12 Books Recommended by Writers

Has this (or something similar) ever happened to you?
You meet someone and he/she asks, “What do you do?”
You reply, “I’m a writer.” (Or novelist, poet, essayist, etc.)
He/she says, “I’ve been thinking about writing a book. How do I to get started?”
Then somehow, between the dairy section and the checkout line, you are expected to give them all the information and tools needed to write a book, tools you’ve spent decades learning and are still learning. Easy-peasy. Right?

In researching how many people want to write a book, I found the numbers ranged from 200 million to 80% of the population. The annual number of books published in the USA ranges from 600,000 to one million. So where are the other 199 million would be writers? Some may be standing behind you in line at Costco. You want to be helpful, right? We’ve all  been there, trying to come up with the first sentence of our first book or article. We’ve all had experienced writers, teachers, critique groups, etc. who helped us find our voice and learn the craft of writing. We want to pay it forward. But how?

Personal Story: On hearing that I had published a book, two neighbors said they wanted to write a book too. I loaned them books on writing and suggested they attend free meetings at Authors of the Flathead and Montana Women Writers (they didn’t go). A month later, they brought the books back. One said it was too much work and the other, God bless her heart, said “You’re at home every day, so I’ll come over and tell you my story (a memoir), and you can write it for me.” She had a graduate degree, a desire to see her story told, but she wanted to skip the work of learning the craft of writing. I didn’t ghost write her book, but I bought $20.00 worth of stuff I probably don’t need at her garage sell. So all is well.

Writing is a continuous learning experience. With that in mind, I asked several local authors what books they’d recommend for writers and would be writers. Here is a list of their Top 12 books. So, next time someone asks you, “How can I become a writer?” give her this list. If she reads them and comes back for more, you got a budding author.  I’ve also included a link to a list of the 100 best websites for writers.

Thanks for stopping by,

Strunk and White’s: Elements of Style (4 recommendations)

Stephen King: On Writing (3 recommendations)           Sol Stein: Stein on Writing

Jack Bickham: Scene & Structure (2 recommendations and a rave review)

James Scott Bell’s books: Plot and Structure and Voice.

Brenda Uleland: If You Want to Write (1938 – republished many times)

Gotham Writers’ Workshop: Writing Fiction

Sharon m. Lippincott: The Heart and Craft of Lifestory (about writing a memoir.)

J. I. Rodale’s Word Finder                                              Lisa Cron: Wired for Story

Stephen Glazier’s Random House Word Menu. Functions as: a thesaurus, a dictionary, a reverse dictionary; a collection of glossaries. 

Ackerman & Puglisi: The Emotion Thesaurus (check out other books in Thesaurus series)

The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2015 – The Write Life
thewritelife.com/100-best-websites-for-writers-2015                            List is broken down into eight categories: blogging, creativity and craft, entrepreneurship, freelancing, literary agents, marketing, publishing, and writing communities.

My Scary Starry Scar


Sandy Oitzinger

     Guest Blog

By Sandy Oitzinger




My Scary Starry Scar

Before March 24th of this year, the name Merkel for me was loosely associated with my misgivings as a global citizen about mistreatment of the nation of Greece.  Post March 24, however, it looms personally larger because of its part as an identifier of a dreaded skin cancer known as Merkel Cell Carcinoma.

As a self-fancied wordsmith, I am deeply affected by the lyricism in the medical community.  The lesion between my right cheekbone and jaw line had to come out, of course, but who knew that there was a “sentinel” node positioned at the angle of my mandible.  With our Firetower landmark, what Helenan would not be impressed by a “sentinel” node?  I was also impressed by the descriptors used to describe cancers.  Did you know that some cancers are “indolent,” while others are “avid.”  I don’t mind my sportsmen being avid, but I prefer that my cancers be slothful lay abouts,  please and thank you.  On the upside, there are cancer fighting weaponry drugs we can brandish that inhibit a protein known as the “Programmed Death” (PD-1) cell.  The drug prompts the immune system “to get up out of its rocking chair” and go attack the cancer,” says Paul Nghiem, an investigator with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who led the Merkel cell study.[i]

