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The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling
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Published:
Scribner 2016
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Description
From Charles Johnson—a National Book Award winner, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and one of America's preeminent scholars on literature and race—comes an instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing.
An award-winning novelist, philosopher, essayist, screenwriter, professor, and cartoonist, Charles Johnson has devoted his life to creative pursuit. His 1990 National Book Award-winning novel Middle Passage is a modern classic, revered as much for its daring plot as its philosophical underpinnings. For thirty-three years, Johnson taught and mentored students in the art and craft of creative writing. The Way of the Writer is his record of those years, and the coda to a kaleidoscopic, boundary-shattering career.

Organized into six accessible, easy-to-navigate sections, The Way of the Writer is both a literary reflection on the creative impulse and a utilitarian guide to the writing process. Johnson shares his lessons and exercises from the classroom, starting with word choice, sentence structure, and narrative voice, and delving into the mechanics of scene, dialogue, plot and storytelling before exploring the larger questions at stake for the serious writer. What separates literature from industrial fiction? What lies at the heart of the creative impulse? How does one navigate the literary world? And how are philosophy and fiction concomitant?

Luminous, inspiring, and imminently accessible, The Way of the Writer is a revelatory glimpse into the mind of the writer and an essential guide for anyone with a story to tell.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
12/06/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781501147234
ASIN:
B01CO343KS
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Charles Johnson. (2016). The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling. Scribner.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Charles Johnson. 2016. The Way of the Writer: Reflections On the Art and Craft of Storytelling. Scribner.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Charles Johnson, The Way of the Writer: Reflections On the Art and Craft of Storytelling. Scribner, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Charles Johnson. The Way of the Writer: Reflections On the Art and Craft of Storytelling. Scribner, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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      • bioText: Charles Johnson is a novelist, essayist, literary scholar, philosopher, cartoonist, screenwriter, and professor emeritus at the University of Washington in Seattle. A MacArthur fellow, his fiction includes Night Hawks, Dr. King's Refrigerator, Dreamer, Faith and the Good Thing, and Middle Passage, for which he won the National Book Award. In 2002 he received the Arts and Letters Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Seattle.
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fullDescription
From Charles Johnson—a National Book Award winner, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and one of America's preeminent scholars on literature and race—comes an instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing.
An award-winning novelist, philosopher, essayist, screenwriter, professor, and cartoonist, Charles Johnson has devoted his life to creative pursuit. His 1990 National Book Award-winning novel Middle Passage is a modern classic, revered as much for its daring plot as its philosophical underpinnings. For thirty-three years, Johnson taught and mentored students in the art and craft of creative writing. The Way of the Writer is his record of those years, and the coda to a kaleidoscopic, boundary-shattering career.

Organized into six accessible, easy-to-navigate sections, The Way of the Writer is both a literary reflection on the creative impulse and a utilitarian guide to the writing process. Johnson shares his lessons and exercises from the classroom, starting with word choice, sentence structure, and narrative voice, and delving into the mechanics of scene, dialogue, plot and storytelling before exploring the larger questions at stake for the serious writer. What separates literature from industrial fiction? What lies at the heart of the creative impulse? How does one navigate the literary world? And how are philosophy and fiction concomitant?

