Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review of Booklife by Jeff VanderMeer

In Booklife, fantasy author and multitasker extraordinaire Jeff VanderMeer offers readers a special kind of book: a hard-hitting, no-nonsense guide to establishing, maintaining, and protecting a workable writing lifestyle, paired with a mega-dose of commiserative encouragement in the form of personal anecdotes, essays, and shared blueprints. VanderMeer has been around the publishing industry, in its many manifestations, long enough to be brimming with useful advice for authors climbing the ranks behind him. As a man who obviously knows how to think outside the box, he offers ideas that spur his readers to abandon the status quo in favor of a more daring, more rewarding adventure.

VanderMeer’s style of communication can only be described as generous. No arrogance, smugness, or cynicism to be navigated here. He comes across as a big brother, reaching down to help his less experienced siblings up a step on the ladder. In many ways, his reserved enthusiasm is worth the price of admission by itself. But VanderMeer offers much in the way of practicality as well, namely an incredibly thorough exploration of the “public booklife.” His suggestions span the gamut from formulating realistic goals and analyzing trends to establishing publicity platforms and navigating public relations.

He offers an intuitive and adamant model, in which he demands separation between public and private booklives, insisting that no author can work at full speed without separating the two very different sides of the writing coin. In stressing the need to routinely readjust the two booklives in a quest for balance, he also offers a wonderful set of chapters on building the private booklife to allow optimum creativity and productivity. He rounds off the book with a treasure trove of appendices, including his outline of “How to Write a Novel in Two Months.”
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