Book Review: Kicking In the Wall

1608681564.01._PC_SCLZZZZZZZ_Time for another book review. No giveaway this time, while reading the book, I began writing in it, but more on that in a minute.

Title: Kicking In the Wall: A year of writing exercises, prompts, and quotes to help you break through your blocks and reach your writing goals.

Whew, that’s a super long sub-title (I can’t really complain, the one on my next book requires a gatefold, too.)

Details: Paperback, 233 pages. Published by New World Library. Price: $15.95

Author: Barbara Abercrombie.  Here’s an excerpt from her website:

Barbara Abercrombie has published novels, children’s picture books, including the award winning Charlie Anderson, and books of non-fiction. Her personal essays have appeared in national publications as well as in many anthologies. Her most recent books are Courage & Craft: Writing Your Life Into Story and Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They’ve Loved & Lost. Her latest writing book, A Year of Writing Dangerously, was just published by New World Library, and chosen by Poets & Writers Magazine as one of the best books for writers.

Barbara Abercrombie

Barbara Abercrombie

What I like about the book: This is a book with 365 writing prompts in it. Each page starts with a quote in a gray-screen box, followed by one or several prompts that somehow relate to the quote. This idea appeals to me.

Even better, the prompts are strong and interesting. Examples:

23. Write about a time you worried about something, but then nothing happened. Did you feel foolish? Relieved? Disappointed?

102. Write about a time you couldn’t see. Literally or figuratively.

162. Write about someone carrying a purse. How they carry it, or where they put it when entering a room.

The idea behind each prompt is to spend five minutes writing about the prompt, whatever shows up in front of you. It’s a traditional free-writing method, and very effective.

My favorite chapter is at the end–a collection of five-minute writings by her pupils, using the prompts in the book. It was fascinating to read answers to the same prompt from different people to see how perspectives vary.

What I didn’t like: Not much. I’d like to be told a bit more about the quotes at the top of each page–perhaps I should know all these authors, but I don’t. In the back of a book is a bibliography followed by a list of all authors quoted. That should allow me to cross reference and find who wrote what. It doesn’t always work that way. For example, Clive Barker’s quote is on page 41, but his work is not listed in the Bibliography. Maybe the quote is from this Clive Baker. Or this Clive Barker. It’s a small gripe, but as someone who uses quotes books for reference, I like them easy to use.

*     *     *
You could answer the questions in any order, checking them off as you go. The quotes sometimes support fiction writers, sometimes non-fiction, sometimes discovery questions for journalers.

Some pages have enough white space to write on. That’s how I accidentally started to write in the book. For a flash, I thought, “this would be a great commonplace book, writing in the book and commenting on the prompts, dating the pages I write on as I go along.” After a while, I thought, “this would work so well in my new collage piece, particularly if I tear up and use some of these prompts.” I abandoned both ideas, but maybe not forever. I just don’t know yet. And until I do, I’m not ripping up anything. But I may do more writing in the book.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer intrigued with quotes and resulting prompts, even if she’s not sure which Clive Barker said, “I think the fear of insanity touches everyboy who works in the imaginative arts, who is really plunging deeply into themselves.”

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: Kicking In the Wall

  1. We do this every week in our writing group. The leader for the day gives a prompt: photo from a magazine, sentence beginning, I remember . . . and we write for about 10 minutes. I love prompts.

  2. Serendipity, or an idea whose time has come? 10 years ago a lady in our writers’ group produced a loose leaf book with 300+ lined 8.5 inch pages and a quote or writing prompt at the top of the page. She titled it “Write On!” The idea was the same. Pick a prompt and write whatever appeared on that small screen TV in our heads. Small prompt – whole page to fill in. It was a free-fall writing exercise and the first time I had ever heard of free-fall writing. I still have it. The book was too big to carry around and so ended up on a bookshelf. But I may have to take another look at it…

    • it’s a great recyclable idea. For years, I wrote prompts for myself (as I thought of them) on index cards. Then every morning, I’d grab a random card and fill it up with writing–and put it in a box. Prompts and reactions that I could track over time.

  3. I love the idea of writing prompts, but rarely feel I have the time to do them even though I know how good it feels once you do a 5-minute writing exercise. Great review!

  4. Sounded interesting, so I checked it out in Amazon. Turns out there’s a Kindle version of this book too. Sure you can write the exercises down in a journal or whatever but to me that just would not be the same as writing them in the book. It is an exercise book in away, after all. And I’d bet part of the power of this kind of writing has to do with you writing in the book. Maybe. Anyway, it’s interesting that they have thought that this kind of a book would work as an ebook too.

    • Well, ummmm, I guess I could see reading the prompt and then writing in a journal. Or copying the prompt into your journal. Not every page can be written on, but the one that gave me space, well, I took it. And I do kind of like that.

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