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Writing BLUE HIGHWAYS: The Story of How a Book Happened

by William Least Heat-Moon

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2121,045,313 (3.71)3
The story behind the writing of the best-selling Blue Highways is as fascinating as the epic trip itself. More than thirty years after his 14,000-mile, 38-state journey, William Least Heat-Moon reflects on the four years he spent capturing the lessons of the road trip on paper--the stops and starts in his composition process, the numerous drafts and painstaking revisions, the depressing string of rejections by publishers, the strains on his personal relationships, and many other aspects of the toil that went into writing his first book. Along the way, he traces the hard lessons learned and offers guidance to aspiring and experienced writers alike.… (more)
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The first half of the book seemed like a college course for writers. The second half as more interesting because there were other people involved in the story. It started out as a discussion of one person with himself. I wasn't part of the book. That's why it took so long to read it. Maybe I should have read Blue Highways first? ( )
  sraelling | Jun 19, 2018 |
For anyone who has read and enjoyed Heat-Moon's 1982 bestseller 'Blue Highways' this is a must-read. I'd also recommend it for anyone interested in the writing process and in particular how the author doggedly pursued his dream of getting the book (his first) published, despite the many seemingly insurmountable setbacks along the way. In the brief appendix ("of sorts") there is a chapter, entitled 'A Writer's Escritoire' which gives a wonderful selection of some of the most indispensable books the author has relied on through his career as a published writer of outstanding creative non-fiction in the years following 'Blue Highways'.

Handwriting his earliest drafts, Heat-Moon calls one of his chapters 'Following a Blackfeet Pencil'. Here's why:

"Every morning on a weekend or court holiday - pursuing an obtainable daily goal of five new pages, fifteen hundred words - I'd begin with the venerable and heartening scratch of graphite over paper. This very sentence your eyes are on at the moment, I first set down on notebook paper with my preferred drafting instrument, one called the Blackfeet Indian Pencil, a natural-cedar hexagonal shaft picturing a small embossed warrior on horseback galloping toward the point of the graphite as if making a charge against the threatening whiteness of wordlessness. Standing in a cup on my writing desk, twenty-three other Indians await, each ready for a chance to go forth, none of them needing a power grid any more than do living Blackfeet. In a virtual world becoming ever more paperless, the sound of pencil or pen on paper is a vanishing sensual delight, a reminder I'm not doing a broadsheet or paying a bill or even answering an e-mail but truly writing."

Full of his usual warm humour, and with many a poetic turn of phrase, this slim but punchy little book was one of my favourite reads this year. ( )
1 vote Polaris- | Nov 30, 2015 |
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The story behind the writing of the best-selling Blue Highways is as fascinating as the epic trip itself. More than thirty years after his 14,000-mile, 38-state journey, William Least Heat-Moon reflects on the four years he spent capturing the lessons of the road trip on paper--the stops and starts in his composition process, the numerous drafts and painstaking revisions, the depressing string of rejections by publishers, the strains on his personal relationships, and many other aspects of the toil that went into writing his first book. Along the way, he traces the hard lessons learned and offers guidance to aspiring and experienced writers alike.

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