“I’ve always felt that my ‘style’—the careful projection onto paper of who I think I am—was my only marketable asset, the only possession that might set me apart from other writers.” ---William Zinsser

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Sound on the Page


Ben Yagoda’s The Sound on the Page translated his study of writers and writing to the page as inspiration. He examined what writers say about the process of writing and how the words sound on the page, saying “Just as reading is like listening, the act of writing is, or should be, linked to speaking.” On ever-elusive style, he concludes, “Like a face, a style is partly meaningless as a gauge of character, but partly very meaningful indeed. And although it may seem that one’s style is more malleable than one’s face—in writing, all you have to do is delete a word or replace it with another, as opposed to the fuss and bother of plastic surgery—it is in fact unexpectedly hard to alter.” Undeniably, we write in a style that's uniquely our own even as it's difficult to pin down. He proposes that style is made up of competence, iconoclasm, extroversion, feeling, single-mindedness, tension, and solicitousness. Then, he discusses style in the various forms of writing from persuasive writing to poetry. In the end, he gives up and says style cannot be taught but steps can be taken to develop it. He suggests that writers engage in active reading, imitation, copying, reverse imitation, active reading of own work, read aloud, rewrite, and listen to criticism. After acknowledging that “This work, the cleaning of brush to create a walkable path, is never-ending for a writer” Yagoda ends his book with: “Anyone who puts pen to paper can have a prose style. In almost every case, that style will be quiet, sometimes so quiet as to be detectable only by you, the writer. In the quiet, you can listen to your sound in various manifestations, then you can start to shape it and develop it. That project can last as long as you keep writing, and it never grows old.” That's encouraging.

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A Winding Road - Writing

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My book, "Ohio's Lake Erie Wineries," an Arcadia production, explores the history of island and lakeshore wineries from the mid-1800s through today. I write travel, memoir, profiles, book reviews, local interest articles, and fiction. My writing is always of discovery--whether it's journaling, book reviewing, letter writing, or sharing an experience of life. I have written two novels and am working on a third novel and a memoir. I am passionate about sharing what life has to offer with others. "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron woke me up to a sense of possibility--life is too short not be enjoyed by living deeply and well. I created Igniting Possibilities, a conduit for creativity workshops and events, in the hope of guiding others to realize their full potential. The Word Lover's Retreats at Lakeside, Ohio's Chautauqua community, help writers find their voice and direction.