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'Dancing on the Head of a Pen, the Practice of a Writing Life,' by Robert Benson

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"...invites readers into the work and rewards of a writer’s life..."

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Robert Benson is a "writers writer," as well as a critically acclaimed author with a multiplicity of books on spirituality and life. In his July 15 release, Dancing on the Head of a Pen, he answers one of his most frequently asked questions. "Can you tell me how to write a book?"

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In twelve delightful chapters with titles such as, "Dark Marks on a Page," "Go to Your Room," "Six Hundred Words" and "The Jury Box," Benson describes the techniques, disciplines and processes he employs "when he begins to make a book."

He's quick to admit some of the habits and methods he practices are ideas "stolen" from other successful writers. Others he discovered after years of what he describes as "dancing on the head of a pen," reminiscent of the question about the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. While some are disciplines he's stumbled across over the years that equip him to be a better writer, able to deliver a clear message.

He says, writing a book is like starting a new "construction project" except the writers tools of the trade are a "pen and a keyboard and paper and ink." Nothing more. Nothing less. When it's time to start a new project he knows it's time for him to pick up his "tools, pull on his boots and go to work."

He writes about procrastination and warns just as "solitude and silence" are a writers best friend, waiting for the muse to show up is a writers worst enemy. Because the muse shows up "in the midst of the dance he does with the fountain pen on the page."

Bensons' wisdom shines through the pages with practical advice on what to write about, your audience, writers disciplines, word count goals, when to share your work and knowing when the project is finished.

I especially appreciated his lyrical use of words such as:

· "Any writer worth his ink stains..."

· "Writers pause instead of writers block...""

· "Writing in the cracks..."

· "The Affliction That Must Not Be Named..."

· "To begin a book, I select the jury..."

· "Good writing takes time..."

· "The value of slow..."

"Dancing on the Head of a Pin" is filled with realistic tips for talented or aspiring writers on the writing life and useful techniques to consider when writing a book. Benson delivers his advice with deceptive ease, humor and skill that mines his many years of writing experience. He hopes his words will give "writers a way to begin."

"Dancing on the Head of a Pin" is a wise, witty and practical gem. I encourage anyone interested in the craft of writing to pick up a copy, especially readers of Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott and Frederick Buechner.

'Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life,' by Robert Benson,WaterBrook Press (July 15, 2014), 978-1400074358

Midwest Book Reviews—"Gail's Bookshelf:" July 2014

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