Jim Stasiowski, writing coach

Jim Stasiowski, writing

Writing coach Jim Stasiowski welcomes your questions or comments.

Call him at
(775) 354-2872
or write to:
2499 Ivory Ann Drive
Sparks, NV 89436.

Insights from the library I have amassed in 40 years of buying books about writers and writing:

“(Willie) Morris had a way of engaging writers in conversation on diverse subjects; when the writer began to glow and verbally roll, he would simply say, ‘Write about that for me.’” From “None But a Blockhead: On Being a Writer” by Larry L. King, referring to King’s editor at “Harper’s.” (Larry L. King is not the TV interviewer.)

“Writing fiction has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists.” From “One Writer’s Beginnings” by Eudora Welty.

“Today’s press agent regards the newspaper as a ventriloquist does his dummy.” From “Understanding Media” by Marshall McLuhan.

“Sometimes one hears the warning, ‘Never begin a sentence with “and” or “but.”’ The fact is that good writers do begin with these words. … Don’t be afraid of initial ‘ands’ or ‘buts.’ But use them moderately.” From “The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing” by Thomas S. Kane.

“At the other extreme are the stylists who for one reason or another feel compelled to trouble the waters, to shout their name, and who are conspicuous even to untutored readers. Instead of transparency, (they) find themselves strangely and strongly drawn to opacity. As Richard Lanham says, they do not want their prose to be looked through; they consciously or unconsciously want it to be looked at.” From “The Sound on the Page” by Ben Yagoda.

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” Quotation by Agatha Christie from “Writers On Writing” compiled by Jon Winokur.

“What a difference an apostrophe makes. Every possessive has one, right? Well, not necessarily so. ‘It,’ (like ‘he’ and ‘she’) is a pronoun – a stand-in for a noun – and pronouns don’t have apostrophes when they’re possessives: ‘His coat is too loud because of its color, but hers is too mousy.” From “Woe Is I,” Patricia O’Conner explains why “its” is the possessive form of “it.”

“All stories are ultimately the same story: someone falls in a hole and has to find a way to get out.” From “How To Write” by Richard Rhodes.

“Be a newspaperwoman, Kay, if only for the excuse it gives you to seek out at once the object of any sudden passion.” From “Personal History” by Katharine Graham. (The source of the quotation is Agnes Meyer, Katharine’s mother, speaking to young Katharine.)

“‘Go out and get your own assignment,’ (Dan Wolf) was apt to tell a beginner, and wait for an article to be dropped off … . He would read it, looking for just one paragraph in there, the one paragraph that would tell him that here was a writer who looked at life a little differently, who was an original, an individual. That, and only that, was the essence of a writer to Dan Wolf.” From “The Great American Newspaper: The Rise and Fall of the Village Voice” by Kevin Michael McAuliffe. (Dan Wolf was one of the founders of the Village Voice.)

“Getting from one paragraph to the next smoothly may require a transition. But the best transition is no transition – a story so well organized that one thought flows naturally into the other. The information in one paragraph should raise a question that needs to be answered in the next. Or it can be backed up with a supporting quote or facts in the next.” From “Writing and Reporting News: A Coaching Method” by Carole Rich.

“Ultimately there was no ‘banging out’ a quick story about Ganga Stone. In my writing I usually struggle for simplicity, to find the narrative through line. But Ganga’s story reminded me that people are often motivated by multiple and conflicting factors: religious belief, emotional desire, economic necessity, political conviction. People are complicated. Our stories should be, too.” From an interview with Laurie Goodstein in “1997 Best Newspaper Writing.”

THE FINAL WORD: “Something that is ‘veritable’ is true, or at least figuratively true. George Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in 1988 in a veritable landslide. ‘Virtual’ is different. It carries the meaning of ‘in effect, though not actually.’ Thus, ‘Many families classified as “low income” live in virtual poverty.’” From “Fine Print: Reflections on the Writing Art” by James J. Kilpatrick.