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Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,174 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews

Elizabeth Berg touches women's lives with heartbreakingly funny and true novels -- including the New York Times bestseller Talk Before Sleep -- that distinctly capture the essence of their lives. Now this critically acclaimed author and writing instructor offers an inspiring, practical handbook on the joys, challenges, and creative possibilities inherent in the writing lif

Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 30th 2000 by HarpPeren (first published 1999)
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Sep 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those wanting to write
As I read this book, I feel as if I am having tea with my friend and we are sharing our joy of writing.
Apr 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Aspiring Writers
Shelves: biography-memoir
A few years back, I had the pleasure of hearing Elizabeth Berg speak at a literary event. This memoir / writing manual is consistent with the message she gave then. Berg was a 'regular person' (mom, wife, and nurse) when she started writing and had relatively instant and big success early on in her efforts, which gives the impression that anyone can do this. She is of course extraordinarily talented, so perhaps it simply came easy for her. However, her suggestions for beginning and/or developing ...more
Apr 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this one, but I just didn't. I've found that if I like someone's non-fiction (like Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird), then I don't like her fiction very much. I think the reverse is true here, since I like Berg's fiction. As an aspiring writer I really wanted to like this book and find it helpful, but it was almost too condescending. I didn't like the tone and ended up returning it to the library unfinished.
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Practical writing advice and inspiration.
Jul 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Like many book fanatics, I fantasize writing myself. This book opened my eyes as to how to dip my toes into the experience of doing just that. I really enjoy most of Berg's books and stories so I appreciated the biographical section of the book. Since I admire her writing style it was impactful for me to know how she got started and her tips to get started myself. I do feel a certain kinship with Berg after reading almost all of her novels and her book of short stories. The writing exercises to ...more
Ruth Knox
Aug 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Yikes! What a wonderful book by a very readable writer. This is Elizabeth Berg's book for writers on writing, and it is one of the best I have had the pleasure of devouring. Not only is she an engaging writer, Elizabeth's take on the art and business of writing is open and fluid. She believes in listening to one's own heart and paying attention to intuition.

In addition to good, common-sense advice and exercises for writers at every level of their career, Elizabeth weaves in stories for the hear
Nov 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
This is a writing book - part account of how Berg writes herself, part exercises to help readers create some writing.

I have read the book twice. the first time I read it through without stopping, ignoring the creative writing exercises completely. The second time I read it slowly, and completed those exercises that inspired me. I will never write as simply and beautifully as Berg, and the things that I did write were autobiographical, not fiction, but they were very meaningful to me. I shall ke
Aug 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in writing. Anyone who likes Elizabeth Berg's books.
Recommended to Nicki by: Someone on Facebook
Absolutely loved this book. Its very encouraging and makes you want to have a go at writing everything and anything. It's not just for professional writers but for people who feels like they want to try expressing themselves through this media. There are lots of exercises to get you started, which I haven't tried yet. There is also lots of information if you want to become a professional writer. As soon as I finished it I felt like I could read it all over again and still enjoy it immensely.
Pam Laird
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: students of writing
There are some truly great writing exercises that always work for me, no matter how many times I've used them. Elizabeth has captured so many that I keep her book near my writing desk at all times.
Dec 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Open-hearted writing technique
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
Mediocre how-to/inspirational book on writing.
Mostly stream-of-consciousness writing advice and encouragement with a good number of exercises included.
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: about-writing
I good book for those who write fiction at the beginning or advanced beginner stage. Although it was a little more basic than my current skill level, I thought many of the writing prompts were particularly creative and enjoyed them.
Janette Drost
Jun 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: creativity
Full of excellent exercises
Paula Dembeck
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is a memoir as well as helpful advice for those who aspire to be writers. Berg is an author well known for her books exploring the complicated relationships of women, although she does not like the term “chick lit” or the label “women’s fiction”. She says her novels are aimed at a wide audience and feels those terms are pejorative and dismissive. Nevertheless, her readers have grown to appreciate the sensitive way Berg writes about women, whether they are discovering unrealized strengt ...more
Jun 26, 2015 rated it liked it
This was slow-going. It was so bland that it read like a high-school homework assignment: plot, characters, dialogue, blah, blah, blah...It's only when I completed 75% of the book that Elizabeth Berg dared to show her personality! There she is! There's her tender heart, her warmth, her guidance, her encouragement. Also known as: the reason I wanted to read this book in the first place.


Try very hard to love your work as you do it. This is important. Even as children thrive and flourish when pa
Nov 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had looked forward to reading this book but put it off until I felt I would have time to write immediately after reading the book.

When I am in the mood to read, I want to read. When I am inspired to write, I want to write. The author lumped so many time-consuming writing exercises together in the middle of the book that I almost put the book aside. Instead, I began to do some of the exercises, but my heart wasn't in it so I felt I was not doing a good job of the exercises.

If those exercise
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am marking this as read even though I am not technically finished with it...that will take me awhile. I read up until the writing exercises section of the book began and started working on those in my notebook a few weeks ago, but there are over 200 exercises, so that will be an ongoing project. As anyone can tell from my shelves, I am a big Berg fan, and like many people have wondered how writers work, how do they create such art with their words? I have always kept journals about my children ...more
D. Jennifer
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers, Writing Teachers
Recommended to D. Jennifer by: no one
Shelves: how-to
After reading many of Elizabeth Berg's novels, it seemed natural to read about her experience and process of writing.

