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News & Opinion

Living the writing life...in Iowa

Sally Haldorson

July 29, 2009

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A lot of books come and go through our doors, and we spend a lot of time discussing the various merits of these books, but rarely do we talk about what is in between the covers. And I'm not talking about the idea. Because, yes, the idea is king; but an idea will only get you so far if the actual writing is unreadable.

A lot of books come and go through our doors, and we spend a lot of time discussing the various merits of these books, but rarely do we talk about what is in between the covers. And I'm not talking about the idea. Because, yes, the idea is king; but an idea will only get you so far if the actual writing is unreadable. As we said in the Introduction to The 100 Best, "A good idea is indecipherable when conveyed using cryptic language, and worthwhile messages get lost when surrounded by pointless filler." This standard applies to the writing we produce as a company too. Every day, we generate blog posts, recommendations and reviews, as well as work on larger projects like magazine articles and e-books. And, of course, the occasional book like The 100 Best. So it is important that we continually refine the ability to convey ideas through writing. In pursuit of becoming better writers ourselves, Todd and I drove down to a rather surprising location--unless you're familiar with the hierarchy of writing programs in the US-- Iowa City, IA. The University of Iowa's writing program is world-renowned, and lucky for us, you don't have to apply to their MFA programs in order to partake of the writing wisdom they offer because they hold an annual event called The Iowa Summer Writing Festival. For two months, the university offers 140 week-long and weekend-long workshops taught by graduates of the program as well as other successful instructors and writers. While many of the workshops revolve around the fiction and poetry genres, there are others that will help any writer improve their revision process, write a book proposal, defeat writer's block, learn the art of the interview, or "simply" make the craft of writing a less mysterious process. Todd and I both took separate weeklong non-fiction workshops and what an intensive experience we had! For one week, we were immersed in 'the writer's life.' We read, we wrote, we met, we critiqued, we listened, we engaged--nearly non-stop for 6 days. Unlike other conferences one might attend where an attendee's primary responsibility is to sit, listen and take notes, here we were put to work, with demands placed on us as participants to produce and improve at every turn. Are we better writers for the experience and the expense? We believe so. And perhaps surprisingly we also learned how to be better readers. Since writing and reading are key components to doing what we do--finding you the best business books available and bring them to your attention--it was an invaluable experience and we hope to return next year to learn even more about the craft. Sally 800-CEO-READ's editor-on-the-loose

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