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Writing radar : using your journal to snoop out and craft great stories
2017
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  Publishers Weekly Review

In an excellent guide for aspiring authors, Newbery Medalist Gantos distills his creative writing expertise into breezy chapters, emphasizing the value of keeping a journal-and using stories he wrote in his youth as proof. Gantos provides concrete examples for developing technique (set writing goals, create suspense, give characters emotional depth) and activating "Writing Radar," or heightened awareness: "You need a certain writerly attitude as you walk down the street-a kind of stealthy, snoopy, slinky, shifty, sinister, and silent confidence." Assisted by drawings, maps, word lists, tips ("Every painful moment in life is a story waiting to be told"), and extracts from his juvenilia, Gantos exemplifies the steps to authorial success. Though encouraging ("I want you to be the best brilliant writer"), he doesn't minimize the work involved and advises multiple rewrites (each with a specific purpose), illustrated as a layer cake. And while the book is directed at serious writers in the making, there's enough exaggeration and grossness to keep readers laughing, too; no doubt, Gantos still has a few more tricks up his sleeve. Ages 9-12. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-8-You might expect that the writing method of the author of such no-holds-barred tales as Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs, and the Newbery Award-winning Dead End in Norvelt would be chaotic. You might picture him plucking bizarre anecdotes from his own frenzied noggin and slapping them together in a blind delirium of inspiration. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Gantos has taught writing for almost as long as he has been a published author, and it shows in this entertaining yet disciplined guide to the writing process. He takes a true craftsman's approach-sketching inspirations and taking notes, assembling the work piecemeal before fitting it together, and then going over the whole in multiple passes like a carpenter embellishing, sanding, and varnishing his work. The author's explanations of these steps, illustrated by his goofy cartoons and exemplified by captivating pieces of short fiction, are sensible and straightforward. "Don't be that writer who waits all day for the perfect first sentence," he advises, "or you will grow old while learning to hate yourself and writing." Readers as well as writers will benefit from this structured approach. Being able to identify story elements is essential for critique: If characters don't ring true, is it the result of inadequate exposition of their interior life, or is it the dialogue that doesn't work? Even experienced reviewers will learn a thing or two. VERDICT A must for aspiring writers.-Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
<p> The Newbery Award-winning author of Dead End in Norvelt shares advice for how to be the best brilliant writer in this funny and practical creative writing guide perfect for all kids who dream of seeing their name on the spine of a book. </p> <p>With the signature wit and humor that have garnered him legions of fans, Jack Gantos instructs young writers on using their "writing radar" to unearth story ideas from their everyday lives. Incorporating his own misadventures as a developing writer, Gantos inspires readers to build confidence and establish good writing habits as they create, revise, and perfect their stories. Pop-out text boxes highlight key tips, alongside Gantos's own illustrations, sample stories, and snippets from his childhood journals. More than just a how-to guide, Writing Radar is a celebration of the power of storytelling and an ode to the characters who--many unwittingly--inspired Gantos's own writing career.</p>
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