During my early years as a writer, I used to read books and articles about writing over lunch. I was housebound by illness much of the time, and the days could be long and lonely, especially when the writing wasn’t going very well. So in a very real way those books were company – a home-grown version of a masterclass series, my own Algonquin round table. There in my sunny kitchen, I could almost hear the authors talking to me: Katherine Paterson, Anne Lamott, William Zinsser, E. M. Forster, Gayle Brandeis, Maurice Sendak, Mollie Hunter, Barbara Tuchman, Syd Field, Elizabeth Berg, Madeleine L’Engle, Lloyd Alexander, Barbara Kingsolver, and E. L. Konigsburg. They gave me the encouragement to get up from the table and try once again to make my own writing sing.
My life is busier now, and those kinds of lunches are few and far between, but I still love to read books about the writing craft. And now I have a new favorite to lunch with: Views from a Window Seat: Thoughts on Writing and Life by Jeannine Atkins.
Jeannine is a wonderful writer of poetry and children’s books, and her strengths include gifts for metaphor, for uncovering past lives, and for honing in on telling details. I discovered her blog (also called Views from a Window Seat) when I was a young mother trying to find my way back to a regular writing practice. It quickly became one of my favorite ports of call. Since then, I’ve had the delight of getting to know her in person, too – and she’s just as thoughtful and interesting and warm-hearted as her blog is.
Jeannine is always honest about the writing life, sticky bits and all – the confusion, the excitement, the anxieties, the isolation, the delights. I read her posts and nod and laugh in recognition: I’ve felt that way, too, I think.
But here’s the most amazing thing about her blog: It makes me want to write.
So you can see why I’m thrilled to have this collection of Jeannine’s essays. Drawn in part from the blog, it considers the various seasons and stages of writing: beginnings, middles, revision, and endings. On pretty much every page, you’ll find wise advice and encouragement, all offered with empathy and humor. If you’re looking for your own lunchtime masterclass, I highly recommend it.