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In a Field of Words: A Creative Writing Text

"An innovative text for beginning-level creative writing, this volume is designed to help aspiring writers find words for their stories and give them shape. It includes guidelines for writing fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry and features invaluable tips and techniques for getting started, solidifying ideas and finding help in all elements of writing. The text incorporates ample practice exercises.


"This book is intended for the beginning creative writer who has perhaps written a few poems and stories but who has not had formal instruction. The book does not expect that its user knows the language of poetry or fiction, or that he or she has read more literature than the average college freshman has read. Its main goal is to provide basic instruction in three genres—poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. But its method is to present ways to get started, things to write about, and directions to look for help in all elements of writing including first publication.

"The book assumes that creative writing provides personal fulfillment and that most people who are interested in writing have an aptitude for it and can, through creative writing courses and other means, find ways to develop their abilities. Also, it assumes that everyone has a story to tell or a poem to write, and that people learn to write mostly by writing. This book will help beginning creative writers to find words for their stories and to give their stories a shape.

"Besides serving as a basic text, this book can be used as a self-help book by individual writers putting forth their first efforts. The chapters of the book need not be used in order, since the organization is flexible and responsive to the user's needs. There is enough material in each chapter to use it as a beginning text for a one- or two-genre course, or the book can be used to introduce all three genres—fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry—to the aspiring writer.

"We have included an abundance of examples of everything that we discuss, and these vary from the immediately accessible to the difficult, partly to enthrall very different new writers n the pleasure of words, but also to underscore our shared belief that good writing is a wide and varied field.

"The text was fun to write. We hope that it will be equally fun to read and that it will be an enjoyable guide for those who wish to wander through the word-field, gathering and scattering."

Excerpt above from A Word of Introduction. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

"This is an amazing book! Opening it for teaching ideas (which are abundant and enticing), I find myself reading for pure pleasure, as I would in a rich anthology -- dipping in and out of the book and finding, on every page, something compelling, delightful, and relevant. Different from most creative writing texts, even the authors' exposition is engaging, like a good conversation with trusted teachers who know their students well: know their interests and frames of reference, their misunderstandings and apprehensions about writing, and their needs for a wide range of choices of writing activities. I've been writing and publishing for years, but I'm getting many new ideas for myself, including different ways to keep a journal and kinds of poems I'd never thought about writing. I can hardly wait to share this book with my students." - Ingrid Wendt

"In A Field of Words introduces readers to all three genres of creative writing: fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Elements of each of these types of writing are described, and then stories that illustrate these elements are provided. The stories are generally accompanied by questions designed to provoke thought regarding the element of writing they represent and followed by a series of writing exercises. Extra writing exercises, some of which are designed to be used by groups and some of which are individual exercises, are available in chapter 7. The book also covers often-neglected topics like journal keeping, experimental fiction, and even (in appendices) publishing and the Internet. The plethora of exercises (they seem almost never-ending) is one of the greatest strengths of this book, emphasizing that the best way of learning to write is to write. But the stories given as examples are also worth extra attention because, while many writing texts focus on well-known and often-anthologized pieces, Estess and McCann have chosen less popular stories that readers are less likely to be familiar with. Unfamiliar stories are more likely to be read closely, thus enabling readers to better concentrate on the element of writing under consideration. The appendices are particularly useful, especially the first one, “Publishing in Journals.” Although intended for beginners, In A Field of Words is equally useful for my experienced writers because it offers so much more in terms of variety than most texts are able to provide." - Melissa Wellington

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