________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV . . . . August 31, 2007

cover

For Those About to Write: How I Learned to Love Books and Why I Had to Write Them.

Dave Bidini.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2007.
125 pp., pbk., $12.99.
ISBN 978-0-88776-769-2.

Subject Headings:
Authorship-Vocational guidance-Juvenile literature.
Bidini, Dave-Authorship-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Kristen Ferguson.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

excerpt:

No writer should be dissuaded from putting pen to paper because they feel grammatically hamstrung: confused about where the semi-colon goes, where to begin and end a paragraph, or whether to capitalize product names (we’ve all got The Elements of Style to help us with that). All young writers should know that without the creative learning curve, there would be no garbage, and without garbage, there would be no literature. 

 

Attention all aspiring writers!  If you are an author, or if you know a young writer who would like to be an author one day, then Dave Bidini’s For Those About to Write: How I Learned to Love Books and Why I Had to Write Them is a must-have. Bidini is known to many as the guitarist in the Canadian band Rheostatics as well as the author of several books for adults, including On a Cold Road (1998) and Tropic of Hockey (2001). In For Those About to Write, Bidini writes for adolescents, and he introduces young writers to the world of writing, editing, and publishing. 

     For Those About to Write is an autobiographical book in which Bidini retells his own personal journey as an author. He recounts his childhood love of writing, writing for school newspapers, his professional experiences as writer including working as a columnist for The Toronto Star, and his later experience in writing books.  Throughout For Those About to Write, Bidini gives tips and advice to young writers from his own experiences. Key technical terms (such as “fanzine”) are set in boldface in the text, explained to the reader, and also included in a glossary at the end of the book for easy reference.

     Bidini shares his successes with his young readers, as well as his failures and difficulties. One of the most heartfelt chapters is entitled “Garbage” in which Bidini describes a novel he wrote that was unsuccessful. It was so bad, he claims, that he will not include an excerpt in this book: “The writing was terrible. It stank. I still hate it.” But Bidini encourages young writers to persevere.  Another highlight of his book is a chapter entitled “The Butcher” in which Bidini shares with young readers the role of an editor and what it is like to have your work edited. He also includes a copy of one of his actual manuscript pages with the editor’s marks over top so that aspiring authors can see how much a work may be changed and even omitted before publication. In both of these chapters, Bidini candidly explains rejection and sharing writing with others, both important lessons for those who want to be authors.

     It is somewhat ironic writing a review of For Those About to Write since Bidini discusses his early years writing reviews (including a negative review about a performance by the band Styx). He also describes being on the receiving end of reviews as an author. He recalls how some critics disliked his book Baseballissimo (2004) and how he felt disappointed about the negative reviews, “slicing and dicing” as he calls it. Reviewers, Bidini writes, need to be dispassionate and have little guilt. He explains why he, himself, had stopped writing reviews because he didn’t want to inflict “pain or self-doubt” on others. However, there is little pain or self-doubt inflicted in this review of For Those About to Write. Bidini’s book would appeal to an adolescent audience. While, at times, I hoped that Bidini would elaborate more, the chapters are short and humourous and would keep the attention of young readers. The book is, indeed, quirky, (“a little higgledy-piggledy,” according to Bidini) and often goes off on tangents, such as the chapter about the escapades of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. However, these digressions, as well as Bidini’s prosy vernacular style, make For Those About to Write an enjoyable read.

     For Those About to Write is recommended for any young person (preteen or teen) who enjoys writing and who may be interested in a career as a writer. Bidini provides adolescents with a unique perspective into a career known only by a few. I can think of no other book for young writers which would provide such insight and passion for the written word.

Recommended.

Kristen Ferguson, who teaches Language Arts at the Faculty of Education at Nipissing University, is a doctoral student in Education at York University.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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