Luminous, inspiring, and imminently accessible, The Way of the Writer is a revelatory glimpse into the mind of the writer and an essential guide for anyone with a story to tell.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        September 26, 2016
        National Book Award–winner Johnson (Taming the Ox) here collects enlightening but somewhat snobby essays about his process and his ideas about literature and writing. Johnson starts off by proclaiming, “One must begin with a genuine love of art.” Though he says “rigid formulas and rules” aren’t helpful, this doesn’t stop him from making more than a few uncharitable comments about the value of genre fiction. Additionally, his description of his desired reader—“intelligent, learned, and sophisticated”—might alienate readers who suspect he isn’t referring to them. Johnson’s writing style here is unvarnished. As he explains, he views essays primarily as ways of answering questions, and his interest in reaching those answers animates his nonfiction more than the prose does. Johnson’s process, from morning exercises to writing for several hours a day, is fascinating to read about up to a point, but is detailed ad nauseam. Perhaps the most deeply felt passages are those dealing with Johnson’s mentor, novelist John Gardner (Grendel), whose lessons and friendship Johnson clearly cherished. Johnson’s absolute statements will turn off some readers, and there are a handful of essays that feel like afterthoughts. Still, there are valuable insights to be gleaned about writing and reading and the work that goes into both.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        September 15, 2016
        A pithy guide for writers and those who teach them.In a series of short essays, Johnson (Emeritus, Creative Writing/Univ. of Washington; Taming the Ox: Buddhist Stories and Reflections on Politics, Race, Culture, and Spiritual Practice, 2014, etc.), a MacArthur fellow and winner of the National Book Award, Writers Guild Award, and many other honors, draws on his experience as a writer (of novels, essays, screenplays, and philosophy); editor (of the Seattle Review); fiction judge for the National Book Award (twice), PEN/Faulkner Award, Los Angeles Times Book Award, and Pulitzer Prize; and longtime teacher and mentor to offer practical advice on the writing process and the writing life. Although he refers frequently to his mentor John Gardner--"a bluff, combustible, and brilliant teacher"-- Johnson admits that he never took a college writing workshop and, in fact, looked on them with disdain. "To my eye," he writes, "they were dominated by the instructor's personality and unsolicited political opinions, and took an approach that was highly subjective," encouraging immature students to "write about what they know." When he took on the task of teaching creative writing, he designed his workshops to be demanding, with rigorous exercises meant to free students from solipsism. "A Boot Camp for Creative Writing" offers examples of those exercises; "Opening Sentences: A Hundred Rays of Light" includes examples of admirable first lines from mostly canonical novels, including Moby-Dick, Kafka's The Trial, and Toni Morrison's Beloved. Echoing many other writing guides, Johnson focuses on the power of precise words, the importance of developing voice, and the joys and challenges of revision. "Sometimes, he admits, "my ratio of throwaway to keep pages is 20:1." Revision, he adds, "is a combination of cutting away (like sculpting the sentence from stone) and also a constant layering of the language (like working with the sentence as you would clay)." Throughout, Johnson's voice is generous and warm, even while he is cautioning writers to be their own ruthless editors. A useful writing guide from an experienced practitioner.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        September 15, 2016

        National Book Award winner Johnson (Middle Passage) draws on his 33 years of teaching writing and a lifetime of thinking about creativity to offer this guide for aspiring authors. Blending practical exercises and advice along with a meditation on artistic process, he illustrates the craftsmanship involved in good storytelling. Also emphasized is the importance of language, from word choice to the construction of sentences and paragraphs that read like poetry. In his own writing, Johnson revises until he determines that each word and sentence is essential to the story, discarding many earlier versions, a strategy he refers to as sculpting. Examples from many literary and artistic works illustrate his points. The author's academic training in philosophy and his practice of Buddhism inform his reflections as well as the role of the writer in society. VERDICT All writers will welcome the useful tips and exercises, but the book will also appeal to readers interested in literature and the creative process. Johnson's wonderful prose will engage readers to think more deeply about how to tell a story and consider the truth-telling power of the arts.--Judy Solberg, Sacramento, CA

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        July 1, 2016

        A National Book Award winner for The Middle Passage and one of our leading scholars on race and literature, Johnson is also professor emeritus at the University of Washington, where he spent over three decades mentoring aspiring writers. This book is both a meditation on the meaning of literature and a practical guide to the art and craft of writing fiction. Opening with word choice, sentence structure, and narrative voice, then investigating important mechanics such as scene, dialog, and plot, Johnson arrives at the big, juicy questions for writers and readers alike. What makes writers write? What distinguishes literary fiction from more popular reads? And how are philosophy and fiction, which some people place at odds, actually related?

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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shortDescription
From Charles Johnson—a National Book Award winner, Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and one of America's preeminent scholars on literature and race—comes an instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing.
An award-winning novelist, philosopher, essayist, screenwriter, professor, and cartoonist, Charles Johnson has devoted his life to creative pursuit. His 1990 National Book Award-winning novel Middle Passage is a modern classic, revered as much for its daring plot as its philosophical underpinnings. For thirty-three years, Johnson taught and mentored students in the art and craft of creative writing. The Way of the Writer is his record of those years, and the coda to a kaleidoscopic, boundary-shattering career.

Organized into six accessible, easy-to-navigate sections, The Way of the Writer is both a literary reflection on the creative impulse and a utilitarian guide to the writing process. Johnson...
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