This spotlight feature series poses different writing-related questions to our team. We hope you enjoy learning more about our staff through this series, as well as getting a variety of solutions to common or tricky problems that every writer faces. In this edition, we asked the team the following question:
What resources do you return to again and again to support your writing?
Hannah (Creative Nonfiction/Poetry/Fiction) – I often turn to The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction for prompts and exercises. Some of what I produce may turn into a short essay, while other material might make its way into larger works. Reddit is also a great source for material to spark new writing, especially the subreddit r/WritingPrompts.
Finally, Twitter has been a source of inspiration and encouragement. I follow writers I respect to get a peek into their thoughts and routines, and I follow humorous or inspiring literary accounts such as @SketchesbyBoze. Twitter has a rather large writing community, and being a part of it makes me feel like I’m not so alone in my endeavors.
Emily (Fiction/Poetry) – I successfully completed NaNoWriMo this year on my fourth attempt, an honor that I credit almost solely to the fact that I obsessively watched NaNoWriMo videos on YouTube by Abbie Emmons (whose book, 100 Days of Sunlight, we featured in our 2020 summer reading list). She also posts weekly stand-alone videos on every topic from world-building to character arcs to natural-sounding dialogue. Her sister, K.A. Emmons, has an equally inspiring channel where you can watch the video version of their weekly writing podcast in addition to videos about how minimalist living can serve your writing life. Both are go-tos when I need a reboot in my fiction writing.
For poetry inspiration, I often reread Moon Crossing Bridge by Tess Gallagher. Turning to any favorite poet is, for me, equal parts comforting and inspiring. And when I feel like I need to challenge myself or break out of a comfortable habit of just writing sonnets, I review A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver.
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Rachel (Fiction) – I’ve accumulated many writing craft books and reread them over the years. One of my favorites is Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, which I first read in my teens and still has a place on my bookshelf. One newer resource that I find especially useful for writing speculative fiction (especially fantasy) is Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer. This book includes many pieces of advice on writing fantastical fiction, and it’s illustrated with beautiful (and strange) pictures. I’ve also come back to the YouTube channel Writing with Jenna Moreci again and again. Her smart and funny attitude adds to the entertainment value of learning how to write, how to market books, and how to have fun doing it. On a more interactive level, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has been a yearly tradition for me and helps keep me motivated, even on days when writing even a few words is hard!
Karly (Fiction/Creative Nonfiction/Poetry) – For writing resources, I think the biggest thing to me is having an active writing group that interacts both online and (prior to the pandemic) in person. It helps me quantify my progress to have people invested in how my work is going and where I’m at with it, people who give honest feedback and suggestions and inspire me with their own work.
I do appreciate the advice and inspiration in several craft books (Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, On Writing by Stephen King, Before We Get Started by Bret Lott, and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert), but in general for me, just reading others’ work is often the best reference for how I want to write and the best inspiration for what I want to work on.
Zach (Fiction) – My go-to writing resource lately has been Pocket Workshop: Essays on Living as a Writer, edited by Tod McCoy and M Huw Evans. The essays are short, digestible, and often illuminating. Henry Lien’s essay, “Diversity Plus: Diverse Story Forms, Not Just Diverse Faces,” examines diverse forms of structure in stories like the film My Neighbor Totoro and allowed me to reexamine my relationship with structure as a whole.
Octavia Butler’s “Positive Obsession” helped me to reframe how I view my writing life and to allow myself to aim high with my hopes and dreams for my stories. Butler says obsession does not have to be a bad thing if you focus on your goals instead of your doubts: “Using [positive obsession] is like aiming carefully in archery.” There are so many other great essays in the book—I can’t recommend it enough!
Another great resource for me has been writing communities on reddit. Two in particular that have been helpful are r/KeepWriting, where writers foster a positive and encouraging environment to keep each other’s spirits up, and r/WritingPrompts, a great source for a near-infinite amount of writing prompts that might inspire anything from microfiction to a novel or at least break up writer’s block!
We hope our collective experiences as writers have given you some new sources of inspiration to turn to. Stay tuned for the next edition of this series, where we’ll tackle the following question: