For aspiring fiction writers, and those who are amazed by what they do.

February 15, 2013 | Maureen

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Like many of you, I love a good story. I am also intensely curious about how writers create stories. Where do they get their ideas? What do they read? What inspires them?

To me, writers are conjurers who perform a kind of magic, creating an imaginary world that seems so real I feel as though I’m inhabiting it for a time -- a world populated by people and creatures who do not exist, but who, through the conjurer’s art, blaze into life in my head.

Incredibly, the tragedy and comedy of human existence are fixed onto the page with no more than simple symbols we call letters. One only has to look upon these sorcerer’s symbols and a bridge is instantly formed between the writer’s imagination and the reader’s mind; the magic is so strong that it doesn’t matter if the writer has been long mouldering in his grave – his creations live, and come thundering across that bridge into the reader’s mind where they triumph, fail, fight, dance, love, betray, laugh, weep, are born and die.

When I open a book about writing I feel like Mickey Mouse in the sorcerer’s apprentice scene in the movie Fantasia -– I just can’t resist –- I want to know how the magic is done.

Maybe you made a new year’s resolution to finally write that story you’ve had kicking around in your head for the past few years? For inspiration, come to the Language, Literature and Fine Arts Department at North York Central Library to browse our collection of books on all aspects of writing. Here are three of my favourites. They are not so much concerned with the mechanics of writing, such as the invaluable Elements of Style, as with inspiration and the joy of writing. If you have a favourite book on writing, I'd love to hear about it.

Writing down the bones


Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within

by Natalie Goldberg. 

Written by a woman who has taught writing classes for many years, this affirming book focuses on writing as a practice, not as a career. It is comprised of short, lively chapters (sometimes only a page) which can be read in any order. Here, she explains why she uses cheap spiral notebooks: "Think, too, about your notebook. It is important. This is your equipment, like hammer and nails to a carpenter. Sometimes people buy expensive hardcover journals. They are bulky and heavy, and because they are fancy, you are compelled to write something good. Instead you should feel that you have permission to write the worst junk in the world..."


Zen in the Art of Writing

by Ray Bradbury.

Many know Ray Bradbury as the author of science fiction classics such as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and others. This slim volume is a gathering together of essays on writing written over a span of years, all in Bradbury's distinctive wonderstruck voice. This author is so beloved to me, it is almost a cruelty to have to choose only one of his quotes on writing, so I shall be kind to myself and choose two: "If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer...For the first thing a writer should be is--excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms." And from the same chapter, "The Joy of Writing": "But ideas lie everywhere, like apples fallen and melting in the grass for lack of wayfaring strangers with an eye and a tongue for beauty, whether absurd, horrific, or genteel."


On writing


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King.

Apologies for using a hackneyed phrase, but this book is compulsively readable. It is also highly entertaining, insightful and at times, hilarious. Here is a quote which should help keep all books about writing in perspective: "This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bulls**t...I figured the shorter the book, the less the bulls**t."

Need more motivation? This February the Toronto Public Library welcomed a new writer in residence, Alissa York. Alissa is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Fauna, Mercy and Effigy, and the short story collection Any Given Power. Here is a list of the four upcoming talks Alissa will be giving at North York Central Library:

Surrounded By Stories: A Guide To Getting Inspired -- Saturday, February 23, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm

Sense Of Place: Creating A Convincing Word -- Saturday, March 23, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm

Abiding Obsessions, Recurring Themes: A Panel Discussion -- Thursday, April 25, 6:30 pm-8:30 pm

Origin Story: An Illustrated Reading -- Thursday, May 23, 6:30 pm- 8:30 pm

Call the Language, Literature, Fine Arts Department to register 416-395-5639.