As a kid, my Sicilian last name, Scire, pronounced “skee-ree,” drew lots of hilarity from the neighborhood kids.  Many thought it should be pronounced Scary as in Sandy Scary-Face.  No big leap to change the appellation to Sandy Scarry-Face, and I’ll tell you why I am just thrilled to do that.  My dermatological nurse and I decided we would do a deep punch on the nodule on my cheek.  It seemed like no big deal at the time. A week later the labs came back and we learned that a wide-extraction along with removal of a small lymph node was needed.  Why? 

Well, the Merkel Cell beasty likes to metastasize into the lungs, brain, liver, etc.  The lab also said the markers for lung cancer were not evident, so my hope was that we caught it early.  In order to avoid a 4-hour only mildly sedated surgery, we opted for a quickly scheduled one-hour surgery under general anesthesia at St. Pat’s in Missoula.  Sentinel lymph nodes material was negative, so we thought we were home-free.  Pathology said there was not enough of a clear margin in the depths below the tumor, however, so a second surgery was scheduled. 

This brought to mind the lesson in tenacity shared by my first college accounting professor, Charlie Mandeville of Carroll College.  He was asked “suppose it’s only a dime?”  His answer:  “You gotta keep lookin’ for that son of a buck UNTIL YOU FIND IT!”  Another upside, we headed off the beasty, by removal of the nodes, and my dermatologist says my healing inflammation may kill off the remaining cells.  We can’t know that though, so another .2 cm must come out. 

Truly, I don’t want to whine about this, but just Google “lyrics with face in the title.”  I lost my uterus 22 years ago, and honestly I barely missed it.  But sheesh, I was just getting to like this face.

In keeping with my usual penchant for itemization, there are many up-sides to this:

  • A neighbor who says: “Your face is still pretty, and now you look so mysterious.”
  • Using up the saggy bits on the right side, a one-sided facelift, if you will.
  • A kind of dimple, though honestly, not that well-placed.
  • When you’ve got this scar thing going on, it’s really an incentive to up your game hair-wise.
  • And BEST OF ALL, there is a very good chance that I may well avoid the kind of cancer that is more likely to shorten my life.

So that’s why I choose to emphasize the planetary part.  For now, at least, my facial scar looks a bit like a descending shooting star.  Or alternatively like a waxing crescent moon.   So if you want to take a picture of me, be sure to take it from the scary, starry side.  That’s the good one.

[i] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/04/19/breakthrough-cancer-therapy-shows-growing-promise/?hpid=hp_no-name_immunotherapy-940am_1%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

Sandy Oitzinger has written a novella series, a memoir and several humor books.  Her service as Helena City Commissioner from 2001 through 2008 informed her work and family life at the time.  In retirement she remains active enough in her community to annoy any number of people, her adult children chief among them.  Sandy received word on June 9, 2016 that her two facial surgeries to treat Merkel Cell Carcinoma worked, and she is now cancer free.















July in Northwest Montana means Going to the Sun

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: Delighted to say that my Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries are now available in audio book! ASSAULT & PEPPER, Book 1, and GUILTY AS CINNAMON, Book 2, released from Tantor Audio on CD and MP3 downloads. The large print version of GUILTY AS CINNAMON will release in August. The third in the series, KILLING THYME, will release October 4 in paperback, ebook, and audio, with the large print version available later in the year.

I’ve also just completed a short story in the Food Lovers’ Village mystery series to keep readers abreast of the goings-on in Jewel Bay and the adventures of Erin, Wendy, and their families while waiting for the next book in the series. CARRIED TO THE GRAVE, the short story, will be available in August from Amazon, or as a free download to my newsletter subscribers. Make sure you’re signed up through my website!