Dad of Divas' Reviews: Book Review - We Wanted to Be Writers

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Book Review - We Wanted to Be Writers

About the Book
The Iowa Writers' Workshop has produced countless literary legends who have won Pulitzer Prizes, National Book Awards, and more. But before they got to Iowa City, they were just aspiring students who wanted to be writers.

We Wanted to Be Writers is a blend of interviews, commentary, advice, gossip, anecdotes, analyses, history, and asides with more than 20 of the authors' classmates and teachers at the now legendary Iowa Writers' Workshop between 1974 and 1978. Among the talents that emerged in those years - writing, passionately jousting, criticizing, drinking, and debating in the classrooms and barrooms of Iowa City - were the young versions of writers who became T.C. Boyle, Allan Gurganus, Sandra Cisneros, Jayne Ann Phillips, Jennie Fields, Joe Haldeman, Joy Harjo, and many others.

No other book presents the thoughts of nearly two dozen writers who, 30 years ago, were exactly where so many young writers are today, and who've now been "in the game" long enough to articulate their own accomplishments, setbacks, and triumphs with the insights that come of experience and distance. Unlike other collections of interviews with literary legends that read as complete, intact chapters, We Wanted to be Writers takes a fascinatingly innovative approach, pulling excerpts from interviews by theme, and arranging them under various categories such as:
  • How It Starts
  • Why Iowa
  • The Creative process
  • Aftermath
  • The "lit biz"
  • And more!

We Wanted to Be Writers provides a "longitudinal" look at a specific cohort of writers through snapshots of time, revealing many interesting patterns and similarities among a group of men and women who are otherwise very different from one another. The insights that this approach provides about writers and writing are profound, and, more importantly, supported by example.

The casual reader looking for a good story will find in We Wanted to Be Writers compelling tales of artistic inspiration and heartbreak, mixed with a bit of cultural analysis, literary history and criticism, and more than a little "behind the scenes" intrigue.

Those who write or dream of writing or who teach the craft will turn to We Wanted to Be Writers for practical advice about the creative process learned sometimes the hard way by writers who have been at it for over three decades including:

  • How to stay "creative" or "original"
  • How to start and stick with a writing project
  • How to manage the blocks and disappointments or - what can sometimes be just as difficult to handle - the infrequent successes
  • How to make it in the literary business and stay more or less sane
Along the way, We Wanted to be Writers explores questions about success in writing from the various perspectives of some who've been critical and commercial "successes," some who've been one of the other, and some who've been neither.

About the Authors:
Eric Olsen is a journalist and graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Olsen directed the U.S. branch of the International Institute of Modern Letters and created the first American City of Asylum, which provided a safe haven for persecuted writers. He was also an executive editor at Time Inc. Health, a Time Warner company. This is his sixth book.

Glenn Schaeffer was, for twenty years, president of Mandalay Resort Group in Las Vegas. In 2009, Liberty Media rated him as the gaming industry's most influential executive, after Steve Wynn. He's now CEO of Perpetual Gaming. Schaeffer is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and he's finally finishing a novel he started there thirty years ago,Holy Shaker.

My Take on the Book

This book provided readers with an intimate look at a group of writers that you would not normally have the opportunity to look at. As a writer, I always find it interesting to read about the experiences of writers. This book is full of amazing thoughts of a great group of writers. They provide the readers with an unprecedented look at writing and their thoughts on writing itself. 

What was great about this book, was that it took a longitudinal look at these writers and their experiences both from the beginning of their career to today. 

Any person that is trying to be a writer in any sense will definitely open your eyes to how you can be both a better writer as well as getting a better understanding of what it takes to actually make it in this field. This book was great and was definitely a book that provides all readers an opportunity to learn and grow from the experiences of others.

I highly recommend this book!

All opinions expressed in this review are my own and not influenced in any way by the company.  Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Please refer to this site's Disclaimer  for more information. I have been compensated or given a product free of charge, but that does not impact my views or opinions.

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