight and wisdom.”

Her 2013 novel THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS is a sprawling tale of 19th century botanical exploration. O Magazine named it “the novel of a lifetime”, and the Wall Street Journal called it “the most ambitious and purely-imagined work of (Gilbert’s) twenty-year career.” THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS was a New York Times Bestseller, and Janet Maslin called it “engrossing…vibrant and hot-blooded.” The novel was named a Best Book of 2013 by The New York Times, O Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and The New Yorker.”

In 2015, she published BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR—a book that encapsulates the joyful spirit of adventure and permission that Elizabeth has always brought to her work and to her life.

Her latest novel is CITY OF GIRLS — a rollicking, sexy tale of the New York City theater world during the 1940s. It will be published in June of 2019.

Elizabeth divides her time between New York City, rural New Jersey, and everywhere else.

Connect with Elizabeth:

Website: https://www.elizabethgilbert.com

Facebook: Liz Gilbert

Twitter: @GilbertLiz

Instagram: @elizabeth_gilbert_writer

The 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook by Morgen Bailey #BookReview #BlogTour (@morgenwriteruk) @BOTBSPublicity #amwriting #writingtips #creativewriting #creativewritingtips #writingadvice

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Over a thousand sentence starts, three per day, with writing tips at the end of each week to motivate and inspire, providing kick-starts to avoid the dreaded ‘writer’s block’. Useful for any writer at any level, whether they have 10 minutes or 10 hours, to start a new project. Also an ideal tool for writing groups.

With a combination of six first-person, six second-person, six third-person and three non-specific point of view starts per week, there are plenty to choose from. Beginning at ‘Day 1’ this book has been designed to be started at any time of the year, and regardless of whether the sentences are used in order or not. With a choice of three per day a writer can select one, two or all and see where it leads them.

Today is my turn on the blog tour for this non-fiction title, designed for writers of all levels, The 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook by Morgen Bailey. My thanks to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially, and to Sarah Hardy at Books On The Bright Side Publicity and Promo for inviting me on to the tour.

As a striving-but-as-yet-unpublished writer, I was very keen to take part in the blog tour for this useful little book. I have done various writing exercises and prompts before, and have found they often produce some fascinating pieces of work that can be expanded or incorporated into bigger projects, so I was eager to see if the prompts in this book would spark similarly useful creativity in the word-weary writer’s mind.

The book is small but perfectly formed, with three writing prompts per day for a whole year, in a mixture of tenses. Each week of prompts is then rounded off with a writing tip, which cover a multitude of authorly concerns. The format works well for ease of reference, but you wouldn’t necessarily have to stick rigidly to the recommended regime (I was listening to your tips on alliteration, Morgen, but not the one about adverbs – oops.), but could easily choose a day at random, whenever you feel the need of a spur, and work like that. I obviously have not spent a year working through this book on a daily basis in order to write this review, but did try a random mix of the prompts and read all of the weekly tips, and it did produce some fascinating ideas.

With regard to the prompts, I liked the fact that we were given one for each tense per day. I have to say, I am a cautious (possibly lazy) writer, who prefers the comfort of third person past tense, so using the prompts that pushed me out of this comfort zone was a very useful and surprising exercise, and the results may make me a little braver and more experimental in the future. I also adopted the approach of rejecting the very first idea that popped into my head after reading the prompt, on the basis that this was probably too obvious if it came so easily and I wanted to make my writing more surprising, and this worked really well. Some of the prompts resulted in some possibly bizarre ideas, but that is the fun part of writing. I am sure I am not the only aspiring author whose brain produces odd ideas from time to time!

The writing tips were probably my favourite part of the book. Some of them were ones that were not news to me, but some really made me think, and a lot of them will provide a very useful checklist in the process of editing my current WIP, so much so that I am going to summarise them in an editing reference document. For a small volume, this definitely packs a big punch.

This is a great little workbook for any writer who sometimes needs a little push to get the pen to the page, or for anyone who wants an odd thought or sentence from a third party that might spark that new creative connection in their brain that leads to a great piece of writing. A useful tool to have in your writer’s toolbox.

