A Two for Tuesday Tag Prompt #1

I’ve been thinking of adding an extra day of blogging but got bogged down with the “What” and the “When.” I love how the universe pops up every now and again to answer my call.

This Two for Tuesday tag prompt is the brainchild of Rae (Theeducatednegra.blog, whose tag line I love: If you’re colorblind, you’ll miss the rainbow.) who introduced it last month in her Rae’s Reads and Reviews.

But I learned of it only yesterday, from a new blogging buddy, Janet Morrison, (Janet’s Writing Blog) who has commented here a few times. Thanks to both Rae and Janet. Janet was kind enough to include my memoir in her monthly tally of books she’s read. I’m hoping you’ll enjoy reading her review.

Enough of the introduction. I plan to stay with this Two for Tuesday Tag through February; I’ll see how it goes. You can guide me when my next Survey Monkey comes out.

Today’s prompt: Two books that taught you something.

So many books come immediately to mind, but good girl that I am, I shall stick to the rules and limit myself to the two that have meant the MOST to me in my writing life. Know that there are a zillion more (well, it feels that way).

Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit is a tiny book, one of those 5″x7″ paperbacks (179 pages) that you can get through it in an afternoon. I have the 1987 edition, but the book was first published in 1938.



I remember reading it in the bedroom of my little Chincoteague house. I’d thought it would be one of those I read slowly, over a few evenings before falling asleep. But Ueland spoke directly to me and I couldn’t be rude by putting it down early.

The light went off around 2 a.m. and I fell asleep knowing I was a writer and that I would again write another book (I’d done a textbook with my husband earlier), one that emerged from my soul.

Fortunately for this post, I always read with a pen in my hand. I underline; I take notes (Kindle books, exempted, sadly; though they claim otherwise.). So a quick perusal of my underlines and notes and here’s what I’ve chosen to share on the writing life:

  • Anyone can write (It’s the craft that comes later that makes a book good; but craft can be learned if you’re willing to spend the time (and the $$).)
  • Dare to be idle; let the imagination go free.
  • Writing is just talking, thinking, on paper.
  • It is conceited and timid to be ashamed of your mistakes.
  • Write to your listeners, your reader.
  • “Sit for some time every day (if only for a half hour, though two hours is better and five is remarkable and eight is bliss and transfigurative!) before your typewriter, — if not writing then just thoughtfully pulling your hair.”
  • Do not worry about the whole. Write what is next.
  • The most cowardly person we know … is always trying to please everybody and uneasy if there is a single person even disapproving of their slightest actions.
  • Out of the mountains that you write some molehills will be published.

Writing, she says, is “an impulse to share with other people a feeling or truth that I myself had . . . to give it to them if they cared to hear it. If they did not – fine.” Advice, I now realize, I follow weekly in my And So It Goes posts.


My second book The Art of the Book Proposal: From Focused Idea to Finished Proposal by Eric Maisel, PhD. took those molehills, those early drafts, those puzzle pieces scattered across the card table, and helped me craft them into a form that worked, that formed a coherent picture, and that got published. Granted, I still needed professional editors, online workshops from Writer’s Digest, and my monthly writer’s group to bring my memoir to life.

Maisel’s book taught me the importance of the “universal theme:” that value, that experience, that idea with which a wide array of readers can identify.



“The central task of the nonfiction writer,” Maisel wrote, “is really the profound existential task of sorting through many meanings, selecting some particular meaning, and then advocating for that choice.”

He also said, “Virtually every nonfiction book has the nasty habit of shifting, changing, morphing, vanishing, reappearing in new dress.” … “It is the norm, not the exception.”

My memoir was no longer the complete collection of everything I could possible remember about my two years living in a former Soviet Republic — which might have made a decent doctoral dissertation — it became the story of butting heads with culture clash and the friendships that emerged as time went on.

Maisel also taught me to think about my reader, as Ueland had done, to ask myself, “What do I hope she will get from my book?”

