Family history Writing Life

All is calm, all is bright

Christmas Cactus
Christmas Cactus

As the holidays dwindle down to a few days until Christmas, in the midst of a beautiful Colorado snowstorm, I am enjoying the many ways in which the season surprises and gladdens me. This photo of a Christmas cactus is a perfect example. It is not just any Christmas cactus. It belonged to my mother, and was adopted by a caring friend, who gave it a good home. It is obviously growing and prospering in her care. Links to the past appear in the most amazing ways, whether they be photos from the past or new blossoms on an old plant.

If Santa’s visit is part of your seasonal itinerary, I hope he delivers everything your heart desires. This is a good time to mention my writing bookshelf, those precious resources I consider mandatory to have within easy reach of my desk chair during my working days as a writer.

1. The Associated Press Stylebook –– which lets me know I’m not crazy. All of those rules I learned way back when in Journalism school are still intact. Many of those rules are dead wrong according to the Chicago Book of Style, which sits next to it. But, by golly, I feel affirmed with my trusty AP guide close at hand.

2. Stephen King On Writing — As I told him, I’m not a big fan of his tales of horror, but he sure knows how to live the writer’s life. Furthermore, he passes on his philosophies in a most instructive and educational manner. It is a truly fascinating story about the evolution of a master storyteller.

3. Strunk & White’s Elements of Style — Don’t leave home, or sit at your desk, without it! Small but mighty.

4. Absolutely No Manners: On Having the Audacity to Write Biography, by Susanne George-Bloomfield — a small jewel of a booklet based on a speech by Susanne in Chadron, Nebraska. When my biography pals and I met her at a conference, we surrounded her as if she was a rock star, complete with chants of, “We’re not worthy!” Within this tidy little thome is everything you need to know about writing biography.

5. Biography: The Craft and the Calling, by Catherine Drinker Bowen — If you want to learn more after reading #4, this is your next step. It will fill in any gaps and lead you down the right path toward creating righteous biographical work.

6. Writing and Selling Non-Fiction, by Hayes B. Jacobs — An oldie, but a darn goody.

7. Writer’s Market — Of course. A critical resource for all writers. Acquire an update at least every three years. Just got my new one, Santa, so you don’t need to carry that heavy brick down the chimney for me this year.

Now, if you don’t get the books your heart desires for Christmas, go down to your local bookstore, hold books in your hands, sit down and browse, and buy. Help support your indie bookstores AND writers AND publishers. You’ll be glad you did when we’re all still here a few years down the road.

Joyce Lohse, 12/22/2011