Amanda Reads: Several Short Sentences about Writing

This week, my reading is brought to you by my MFA program’s summer reading list for incoming students. That’s right, I’m going back to school! I couldn’t be happier that this year, the crisp scent of fall will bring with it once again the smell of notebooks, textbooks, and pretending for a litle while that wearing makeup on the regular is a thing I do. Ahh, back to school season.

In some ways, having summer reading feels familiar. In other ways, it does not. For instance, the fact that I read most of Several Short Sentences About Writing either in Pittsburgh or on a Greyhound as states I’d never been to whizzed by outside. Or crept by at a snail’s pace, it sometimes seemed.

Now I am safely tucked away on my friend Nicki’s couch in Idaho (I’ll wait while you make the apparently obligatory potato joke). While she is at work, I am cranking out my first blog post in quite some time. With one summer reading book out of four completed, the rest of my vacation is stacking up nicely to include a lot of reading.

So, about this book. Its author, Veryln Klinkenborg, nicely balances humor with seriousness as he gives advice to writers on how best to revise and improve their work. It is full of exercises and activities to try, many of which seemed very helpful. For the first 50 or so pages, however, I got quickly irritated by just how often Klinkenborg brings our attention back to the sentence. The sentence, the sentence, the sentence. That being said, his advice about said sentence is sound, his desire to bring our attention to it important. Just. Repetitive. A bit.

By the end, I found that I understood entirely why this book was on my syllabus. The advice is short, sweet, and to the point. Occasionally, it is a bit overdramatic about how much our education system has failed us (and it has, in many ways, failed the creative writer inside so many students). I think reading this book has given me a lot of tools to help me be a better writer, help me recognize my own patterns of writing and the repetitiveness in my own constructions. To all who want to be better writers, I recommend it. Just bring your patience with you, because you will read the word “sentence” about a million times. But of course, what else does the title lead us to expect?


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