I am honored to be part of a writer's group facilitated by a Portland-based, New York Times-bestselling author and memoirist. She also happens to be a gifted teacher. As part of her select group, we meet for three hours every Monday and divide our time between workshopping our latest work, discussing certain novels, short stories and essays, and deepening our practice and understanding of the craft. I love it and loathe it (but that's a story for another time).
The beauty here lies in honing the craft of storytelling which defies both genre and industry. Whether it's writing poetry, lyric essay, a screenplay, an ad campaign or a fiction novel, the craft is universally applied. Who's your protagonist and what is their archetype? The Hero? The Mentor? The Trickster? What's their yearning? What's the controlling idea and conflict that's driving the story forward? And why should we care?
This is the stuff books are made of, which is why I have the following stack of tomes next to my bed:
The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative by Vivian Gornick (love this book)
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee
From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler
13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley
The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker
Tell It Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola
A few I added in for fun:
Dear Mr. Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love and Cannibals by Dinty Moore
Best American Essays, 2013, by Cheryl Strayed and Robert Antwan
The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (damn, she's an extraordinary writer)
And a few I read that I can't stop thinking about:
All the Light the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Beautiful Ruins: A Novel by Jess Walter (I'm a sucker for witty, social commentary)