Books about writing are a genre all their own, but books on how to write well almost exclusively default to the perspective of the white and cisgender experience of making books. The most popular and well-known books on craft have been from non-Black authors, from Natalie Goldberg's 1986 classic, “Writing Down the Bones,” to the more recent and critically important 2021 bestseller “Craft in the Real World” by Matthew Salesses. According to Publishers' Weekly , despite calls for increased diversity, the publishing workforce is 83 percent white. But especially in a cultural climate hostile to Black creators, we need “How We Do It: Black Writers on Craft, Practice and Skill,” edited by the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown. All of the architecture that is needed in a guide for how to develop as a writer, how to think, practice, and dream on the page is included in this anthologized collaboration with the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Brown writes in the introduction that the invitation to contributors for the book was “a statement quite literally explaining how they go about making what they make.” The result is “a book of answers — answers to questions new writers ask every day about how to produce writing that proves their very identity as a practitioner. In other words, this is a book for anyone who is a student of the craft.” More than 30 writers — poets, novelists, short story writers, and filmmakers — provide this unique compendium of wisdom on techniques and perseverance. The collection is arranged to subvert genre boundaries, almost the way a hip-hop mixtape might strike the listener. It is divided into sections with vernacular titles: “Who Your People?” “What You Got?” “Where You At?” All of which address some of the common questions students of writing typically have: If I should write from lived experience, where do I begin? How do I know when something I'm writing is finished? Who are these random people talking to me in my head, and how do I get to know them? “How We Do It” answers some of these questions and also […]
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