Startle and Illuminate

I love writing guides. Even if I don’t accept all the advice, I love how they offer us insights into the creative process, techniques for approaching an idea or text, and biographical details. Stephen King’s On Writing and Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird are two of my favourites. I think I was set on this path when my medieval studies professor in undergrad recommended a book on writing creative non-fiction, “to help us with our essays.”

Today another writing guide goes on sale, by one of our finest writers. Startle and Illuminate: Carol Shields on Writing offers Shields’ writing (and life) advice. Her daughter Anne Giardini and grandson Nicholas Giardini gathered the gems from Shields’ essays, novels, and lectures.

It’s sure to be a hit with readers who love Shields’ work, as well as writers, librarians, and students and teachers of creative writing.

Let me suggest to you that when a writer sits down to write, there are two people at the keyboard, not one. There is the performer, the creator, the storyteller. And seated next to her, or perhaps crouched inside her, is the source—that being who has laid down a bedrock of thought, of experience, or perhaps of bewilderment and inexperience, and she is now eager to write out of the sum or distillation of that reserve, to name what Philip Larkin once called ‘the million-petaled flower of being.’

—Carol Shields



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