The 365-Day Writer’s Block Workbook is out now and you can get a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, please check out the tour poster below:

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About the Author

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Based in Northamptonshire, England, ‘Morgen with an e’ is the author of numerous short story collections, a chick-lit novel (with crime and mystery novels in the works), a series of writer’s block workbooks, articles, and she dabbles with poetry.

As well as being a freelance editor (who offers a free 1,000-word sample), she is a creative writing tutor for Northamptonshire County Council’s Adult Learning (10-week evening and one-day Saturday classes). Morgen is also speaker of anything writing-related, panel moderator, and event tutor, and will be running a two-hour editing course at the 2017 Crime & Publishment weekend, alongside Lin Anderson and Martina Cole!

Morgen is also a writing-related blogger who ‘spotlights’ authors, agents, editors, illustrators and publishers. Other content includes guest posts, flash fiction, poetry, and reviews (crime / chick lit novels, short stories and writing guides).

A charity shop volunteer (dealing with donated books) and regular cinema visitor, she walks her dog while reading (often teaching-related), writing, editing or listening to writing-related podcasts, she reads (though not as often as she’d like and mostly for review on her blog), and in between she writes.

Connect with Morgen:

Website: https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com

Facebook: Morgen Bailey Author

Twitter: @morgenwriteruk

Instagram: @morgenwriteruk

Write A Novel in 30 Days by Megg Geri #BookReview (@MeggGeri) @PictPublishing #FictionCafeWriters #FictionCafeReviews

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“This book walks you step by step through planning your novel to writing your novel. This book is full of personal stories, tips, and exercises to inspire you and to help you write your novel. This book is honest and realistic with an easy to follow step-by-step approach to writing a book. This book is for the writer who wants to follow their dream of completing a book but doesn’t know where to start or where to find the time. This is more than just a book about writing, this is a book about surviving the writing process.

THE BOOK IS DIVIDED INTO FOUR MAIN SECTIONS: 01 | THIS IS YOUR DREAM This section is all about discovering yourself within the writing world. It’s about getting over your insecurities and creating your dream writing life. 02 | PLAN IT ALL OUT This section teaches you to plot and plan your book. From time scheduling to discovering ideas and writing applications and resources. 03 | WRITE IT OUT This section covers the actual writing process that happens. 04 | WHEN THINGS GET TOUGH This is a survival guide to writing. This section of the book handles everything from writers block to loss of inspiration and falling behind schedule as well as when you’re getting yourself down too.

BONUS MATERIAL This is not called an interactive book for no reason. This book comes with access to a resource library of downloads like; word trackers, worksheets, charts, and checklists. And you will get a 28-day course to get you ready for writing.”

As a new writer working on her first novel and often feeling like an imposter, floundering out of her depth in a strange and alien sea, I jumped at the chance to read and review this writing guide by Megg Geri.

This book is aimed at people trying to complete annual challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month in the joyous madness that is NaNoWriMo. For anyone not familiar with this event – the writer’s equivalent of completing a marathon – you can find details here. I attempted this for the first time last November and failed spectacularly, managing only 32,000 of my target but, of course, I did not have this book then and was under-prepared. However, this book can be used at any time of year, and by anyone intent on beginning to write, even if they do not intend to do it at a sprint.

This book is full of great practical tips on inspiration, plotting and planning, where to find story ideas, how to develop your characters, what software you might like to use, everything you would expect in a book of this type. But this book contains so much more than that. It also deals with the emotional aspects of writing, working out why you want to write, how to keep motivated, what might be stopping you for achieving your goals and how to overcome these hurdles and this, for me, is the real appeal of this book.

What stands out the most is the encouragement. The sheer belief that you CAN write a book if you really want to and, what is more, you should. The belief that you have an important story to tell and that the world needs you to tell it. This is very important as, for me and I suspect many other people, a lack of self-belief is what holds us back. We need encouragement, and this book will give you that.

It is written in a very friendly, personal and approachable voice and in a very easy to read layout with very practical exercises to do at the end of each segment and useful checklists as the end of each part. It is a real, useful, practical book that would be great to refer to, not just for your first book, but again and again at the start of each new novel. I think even experienced writers will find a lot of useful reminders in here.

