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Solid advice from a prolific, soulful author who started late and is still going strong as a marvelous essayist.

Book Review: One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft by Susan Tiberghien

Becoming a serious writer at the age of 50, Susan Tiberghien, author of One Year to a Writing Life, unleashed her creativity at the right time. We are the benefactors of her sincere efforts to teach us to trust – to trust in writing as a process, a blueprint for finding our way, both in what we desire, and what we want to write.

"If we clear away the clutter, our creativity overflows and touches those around us. … We do this with words, finding our stories in the dark and sharing them in the light," says Tiberghien in her clear, strong way with words.

Are you ready to refine your writing skills, choosing better words, sharpening your revision skills, and opening your creative mind?

In One Year to a Writing Life, you might dive into the section that piques your interest, and enhance your skill at your genre, or begin as many of us do, with journal writing – meaningful journal writing, which Tiberghien calls "the most natural opening into a writing life."

The meticulous organization of One Year to a Writing Life contains a subtle blend of instruction soaked in inspiration. It reveals specific steps in writing a good personal essay, and a clear definition of the elements of a good travel essay. It moves on to fiction, where Tiberghien shares a wealth of strategies for improving stories with clear dialog. She addresses the questions of "How can characters come alive in a fictional landscape?" and "How can this be done in a short story?" And she won't leave your side until you've learned how to study stories and find answers to these questions.

Improving and making our writing marketable requires honing and revising. Tiberghien could deliver an entire seminar based solely on "Lesson Eleven: Rewriting." In it, you don't get away with leisurely reading. You analyze a piece of your own writing, and work through the elements of a checklist, using it as a laser beam to detect weak spots, moving your writing from the personal to the universal.

Tiberghien invites readers to work through One Year to a Writing Life at their own pace. The "year" metaphor can keep you motivated, delving into one chapter each month, or like me, you can buzz through the book and the generous resources, come up for air, and be a better writer, on the fast track.

For the serious writer, Tiberghien puts a lot of energy into her bibliographies, so don't ignore the fine print. There is one bibliography corresponding to works mentioned in each of the 12 lessons, one by author, and another that's a goldmine of selected anthologies and reviews.

If you enjoy writing but desire to go deeper, and be a better, more thoughtful writer, this guide will truly help you reach your core.

About Helen Gallagher

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