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Letters to a Young Artist Letters to a Young Artist
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Letters to a Young Artist Letters to a Young Artist

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  304 ratings  ·  31 reviews
From the most exciting individual in American theater" ("Newsweek"), here is Anna Deavere Smith's brass tacks advice to aspiring artists of all stripes. In vividly anecdotalletters to the young BZ, she addresses the full spectrum of issues that people starting out will face: from questions of confidence, discipline, and self-esteem, to fame, failure, and fear, to staying h ...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published December 10th 2008 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (first published January 24th 2006)
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I just finished reading this but could already reread it. There's something to words presented as letters that has great appeal to me.

The book is full of advice both practical and personal for anyone pursuing a creative endeavor. There's also a substantial list of resources for artists, both state and federal. (You could track them all down online, I'm sure, but it's nice to see them in print.)

Smith's writing is warm, thoughtful, direct, with sprinkles of tough love. It's also a glimpse into her
This was a challenging, motivating book. Smith has written it in the form of a series of letters to an imaginary young artist named BZ, who ostensibly won her mentorship in an auction. The letters are meant to offer BZ encouragement to pursue a life in the arts. Smith offers inspirational advice about the civic applications of art, and how it can reveal to audiences a new way of dealing with their own emotions and therefore viewing the world, as well as practical advice about staying hydrated, l ...more
Anna Smith's book, written to the young artist reader, is engaging and easy to read. Her style is simple, to the point, and eloquent. She has some excellent chapters on determination, procrastination, developing presence...etc. which are thought provoking and inspiring. She has relatively good insight into the deeper workings of the artistic mind and helps the reader to become more intentional with their lives as artists, as well as more aware of the artist's place in this world. Nonetheless, he ...more
In an interesting approach to writing a book of advice, Smith addresses a collection of "letters" to an imaginary young person who aspires to have a career in the arts and who seems to have reached out to her for guidance. This gimmick makes you feel closer to Smith, but is also stretched a little far. Sometimes it simply adds a little to the book's overall eccentricity, and sometimes it grows tiresome. This hit-or-miss quality also characterizes the book itself. Organized loosely around themes ...more
Ahmad Moshrif
not much ...

but I really liked when she talks about discipline, here is the key takeaway by Maria Popova from

She (ADS) recounts an encounter with the son of Melvin van Peebles, a black filmmaker who made a smash-hit independent film in the seventies that earned him a lot of money and cultural status. The son, Mario van Peebles, had made a film about his father’s film, a screening of which Smith hosted. She writes:

"He must be in his mid-sixties, and he is in perfect physical sh
Syed Bukhari
One of the best books for those creative souls who are seeking non-management advice on their careers and life in general.
i like this book. there are small gems and it can be the pep talk when you can't give it to yourself.
Nov 24, 2009 Julene rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers & artists of all kinds
Shelves: creativity
I'm a fan of Anna Deavere Smith. I enjoyed this book and would rate it 3.5 if I could, it's a quick read with each chapter a written response to a young artist (it is called fiction, but it sure feels real reading it). The information in it is not new, but I like how she puts pieces together and throughout the book she gives the reader ideas to keep one's spirit up about the work of creating art. One section titled Find Your Twin, she gives the task to do this very thing and says, " These are th ...more
I saw this book in Borders last night and read half of it in one sitting. (I'm going to have to go back and read the other half soon). It would make a great bathroom book beacuse it is organized as a series of short letters, some no more than a few words. Parts that jumped out to me: ADS talks about presence and what it is to have it. In her opinion it means being aware and engaged. People who are the most compelling are the ones who are interested in other people. This seems counterintuitive to ...more
An absolute confirmation of what any artist with a shred of sincerity knows to be true. Stated in warm, human letters written to a teenager. these short chapters are affirming and enlightening at any age. After 20 years as a professional musician, working often in experimental areas, I can say this all applies to us too. Certain issues return at every stage: searching for a balance of paying the rent and taking risks, managing authority, and staying on track with just doing the work, to name a f ...more
Actress, MacArthur fellow and Professor Anna Deavere Smith's performance at the North Carolina Literature Festival was one of the most astonishing I have ever seen. She has interviewed hundreds of people, famous and not, who do meaningful work with their lives or who have lived through life-changing or life-shattering experiences or both--a privileged white doctor witnessing the humanity and inhumanity at Charity Hospital after Katrina, a victim and survivor of the Rwandan genocide, Texas Govern ...more
This is a mixture of practical advice and personal reflection on being an artist in the world. Anna Deavere-Smith is insightful and honest about what it means to be an artistic person trying to make a living and what it takes to be successful. This isn't a pep talk or one of those personal growth books that pretend to solve all your problems in eight simple lessons. It is more in keeping with Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, using personal experiences as starting points for rich meditations on a ...more
i mostly bought this to help raise funds for the local femenist bookstore. but then i started reading it...

this is a good antidote to the romantic solitude you find in rilke's "letters... (see my review of rilke in my booklist)" ADS is very refreshing and i did come away with some practical advice. although i have to say that a good bulk of what she writes seems like something i would have needed to read five or ten years ago.
Keisha Kogan
This is one of the best books I have ever read on preparing for and working in the arts. Anna Deavere Smith tells us such perfectly fundamentals things for living that we have completely forgotten, having presence, paying attention, developing discipline and listening to those around you. The thing I learned that I most appreciate - be prepared. Read it whether you work in the arts or not.
Some of the letters didn't speak to me, some felt like I'd need to return to them in a few years or a dozen, and others lit me up. At the moment I am living by this line from one of the last letters in the book: "You have an invisible badge of freedom, an invisible passport that says, 'Go—move, gather, be bold, be brave, see, take, absorb.'”
Very good advice for creative people. Anna Deavere Smith has pithy observations about life, great stories about her life as an artist, and sets forth a very clear idea of what it means to be an artist and interact with the world.
This book was recommended by Jodi, a fellow Goodreads participant who is also an artist. Anna Deavere Smith writes to a fictional young artist regarding issues relative to working in the arts. Affirming and helpful.
i loved 'fires in the mirror' and perhaps approached this book with too high of expectations. the introduction was absolutely inspiring and there were some good sound-bites throughout- but i just couldn't get into it.
Susan Conley
I love books that talk art and the making of art and do it in a way that inspires people to get out there and start working. This book has given me ideas to bring into the various writing classrooms I find myself in.
Liza Ann  Acosta
I liked what she had to say about stamina. That is what I sorely lack. So hard to maintain an even pace in the "biz" when your body is holding you back.
Meg Cain
May 27, 2007 Meg Cain rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: artists of every kind
Shelves: fiction
Never in my life have I read a more inspiring book. I was left each page with a strong desire to do anything and everything I've ever wanted to do.
started this for inspiration. some of it i agree with, some i'm like, woh that is totally out of left field. taking it with a grain of salt.
did the audio version, read by the author. she is brilliant. good book for everyone, not just artists
loved her letter about stage fright... it is a must read before taking the stage.

Dec 04, 2007 Dana rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: artists
i read this as the art on paper in magazine special. would love to read it again.
This book got me through my college auditions. I will never be without it.
Great advice for all ages, all disciplines not just "young artists"
citizen kerry
fun, she supposedly taught at my school but i NEVER SAW HER
what an interesting actress and author
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Anna Deavere Smith (born September 18, 1950) is an American actress, playwright, and professor. She is currently the artist in residence at the Center for American Progress. Smith is widely known for her roles as National Security Advisor Nancy McNally in The West Wing and as Hospital Administrator Gloria Akalitus in the Showtime series Nurse Jackie. She is a recipient of The Dorothy and Lillian G ...more
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