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For Those About to Write: How I Learned to Love Books and Why I Had to Write Them

by Dave Bidini

Despite endless new techno-entertainments that siphon off young people’s creative juices, the urge to write more than text messages miraculously persists. Teachers, librarians, and parents recognizing symptoms of that itch in students and offspring can confidently recommend Dave Bidini’s how-to guide.

A founding member of indie rock band the Rheostatics and an obviously cool guy, Bidini has published several books about sports and music. His earlier YA title, For Those About to Rock, did for hopeful musicians what this book undertakes to do for aspiring Stephen Kings or Margaret Atwoods. Speeding past “write about what you know,” Bidini traces the well-trodden path of the writer in Canada, from infant reader of Dr. Seuss to scribbler of juvenilia, first publishing in school and community papers, fanzines, and small magazines, then making the leap to bigger markets.

Many writers are introverts (not Bidini, obviously), but writing in isolation can be defeating. Bidini emphasizes the need for a “professional” community and offers direction on finding one. He recalls the teachers and mentors crucial in making him a writer – including a laconic young Irishman who taught English at York University and later became author and Globe and Mail columnist John Doyle.

The book is divided into 36 short chapters, in itself a clever demonstration of how manageable chunks can add up to a substantial whole. Bidini treats readers as equals, not dumbing down his language. (A glossary explains specialized terms such as “byline” and “unsolicited.”) Encouraging but ultimately realistic about the writer’s lot, he recounts the great thrill of a $25,000 advance, then recalls that the munificent amount represented years of work.