Interspersed with the tips and exercises are motivational quotes to spur you along which is a nice touch.

I found myself bookmarking a lot of sections as I went through this book which really resonated with me and that I want to be able to refer back to easily which is always a sign that a book has offered me something useful. (My favourite tip in the book was the ‘character’s handbag section). The part that resonated with me most on a personal level was this:

“Hiding behind perfection can also be an excuse not to do the work, or because you’re simply too scared to put your work out there.”

This is a person who understands me!

This book is not too long, not too verbose, not too elitist but full of handy guides, tips, information and encouragement. I loved it so much that I have ordered a paperback copy to keep on my shelf for future reference and I have no doubt it will become dog-eared with use. I think this is a must-have for any aspiring writer out there who needs a friend.

Write A Novel in 30 Days is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Author of Write a Novel in 30 Days also writes fiction and owns Megg & Co Editing Boutique.

She specialises in novel editing and coaching by day and by night she reads, a lot. She also runs an online international book club for women who love to read.

Megg loves interacting with writers on Twitter and Instagram (where she shares her favourite writing tips).

Connect with Megg:

Website: https://megg.me
Goodreads: Megg_Geri

Facebook – TheMeggGeri
Instagram – @megggeri

Twitter: @MeggGeri

The Maeve Binchy Writers’ Club by Maeve Binchy #BookReview @penguinrandom

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“The most important thing to realize is that everyone is capable of telling a story.” –Maeve Binchy
 
If you scribble story ideas on the backs of receipts…
If you file away bits of overheard conversation from the coffee shop…
If you’ve already chosen the perfect pen name…
Well, then the journey has begun!
 
In this warm and inspiring guide, beloved author Maeve Binchy shares her unique insight to how a best selling author writes: from finding a subject and creating good writing habits to sustaining progress and seeking a publisher.
 
Whether you want to write stories or plays, humor or mysteries, Binchy prescribes advice for every step with her signature humor and generous spirit. She has called upon other writers, editors, and publishers to add their voices to this treasury of assistance for budding writers and a refreshing dose of encouragement for longtime scribes. And once you are ready, an appendix offers of writing awards and competitions and a selection of websites and literary journals.

I picked up this book as part of my quest to focus on my writing this year and get that novel completed and off to the RNA for critique. Maeve Binchy is one of my favourite authors, she really knows how to write honestly about genuine people and ordinary lives in an interesting way that pinpoints the fears, desires, and emotions that drive our behaviour. If I could write 20% as well as she did, I would be completely satisfied.

This book is a collection of letters written by Maeve to the reader, each on a different aspect of the writing process, together with some pieces of advice from other contributing writers such as Marian Keyes. The book came about based on a writing course that Maeve delivered in person to aspiring writers in Dublin.

I have mixed feelings about this book. In some ways, it is really interesting to hear Maeve’s take on the writing process and she speaks with the same warmth and friendliness that you see in her novels. She is encouraging and evidently believes that if she can have the success she has had, anyone can do it. There are some really useful nuggets of advice in the book about writing, and about the nuts and bolts of the publishing process in general.

On the negative side, the book is very short and, therefore, sparse in detail. It also tries to cover a lot of topics within its covers, including writing plays, comedy, for the radio, for children and I think it tries to cram too much diverse information into too few pages, so there is little detail on any topic.

Overall, it is a interesting little introduction to writing, particularly for fans of Maeve Binchy and her writing style and voice and who miss her now she is gone. It is not an in-depth guide to writing and anyone who wants a detailed creative writing book should look elsewhere.

You can buy a copy of the book here.

About the Author

Maeve Binchy was born in County Dublin and educated at the Holy Child convent in Killiney and at University College, Dublin. After a spell as a teacher she joined The Irish Times. Her first novel, Light a Penny Candle, was published in 1982, and she went on to write more than 20 books, all of them bestsellers. Several have been adapted for film and television, most notably Circle of Friends and Tara Road, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection. She was married to the writer and broadcaster Gordon Snell for 35 years, and died in 2012 at the age of 72.