Some people are writing more than ever, others aren’t writing at all.

Some editors are overwhelmed with submissions, others are extending their deadlines for contests and themes because submissions are down.

Writers’ responses to the pandemic are as varied as any other group. As floundery…as dedicated…as anyone.

One thing that’s stayed consistent is my reading about writing. Each year, I read eight books on the topic and chat about them on my writing website. Not that it’s easy to split the writing-me and the reading-me into parts, but my other site mainly serves as a portfolio, so I can include fewer links when I pitch for freelance work and—every six weeks—I also review one writing resource. Spoiler: it’s nearly always a book. (They’re all listed here.)

NOTE: Reading about writing is also an excellent means of procrastinating—when you don’t want to write, but feel too guilty just sitting around watching TV? Reading is a distraction. Reading about writing…it’s very nearly a lot like practically as good as…really writing.

But with the library operating curbside-only, I’m never browsing their collections, which means my borrowing is limited to deliberate, premeditated choices. Maxing out my card means more of the books I was planning to read, fewer whimsical choices (i.e. none at all).

So I’m gradually making inroads with my “saved” lists on various themes, including my “shelves” for Creativity and Writing.

NOTE: By “inroads”, I mean that the number of books is hovering about the same, and by “about the same” I mean increasing by a few dozen each month, because I continue to add to the database every few days. So, “inroads”, because it’s no longer spiralling wildly out of control. (Not dramatically. But it’s still a whole lotta crazy.)

Janet Burroway’s book is commonly assigned in creative writing classes. I borrowed an earlier edition shortly after we moved to Toronto but, for years, it was something I’ve heard about from other people reading and studying it.

It’s expensive, too, so I was ridiculously happy to find a copy of the eighth edition second-hand a couple of years ago. (A bargain at $20!) It felt like no time at all, after that, when the tenth edition was announced—inexpensive and about half as long—so I added it to my library list instantly, but there was always another more intriguing (i.e. New! Shiny! Unfamiliar!) writing book to request instead. Now, out of excuses, I’ve had time to peruse that longstanding list-sitter. 

This is the first time the volume has been published by The University of Chicago Press (which also released a favourite recent read, Jane Friedman’s The Business of Being a Writer) but, other than that, how different is this tenth edition? The most striking difference is that the classic stories are included, in full, in the earlier editions. (And the print is smaller, the margins narrower, and there are just a lot more words.)

As much as I love a reading list, it’s handy to just flip ahead a few pages, to be able to read the story being discussed. No doubt the permissions were expensive and the process of filing all that paperwork every time new works were included (my eighth edition, for instance, added several pieces of flash fiction), but I liked that. [The photograph above shows some of the full collections with stories representing them in earlier editions of Burroway’s text. Lots of my favourite writers!]

So, for once, I’m glad to be a little out-of-date; the eighth edition suits me fine. Now—what to do about the 52 other books about writing that remain on those “saved” shelves? And the six new titles I’m about to add, thanks to the summaries of other University of Chicago Books that I didn’t know about until today?