Part 1: How Many Writing Books Do You Need? Even One New Idea Makes a Book Worthwhile

by Kendra Bonnett on August 11, 2012

catnav-alchemy-activePost #59 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

How many writing books do you need? This is an interesting question, and one we’ve received from a few readers. As you probably know, we’re running an introductory sale this week to kick off the publication of Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep. After our first email went out, Matilda received a question from one of our readers asking us why she needed another writing book.

Although I made this the subject of Friday’s email, I wanted to write a blog post on the subject because it is an important issue. In fact, because it’s such a good question and because we have a lot to say on the subject, I’ve decided to break my answer into several posts.

In considering how to approach this subject in Part 1, I was reminded of something my mother once said. Moo, as we called her, was a commercial artist for many years…actually until I was born, when she felt she couldn’t devote herself to a growing family and remain dedicated to her art. It was the 50s, and that was still the prevailing thinking. Lucky for us, family won.

Florence Lin today -- Chinese cook and teacher extraordinaire

Florence Lin today -- Chinese cook and teacher extraordinaire

Moo found a new artistic outlet in cooking…everything from the comfort foods that warmed our tummies on cold winter nights to gourmet and international, multi-course feasts fit for royalty. On any night, my family and I could expect to be treated to anything from a Scandinavian smorgasbord to a Sichuan banquet to savory Japanese okonomiyaki to rich, garlicky Fettuccine Alfredo to Jewish deli delights, including homemade gefilte fish and derma.

In the mid 50s, she started taking Chinese cooking lessons with Florence Lin of the China Institute in New York City–who through her teaching and cookbooks stands as one of the first ladies of Chinese cooking in America today (and who in her 90s is still going strong). In all, Moo must have taken Chinese cooking lessons for some 30 years.

And that was not all. Moo also studied Japanese, Mexican and Thai cooking. She was a marvel in the kitchen, and suffice to say, we ate well. It really is a wonder that we’re not all as big as houses.

One Good Idea Makes the Book Worthwhile

When my mother passed away, I inherited her collection of cookbooks. By my count, it’s close to 500 books. In addition, I have boxes of recipes she either clipped or invented. We’d go into a bookstore, and she’d head for the cookbooks while I usually browsed history and biography. I asked her one day why she had so many cookbooks. She didn’t hesitate with her answer:

“I’m always looking for something new or better or different. Even if I only get one good recipe out of a book, it’s worth it to me because it makes me that much better of a cook.”

Moo books

Part of Moo's collection of cookbooks and paperbacks

This was not some flip answer to silence me. She lived by this. Cookbooks were tools to her, not pretty ornaments lining the shelves of her kitchen. If a cookbook only held one recipe of value, she often cut it out and added it to her recipe files and discarded the book. I know, the thought makes me shiver a bit too. Later, when she had a smaller home copier, she’d photocopy what she wanted and give the book to my sister or me. As I scan the shelves I built for her collection, I smile. I see the wear, the worn covers, dog-earred and Post-It annotated pages. I’ve left them all in place, knowing that there is a culinary treasure waiting for me to find on every indexed page.

MrsBut her answer, which had made complete sense to me at the time, stuck with me. And I’ve found that through the years it’s a philosophy I’ve made my own. My home today is filled with books–hers and mine. As is Matilda’s although out of necessity she gave a lot of her books away when packing up the California home for the move to Oregon. And now that I have an iPad, I feel even freer to acquire the books I want and need. For fun, I counted the writing books on my shelves and in my iPad. I have at least 212 books. And most are dog-earred and underlined and filled with Post-It notes. I guess I really did learn my mother’s lessons.

One Reason to Add Writing Alchemy to Your Shelves

cover-mb-1This brings us back to the question at hand: How Many Writing Books Do You Need? If you’re dedicated to your craft, then you’ll probably subscribe to my mother’s philosophy: There’s always more to learn.

Matilda and I have been careful not to plow the well-tilled ground of so much writing instruction. We’ve forged a new and transformative system for you in a book that includes anecdotes from our writing lives, tools, techniques, exercises, step-by-step instruction and videos. Yes, you read that right. Writing Alchemy contains video content that we will continue to add to and refresh in the months and years to come.

In addition to Deconstruction, which is the heart of our Writing Alchemy system and the subject of a future post in this series, we also bring you some powerful new writing tools and techniques adapted from the best research in the fields of psychology, sociology and communication. The insight you will gain into character motivation, personality, emotions and the real meanings behind people’s words will enrich your stories and engage your readers. I’ll go into this in greater depth as well in a later post of this series.

AWEsome Things Begin on August 15

I want to leave you with this. If you already have your copy of Writing Alchemy then register your book today. You’ll find the link on page “v” of the book. This will enter you as a Charter Member in our Association for Writing Excellence (AWE). And it’s free to you for life. Do it now because on August 15th we are hosting our first webinar…and it’s available only to AWE members.

If you haven’t gotten your copy of Writing Alchemy yet, this is the week to act. You will save $5 off the regular price and receive your FREE Charter Membership in the Association for Writing Excellence. To read more about Writing Alchemy and the Association for Writing Excellence, follow this link. And get started transforming your writing, today.

TWEET THIS ARTICLE: #writing One new idea. It’s how to judge the value of adding a new writing book to your shelf.

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