Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark (and Green Tea Sherbet)

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 | 2 Comments »
Tags: , , , , , | Categories: Food, reviews, Writing |


Inspired by my DW writing buddies to explore the wealth of inspiration that writing books provide, I bought a book.  It’s by Roy Peter Clark, and it’s called Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.   I picked it because it received good reviews on Amazon and because its four sections have great headers: Nuts and Bolts, Special Effects, Blueprints, and Useful Habits.

I’m more than 2/3 in, and I agree with the good reviews.  I really do like the overall organization of the book, though, as with any book that attempts as grand a task as teaching people how to write better, there are bound to be some things that one already knows.  Even for the seasoned writer (which I’m not, by the way) this book will probably offer some insight into the craft of writing, or inspire inspiration for starting new projects.

The writer’s voice is clear and unpretentious.  With each “tool”, as he calls them, he includes example text from a variety of media (journals, newspapers, novels, poems, plays) and at the end he advises us on how to use the tool in question.

To give you an idea, here are a few random tools from each section:

  • Tool 2: Order words for emphasis
  • Tool 18: Set the place with sentence length
  • Tool 26: Use dialogue as a form of action
  • Tool 34: Write from different cinematic angles.
  • Tool 40: Draft a mission statement for your work

What I like most about the book is probably that there are so many examples from texts, and the author explains how certain effects are created successfully in each example.  It’s like watching a magician’s act deconstructed–I go from amazement to dawning comprehension and then on to admiration.

Highly recommended for all writers who want to improve their polishing skills, especially for beginning writers who want to tighten up their prose; I myself am both.  Also good for writers who love to read about writing.

green tea sherbetIn other news, I made a green tea sherbet this morning with my Donvier ice cream maker.  There’s really not much of a recipe involved–I used green tea matcha powder, whisked it into some hot water until it was smooth and frothy, then combined it with some whole milk and simple syrup (you can google for a recipe; very easy to make).  I just added enough milk to make the mixture a pretty green and then added enough simple syrup to make it taste as sweet as I wanted.  Then cooled the mixture in an ice bath for about ten minutes (if you use simple syrup straight from the stove, you definitely have to cool it!) to get it about room temperature or cooler.   Then into the ice cream maker it went!

I’ve already had two servings of the stuff since coming home; it’s just too hot to go without some kind of frozen dessert in the summer, especially in Hawaii.    The resulting sherbet is a rich green color that reminds me of spring, and offers a light, refreshing flavor.  When you’re drinking matcha green tea you’re actually ingesting the powdered leaves, the entire essence of the green tea, making the drink even healthier than normal green tea where you just drink the juice that comes out after an infusion.  It’s a dessert that’s not just tasty and attractive, but good for you too!

  • http://www.poynter.org Roy Peter Clark

    Crystal: I’ve very grateful for your generous review of my book “Writing Tools.” I especially enjoyed it in a post that also described your green tea sherbet (which happens to be about the same color as the cover of my book). I love metaphors that try to get at the writing process, and cooking is a reliable one. A plan for a story is like a recipe. Sometimes we put a work “on the back burner” because it’s not ready yet. We test it out when we think it is “done.” (And I recently described one of my own weaker efforts as “half-baked). So keep cooking, Crystal, in the kitchen and especially at the keyboard. Cheers. — Roy Peter Clark

    • http://talkbabble.rambly.net Tam

      Hello! It’s so nice of you to comment! However did you find this blog, though? Roy Peter Clark has secret tracking gremlins? ;D

      Your book is lovely. The more I read–am on the last ten–the more inspired I am to writewritewrite. So I was wondering: would it be all right for me to share a few snippets of the book, 3 or 4 paragraphs at most, on this blog or on a writing community I frequent? It might give my friends, who also like books about writing, to decide if they want to go ahead and make a purchase.

      …I wonder if the tracking gremlins will miraculously forward this comment to you.

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