The Playful Way to Serious Writing By Roberta Allen

The Playful Way to Serious Writing
By Roberta Allen
Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston and New York, 2002
ISBN: 061819729
Nonfiction-Writers’ (And Teachers’) Self-Help

This is Not For Writers Only

How-To Book for Writers That’s Fun, Easy and Visual

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of “This is the Place” and “Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered”.

I have reviewed a lot of how-to books for writers; this one truly fills a niche. I’ve read how-tos that could help in one’s personal life (like “Word Works”) and how-tos like Syd Field’s that give great advice for screenwriters and also might help novelists. I’ve also contributed to an e-book called “Musings” that ruminates on life, love and the written word. This, however, is the first I’ve seen that is quite this flexible.

As a former teacher, I can see “The Playful Way to Serious Writing” by Roberta Allen as a tool for elementary teachers, art teachers, photography teachers, English and creative writing teachers. Allen is a photographer and artist as well as a writer and this book is the most visual, the most graphically appealing and the most practical exercise book yet.

That it is also fun is definitely a plus. I shall probably use my copy when speaking to genealogy groups about how to turn their heritage into readable stories. I plan to take a couple of the exercises in the book to my critique group (boy, will they be surprised!) and I plan to use a couple of Allen’s graphically delightful pages when I tutor my Korean students. They weren’t meant for that but think of the ESL possibilities in phrases like “a goatee” and “a potbelly.” Immigrants often have the English basics. It is the colloquial phrases that throw them.

If you happen to run across this book on the shelf of your bookstore, grab a copy and open it. Leaf through the pages. It will get all of your creative juices flowing.

(Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a contributor to “Musings: Authors Do it Write!” another book intended to inspire writers. It is available FREE at: She is also the author of the soon-to-be-released “Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered” that can now be reserved on

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a columnist for The Pasadena Star News and Home Decor Buyer. You can find more about her first novel, This is the Place, and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered at The novel has been called “…fabulous…” by Valerie Susan Hayward, Consultant and former Senior Editor at Halequin/Silhouette. .


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