by Kate Wilhelm
Review by Gayle Surrette
Small Beer Press Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 193152016X
Date: 10 July, 2005 List Price $16.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Storyteller starts with the beginning of the Clarion Writers' Workshop and follows it through the years and its constant search for funding, directors, and a home. There are stories about the classes, the students, the teachers, the water guns battles, and writing. There's even a discussion of whether writing can be taught and how it should be taught. The books covers some of the exercises that didn't work and those that did--including a description of the 'red line of death' and how it worked to highlight problems in getting out of the slush pile. At times I laughed out loud as she described some college-related problems of having a writer's workshop on campus but not of the campus.
Interspersed with the observations and reminiscences are some clear explanations of the nuts and bolts of writing. I found the discussion of visual versus constructionist writers interesting as well as the discussion of wordsmiths vs storytellers. There are also some exercises and suggestions for improving your writing by recognizing the problems. This isn't a beginner's book. It assumes that you know the basics and are trying to figure out why you haven't made it out of the slush pile yet. Wilhelm gives you some ways to identify the problems and leaves the solutions up to the writer.
This book should be on the reference shelf of every aspiring writer. Not only is it a gift of insight and experience of a wonderful writer but it's also a fine story of the growth of a renowned writing workshop. Highly recommended.