Once I realized how I wanted to frame my story, the questions I wanted my reader to answer became obvious: What happens to a woman (in midlife) who finds herself immersed in a culture so very foreign to everything she understands? Why does she stay; how does she change?

If you’d like to participate in future Two for Tuesday Tags, let Rae know at Rae’s Reads and Reviews.

TOMORROW: We’re back with Part II of our “WordPress Wars.” Intermittently entitled, Why Can’t We Just Get Along? It’s now called “My Amygdala Made Me Do It.” Join me; bring your friends.

[box] Interested in reading At Home on the Kazakh Steppe? I hope so. Click here for the Paperback, eBook, and audio versions. Amazon makes it easy. And, you can always order it from your local independent bookstore. Reviews are more important to authors today than ever before. If you’ve read it and enjoyed it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Short reviews  are just as valuable as long ones.  [/box]

10 Responses

  1. Merril D. Smith
    | Reply

    Good morning, Janet. Thanks for sharing. So each Tuesday you’ll pick two things to talk about?
    Merril D. Smith recently posted…Postscript, in which I continue to procrastinate, avoiding the work I should be doing in order to comment on the mistakes with my previous postMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Good morning, Merril. Yes, each month, Rae will post new prompts for the weeks. So I have the four for February. Next Tuesday’s will be “two books that helped you fall in love with reading.” That’s easy too. 🙂

      Hope to see you tomorrow.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A Two for Tuesday Tag Prompt #1My Profile

  2. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    You’re mentioning two new-to-me bloggers so I’ll go check them out. I like the simplicity of the Two for Tuesday idea.

    I read your first book years ago. At the time I was intimidated by the idea of writing anything that other people would read, and Ueland put me at ease. Good choice.

    I’m not familiar with your second book, having never even heard of it before. I’m not inclined to think of myself as a memoirist, but perhaps I should! Maisel’s book sounds interesting.
    Ally Bean recently posted…Blogger’s Block: Muse Is Missing And I Am Without Flapdoodle & TwaddleMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Maisel’s book is broader than memoir; he addresses the proposal for any non-fiction book. Frankly, I learned later that a memoir should read (and therefore be written) more like a novel. But he came at a good time in my learning curve. It was important for me to find that universal theme. Most readers, I imagine, aren’t that interested in kazakhstan per se, or even Peace Corps. But they can relate to being in a situation in which everything is new, different, strange. At least, that was my hope. Thanks for stopping by, Ally.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A Two for Tuesday Tag Prompt #1My Profile

  3. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    I like you new “take” on posting though I doubt I can keep up. Thanks for the book titles. Right now I’m reading Julia Cameron’s Finding Water about perseverance in writing. Ha!

    Brava on this new blog venture, Janet.
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Mennonites Don’t DanceMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Marian. I know what you mean. I, for a very long time, resisted reading any blogs that came out more than once a week. I just didn’t want to spend that kind of time. But this one seemed fun. I still am committed to my weekly Wednesdays. I’ll see how it goes. Who knows; maybe I’ll add a third one. Three times a week, I was told early on, garner the most followers. Go figure that one! It’s an experiment.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A Two for Tuesday Tag Prompt #1My Profile

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Thank you for the new-to-me books titles. I’ve just added them to my reading list.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…Mystery Writers AcademyMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Someday, we must all compare our respective reading “lists.” There are the actual lists (mine is in NOTES on my iPhone) and there are the piles. Shelves are reserved for books I’ve read and want to keep. And then there is the Kindle. Oh my. But I do hope you get to Brenda Ueland’s little tome. (Oxymoron?) It’s a real pick-me-upper on many levels. Thanks for stopping by, Laurie.
      Janet Givens recently posted…A Two for Tuesday Tag Prompt #1My Profile

  5. Rae
    | Reply

    This was absolutely lovely! I loved the imagery you used while describing these novels and the effect they had on you 😀

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you Rae, and welcome to And So It Goes. I very much appreciate the opportunity to participate in your weekly prompts; I’m especially looking forward to next week’s prompt.

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