Monday, January 23, 2012

The Craft of Writing: Advice from Pots ’n Pens

A few weeks ago, this blog passed its “historic” sixth-month anniversary without any fanfare. So, in the spirit of unnecessary nostalgia, I’ve dug up links to some of the best Pots ’n Pens posts on the craft of writing. If you’re looking for a few tips and pontifications to spice up your own writing, this is a great place to start.

My arbitrary ground rules (which I may or may not break):

1. Posts must focus on the “Pens” aspect of “Pots ’n Pens.”

2. This is not a list of the best recipes. Perhaps an intrepid someone will do that at a later date.

3. No interviews. There are simply too many great interviews with authors, agents, and others, and I don’t want the hate mail I would receive for elevating one great interviewee over another.

4. These posts should contribute to the ongoing development of writers and writing.

This list is in chronological order and includes posts by numerous contributors. Beyond those listed, there are many other super-duper posts on this blog. I encourage you to sift through the history and find your own favorites.

The Craft of Writing

Harry Potter: The Series That Made My Stomach Growl—Cole’s post from July 22 introduced us to the power that books have to inspire our taste buds, featuring the best literary sweets this side of Willy Wonka’s factory. It also seems fitting to include because it was the first regular entry on the site after introductions were made.

More Than a Flavor of the Week—Barely started and I’m already bending the rules—shame on me! Nevertheless, I thought Windy’s post from July 27 was a great fit. Largely a book review, this post reminds us of the importance of passion and depth in writing great books. Also, I think we’d all benefit from dwelling on the excitement food can be bring to our writing and our lives.

Names, Food Add Dash of Believability—On August 2, T.W. Fendley emphasized the importance of picking character names that reflect the world of the story.

Revisions of the Edible Kind—The name of this post alone was enough to intrigue me the first time around. Elisa’s description of the tiny changes that make worlds of difference never loses relevance (Sept. 12).

Feeding the Senses—Another post with a great title, this one from Sarah (Sept. 21), is one of my favorites for the way it surrounds the reader with savory sensory details. It contains advice that no writer should ignore.

Elevating the Moment—It felt cocky to include one of mine (Jonathan, Sept. 28) on the list, but I just liked this one so much that I had to. This post is all about the magic of making mundane moments into marvelous one.

Getting Back Your Voice—Toni Leahy’s submission (Oct. 5) hits on struggles we’ve all experienced: finding confidence, finding direction, and finding a voice that stands out from the crowd.

Comfort Food—There is nothing unimportant about comfort food, be it literal or literary food. While Kate’s post (Oct. 10) dwells mostly on reading choices, it also informs the choices a writer has in developing goals and writing style.

That Thing Called Stress—Perhaps more important that any single craft issue, the ability to deal with stress can define a writer’s career or lack thereof. Margie invites us to renew our energy and desire to get work done when life is overwhelming and work has no appeal (Oct. 12).

Expect the Unexpected—Michelle’s revision-related post (Nov. 25) is short, brilliant, and ends with chocolate. What more could you want?

Simplicity and Surprise—Hillary’s post from December 5 is exactly what the title says. Like the titular dish in the movie Ratatouille (see it if you haven’t—the commentary is totally worth your time too), this reminds us that quality trumps complexity every time.

Three Ladies Chatting at a Table—We’re nearing the end, so it’s time to break one more rule. Yes, this one’s an interview (Laci, Dec. 14). However, in my defense, it’s a three-person interview—a Pots ’n Pens first—that highlights Lisa Amowitz and one of our contributors (Michelle McLean). Also, because it’s a group interview, the depth and breadth of the literary wisdom is superb. There are nuggets of writerly advice here for everyone.

Striving for Imperfection—This may be my favorite title for a post yet! Featuring a great recipe for potato candy, this recent entry (Jan. 18) challenges us to let go of that fear of failure that plagues us all. Ansha nailed it with this one.

That’s all from me. It’s been a great six months, and now it’s request time. Are there any topics for writing/cooking that you’d like to see Pots ’n Pens address in the next six months? Shout them out in the comments, and who knows, one of our awesome contributors might just take you up on it. J


  1. Love this post. Thanks for recapping the past 6 months. We've accomplished a lot!