I love this book because Garrigues talks about her life as a mother and her insecurities as a writer. Filled with humorous anecdotes and realistic writing exercises, this is the first book I turn to when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
“Convinced that birth was the logical place to start, I asked students to tell their birth stories. I had not anticipated such stark accounts of late-term stillbirths, emergency C-sections, and postnatal intensive care, nor had I considered that some women might have alternative birth stories to tell.”
Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott
Even before I got pregnant with my son, I wore this book out rereading it. Lamott writes about being the mother of a new baby with real candor. She writes the things we think as new moms but would never say out loud. Her book is part memoir, part handbook of baby milestones, and part writing advice. Hilarious and touching.
“I just can’t get over how much babies cry. I really had no idea what I was getting into. To tell you the truth, I thought it would be more like getting a cat.”
Ordinary Genius: A Guide for the Poet Within by Kim Addonizio
One of the best books on writing poetry. If you’ve never thought about writing poetry, read this book anyway. Addonizio touches on issues of race, gender, class, and addiction, and helps writers put their thoughts into words. Emphasizes the poetic nature of everyday speech and everyday experiences.
“Look for the next step in your creative journey, and don’t worry about where or how that journey will end.”
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
A classic must-read for any writer of poetry or prose. Rilke explores why we write, and his voice is as alive and present today as it was when this was first published in the 1930s. Deeply moving.
“…there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree…”
Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz
Sensible and practical advice, I come to this again and again when I feel stuck.
“…responding to the happenings in everyday life is often the best place for beginning writers to start.”
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
The only author to make this list twice, Lamott has a way of relating writing to life, making this a self-help book as much as a how-to-write book.
“I wish I had a secret I could let you in on, some formula my father passed on to me in a whisper just before he died, some code word that has enabled me to sit at my desk and land flights of creative inspiration just like an air-traffic controller. But I don’t.”
On Writing by Stephen King
King tells the story of his early life as a writer and father with as much drama as a feature film. I love this book because it is part biography and part how-to, and like a magician sharing his secrets, King lets you in on how he became a master storyteller.
“I took her by the shoulders. I told her about the paperback sale. She didn’t appear to understand. I told her again. Tabby looked over my shoulder at our shitty little four-room apartment, just as I had, and began to cry.”
Page After Page by Heather Sellers
This book is not just about writing, it’s also about reading and developing a love of the written word. Sellers writes humorously about sleeping with large piles of books in her bed. What I love about this book is that the exercises don’t feel like homework, they are fun and engaging.
“Ten minutes, in your journal: Write about your unwritten projects. Interview yourself and find out what it is you really want to write.”
Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life by Faulkner Fox
Fox’s memoir reflects on everything from her writing career to her life as a mother. She discusses issues like attachment parenting, home birth, feminism, and miscarriage. This book does not offer specific writing advice or exercises, but I read it to feel like I’m not alone in the trenches of motherhood.
“When I had a three-year-old and a seven-month-old, I loved my children passionately, and I was also very unhappy. This made me guilty. What did I have to be unhappy about?”
No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
The founder of National Novel Writing Month, Baty discusses how to write a novel in a month. However, this book is so much more than that. It’s really a book about how to give yourself permission to be a writer, and how to find motivation when your energy levels are low. I keep it on my desk and thumb through it again and again while writing.
“If your fiction is anything like mine, you have long since become accustomed to the concept of underachievement.”