At the halfway mark the time of this review post, I am likely to read this book again, immediately after completing it the first go'round. Immensely helpful and loaded with personal wisdom and guidance, Berg's writing voice feels as if she is speaking directly to me, you, the reader.

I have done, and am doing, some of the homework, especially the large journal she asks the reader t
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Just the kind of writing book I find inspiring, with more about the subjective nature of a writer's life and less of the how-to, workshop type advice. Although there are enough elements of the "writing exercises" that those who enjoy that sort of thing in a writing book will not be disappointed. I purchased this, assuming it would be one I'd want to keep before I even read it, and I'm glad I did. I'll be going back to it again and again. It is absolutely filled with off the cuff but utterly quot ...more
Ellen Barnes
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
My favorite book on writing. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, which was make me go write, instead of intimidating the shit out of me. I also love that Berg celebrated the joy and ease of writing instead of focusing on how difficult it can be. Finally, I loved her willingness to step aside for a few pages and include commentary and ideas from other writers and editors. Even her best friend got a few pages to herself, where she wrote one of the best things I've ever read on the subject o ...more
Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book gave me energy and ideas. It was a good read, but I also copied several of her exercises and have tried a few. Berg has a wonderful way of prodding, encouraging and inspiring the latent writer lounging inside me. Now I want to read her fiction. Here's my favorite gem from this book:

"I think a life of wishes, once we are adults, is no life at all. It is one thing, as children, when we are powerless, to turn to stars and wishbones and candles on a cake to make dreams come true. But as ad
Cathy Pierce
Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book for writers or wanna be writers. Berg encourages you to take up a pen and write. She even provides some writing prompts but they are not the typical kind found in other creative writing books. The ones I used helped me to move into a different writing style, which I needed. I will keep this book and refer back to it often. I purposely purchased a paper version, rather than an ebook, so I could easily review her material and make notes as I read through it. This will remain on my s ...more
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it
I liked the first half of this way better than the second half. The second half I feel like got a little off-topic and felt like she was stretching it out just to make it longer. And a lot of it was outdated by now - no need to be sending queries by snail mail these days. That said, I really enjoyed the first half and especially liked the writing prompts in there. Definitely some good stuff in there and I took a few of the ideas and adapted them to best serve me. It's always good to find ways to ...more
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first read this book a few years back and found it very inspiring. Beautifully written and easily explained. It really stuck in my mind for many years, even though I had forgotten the author's name. Then by chance, I remembered the exact title and found it on amazon. What a joy! For many years it was stuck in the back of my mind. That says it all, I think.

Very inspiring and uplifting. For anyone who's ever thought of becoming a full time writer but doesn't have the necessary drive or self-bel
Ed Terrell
Dec 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014, writing
Great little how to book on writing and how to dust off the cobwebs, roll up your shirtsleeves, and get going. It was a very enjoyable read partially practical but also insidiously inspiring. Making the time, setting the priorities, deciding on the when, the where and most importantly the why behind your writing and you are nine steps forward on the path and out of the muck and morass of not knowing how to start. Highly recommended.
Apr 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: in-my-library
Amazing how EB can make a book about writing so compelling and thoughtful. A true testament to her formidable skill.

In addition to the interesting writing exercises she suggests, I loved reading about HOW she writes - her routines, her workspace, etc. A voyeuristic peek into the life of one of my favorite writers.
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read quite a few books on writing by my favorite authors and this was one of the best. I even enjoyed the 'homework' assigments Berg inlcuded.
The timeless advice felt honest, but also doable.
The only drawback was the obsolete info. A lot has changed in the world of publishing since 1999, especially the manuscript submission process.

Highly recommend to writers.
Apr 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love it when authors I admire write about how they write. This is a compact book that describes a bit of Berg's process and provides ideas for budding writers - everything from setting up your work space to seeking out agents and publishers. One of the things I enjoy most about Berg's fiction is her attention to detail and this book shows how she fleshes out her characters in such depth.
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I am far from the correct audience for this book, but even still, this is not terribly well written or interesting--nothing would compel me when I was a beginning writer to make my way through its pages.

A second start because all she writes is sound advice. Just dull as doornails. Skip this one. Stick with Bird by Bird.
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Elizabeth Berg is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels, including We Are All Welcome Here, The Year of Pleasures, The Art of Mending, Say When, True to Form, Never Change, and Open House, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2000. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for the ABBY Award in 1996. The w ...more
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“The best thing that can happen to me when I'm writing fiction is to lose sight of the fact that I'm writing at all. It's as though I enter into a kind of trance. I know I'm writing, but I don't THINK about it. I just let my fingers type--it's as though the feeling comes out directly through them, bypassing the brain altogether. When that happens, I feel completely transported. There is nothing else like this feeling, very little else is more important to me. That intimacy I feel between myself and my work is what makes me feel at home on the earth. I am basically a shy person, basically a loner and an outsider; and I have been all my life. But when I achieve the kind of connection I can through writing, I feel I'm sitting in the lap of God.” 2 likes
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