Pamela Bitterman is the author of Sailing To the Far Horizon, her own story of life, loss, and survival at sea. It encapsulates the author as product of the first thirty years of her life. Muzungu is her second work and is the story of the author’s unlikely escapades throughout Kenya. She has also authored Child, You Are Miracle, When This is Over, I Will Go To School, and I Will Learn To Read. To find out more about Pamela, go to her WEBSITE.
I am a full-time writer who loves to write. I wish all aspects of being an author were that simple – engaging in an enjoyable activity that also garners serious respect and, dare we hope, decent income. The reality is that the introspective, cathartic and often therapeutic act of writing can become a far more complicated undertaking when it is approached as a livelihood. Writing well is a craft, an art, and a developed skill. It is as much a discipline as any properly attempted profession should be. As such, it must be continually fine-tuned in order to run smoothly and efficiently. Fortunately I find the task of honing my writing skills to be a labor of love as well, in that I am a voracious reader of well written books, in order that I may continue to learn how to write well myself. And although I find reading the good works of others to be an imperative, it is merely the tip of the iceberg in discovering how to effectively create good works ones self.
When my first book was contracted for publication, the ‘crazy editor lady’ who was assigned the daunting task of guiding me through the process of polishing my manuscript for print gave me a required reading assignment. She insisted that I read William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” before she would even deign to commence our collaborative effort. Ever the dutiful student, I read it cover to cover. And although the partnership with said editor ultimately deteriorated into one tearing-my-hair-out-in-frustration episode after another (for her too, I imagine), the importance of Zinsser’s book was never lost on me. I religiously reference and rely on it to this day.
Zinsser begins by stating that “Anybody who can think clearly can write clearly…” Those reassuring words were, and continue to be, massively encouraging! He goes on to contend that “Ultimately the product that any writer has to sell is not the subject being written about, but who he or she is.” As a writer of my own true adventure nonfiction tales, this insight became the holy grail of my writing method. If keeping my end of this bargain with the reader was at the crux of good nonfiction writing, then I was fully committed to it. Even though at that time I knew precious little about the actual nuts and bolts of writing, I did know myself. I knew my experience. I could think clearly. The rest I would learn. I discovered that if I could keep the reader engaged by infusing my storytelling with my own humanity and heart, then the reader would hopefully feel compelled to embark upon the journey along with me. All I would need to do then would be to master the art of language and to deliver my message in as clean, pure, and powerful a style as possible.
I learned an incalculable amount from that initial foray into the world of traditional publishing. I learned from the glowing reviews and the merciless critics in equal measure. And I became a better writer - a full time writer who loves to write, and who is miraculously becoming fairly successful at it. No small accomplishment, as every struggling author out there knows only too well. So, thank you ‘crazy editor lady.’ And thank you William Zinsser.