Writing successful fiction is a balance between trusting one’s own instincts and making the right conscious choices. In By Cunning & Craft, award-winning novelist and short-story writer Peter Selgin shows you how to combine the instinctive process of creation with sound technical ingenuity. With precise instruction and examples from classic and best-selling works, this authoritative guide helps you master all the essential fiction-wiring elements. Whether you’re facing the blank pages of a first draft or trying to revise a completed manuscript, By Cunning & Craft provides you with the guidance you need to outfox common writing pitfalls and make sure your work isn’t wanting in wit—or perfection.
Peter Selgin is the author of Drowning Lessons, winner of the 2007 Flannery O’Connor Award for Fiction, Life Goes to the Movies, a novel, and several children’s books. His memoir, Confessions of a Left-Handed Man: An Artist’s Memoir, was short-listed for the 2012 William Saroyan International Prize. His most recent novel, The Water Master, was awarded the Pirate’s Alley/William Faulkner Society Prize for best novel. Other honors include the Missouri Review Editors’ Prize, a Dana Award for the Essay, and a Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights’ Conference Award for his full-length play, A God in the House, based on Dr. Kevorkian and his suicide machine. He is an Assistant Professor of English at Georgia College and State University and teaches at Antioch University’s MFA Creative Writing Program.
There is craft and there is cunning. There is the struggled to get published at all. But there is also the chance that you will do something extraordinary. Peter Selgin illustrates the tricks, both basic and sophisticated,. But greatness is what he’s really interested in. He thrusts the readers into the company of those who wrote magnificently. Salinger is quoted, Hemingway, Thomas Mann, E.M. Forster, John Gardner. “This book is for serious writers of all levels,” he writes in the beginning, and he’s talking about intentions. If you mean to shoot for the stars, then this book is for you.
—Benjamin Cheever, author of The Plagiarist, The Partisan (both New York Times Best Books), Famous After Death, and The Good Nanny
Peter Selgin has written an excellent guide—witty, lucid, well-written—for beginning writers of fiction. In fact, any writer can learn from it.
—Vivian Gornick, author of The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative and Approaching Eye Level
Cunning and craft, indeed: Within these pages Peter Selgin quotes Chekov to the effect that, “The writer’s task is not to solve the problem but to state the problem correctly.” What I admire most about By Cunning & Craft is its rare and inspired modesty—an ultimately stylish resistance to pledging more that Selgin (really anyone) can deliver. May many learn from this book.
—Robert Polito, author of Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson and Director of the New School Graduate Writing Program
Along with great advice, Selgin is pure pleasure to read.
—Alexander Steele, Dean of Faculty, Gotham Writers’ Workshop
A wonderfully helpful, thorough, and honest book about writing. By Cunning & Craft is filled with good sense, good advice, and many excellent examples of good writing. A book to read and read again with profit by the beginning, the middle, and the writer of many years.
—Sheila Kohler, author of Cracks, Crossways, and The Children of Pithiviers
By Cunning & Craft is a masterpiece of writing about writing. If, like Scheherazade, you had to spin out a story under threat of death, this is the how-to book to read. It’s filled with thoughtful, nuanced advice from a teacher/writer who actually writes—and writes beautifully with great humor. The list of rejected stories is worth the price of the whole book.
—Nora Gallagher, author of Things Seen and Unseen, Practicing Resurrection, and Changing Light
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