Have you ever searched for something in a bookstore that wasn’t there, then stumbled across something amazing? That’s how I found Jeff VanderMeer’s “one of a kind” writing manual. What makes this one stand out above all the rest? It has exquisite, engaging, educational illustrations by Jeremy Zerfoss.
While the book is sure to delight any writer, I suspect those who find learning easier because of the “intelligence” Howard Gardner calls visual/spacial ability in his theory of multiple intelligences will rejoice. But though it is highly illustrated, don’t expect the highly illustrated Wonderbook to be as fast a read as a child’s book. The book is as packed with information as it is with illustrations. And it doesn’t matter, at least not to me, that VanderMeer uses fiction examples. The book gives solid insight into the creative – VenderMeer calls it imaginative fiction – and story. Both weigh heavily in life narrative, I realized a couple of weeks later when I heard VanderMeer speak. Unbeknownst to me when I bought the book, Jeff VanderMeer was on the 2014 Arkansas Literary Festival schedule.
As VenderMeer spoke I viewed the magnificent illustrations from the book, and a few others used with permission like those associated with a fight scene from the Gormenghast trilogy by Mervyn Peake. I realized much of the content is applicable to my stories, stories from real life. While memorists, true-tale-tellers, and writers of creative nonfiction can’t alter facts, there are things we can change without losing credibility. We can alter the order in which events occur. We can choose where to cut away (page 163) which combined with “Intercutting scenes” (page164-5) can help life writers explore options we might not have considered.
Is a trip to a writer’s conference not in your 2014 budget? For $25 or less you can create a home writer’s event through Wonderbook and join me this summer in learning to draw (with words) the world of our lives better. And, yes, if it will help you feel more like you’re in the location of one of those writing events, spring for the cost of a new local dish or order a drink with an umbrella in it!