Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within” as Want to Read:
Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  534 ratings  ·  63 reviews
In her fifteen years of teaching, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has found that the biggest stumbling block for aspiring writers (especially women) is not fear of the blank page but frustration with the lack of time. What woman doesn't have too much to do and too little time? Finding an hour free of work, children, or obligations can seem impossible.

But anyone can find fifteen m
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 4th 2004 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2004)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Pen on Fire, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Pen on Fire

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  534 ratings  ·  63 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. I adore this book! I already feel powered up. I am even surprised that the author chose to say that the book is directed towards women "a busy woman's guide to igniting the writer within". Well, I am a a man I am eating up every word of it. I love especially what she had to say in the introduction about working in fifteen-minute segments instead of saying "I will write a page per day" or such the like. We simply need to get started and do a little bit here and and a little bit ...more
Lisa Montanaro
Great book all about how to find time to write, how to find content to write about, and how to live the life of a writer, etc. I love how accessible the material was, and comprehensive. Some may say that the book is too basic, but I loved how the author covered everything. It was organized into different sections which made it very easy to follow. It took me months to read because I did all of the exercises as I went along. It includes so many wonderful writing prompts that I may incorporate int ...more
Nov 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2009
i wasn't crazy about the title of this book, because it seemed kind of narrow & gimmicky. this impression was strengthened by the cover design, which riffs on "chick lit" & seems geared for a demographic that i prefer not to include myself in. but i gave the book a shot anyway, & i'm glad i did because i really liked it! i have a weakness for books about writing (read about other people's writing processes, tricks, tips, ideas, & exercises always helps me feel creative & inspired), but they can ...more
Dec 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who struggles with finding time to write
When you read through this book and get to the end of every section you will want to write someting down about that chapter and the memory that it stirred up....You have to pace yourself through this book and keep a journal with you as writing ideas will pop up....wonderful read...going through it again....
Oct 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
On first read through, found that it is a good read for men also; good insight and great tips for getting started in writing as a hobby or career.
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The good read "I'm finished" button doesn't really do it for me, because this classic is constantly by my bedside and on my desk, waiting to inspire, instruct and encourage me every time I open it. I first read it as a less-experienced writing loner. Now I am part of a regular writing group and have way more confidence. Still, I find that this volume is as essential as my reading glasses are. It goes from bedside, to car, to purse to beach bag, a consistent companion on the writing journey with ...more
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! It has so much practical advice for writers, regardless if you are a woman or not. This book has been essential for me in starting my writing journey.
Wendi Lau
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Think about what you wish for and imagine how you’d like your life to be in six months, a year, five years from now…Now set your timer for fifteen minutes and write down your ideal scenario…If you can’t see yourself as a writer, how will you ever find your way there?” Loved this Set Your Timer exercise early on in the book.

Throughout the book, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett urges writers to set aside tiny blocks of time to devote to their passion. Despite all our responsibilities, we can eke out just
Sep 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
Every writer occasionally needs someone to give them the reality check that the only way to get something written is to actually do some writing. DeMarco-Barrett's book is that along with a bunch of helpful ideas on where to find the time to write, how you might want to organize that time as well as your thoughts, and how not to feel quite so guilty about taking the time. I think the "busy woman's portion of the title might be a bit out dated, though, because I know lots of men who are just as i ...more
Amy Kahle
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I can relate to so much of this book it's ridiculous. I am always amazed at how women who are so much busier than I am can find time to write. If they can do it, I can certainly do it too! I read through this book the first time and didn't do the exercises that are at the end of each chapter, but I am now re-reading it and doing each of the exercises as I go. This book is so motivating! ...more
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What a *great* book - highly motivational, crisply written, just so well done overall. It's written specifically for women, but I highly recommend this to anyone who's either interested in writing or already a writer themselves. Wonderful read. ...more
Aug 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing-books
Short chapters, inspiring advice...will easily become a pillar in all my writing endeavors!
LS Schulz
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing, non-fiction
This was my second time through "Pen on Fire". The first time I just read it to see what I thought of the advice inside. I enjoyed it enough during my first read through to realize that I'd actually like to try my pen at completing the writing exercises within. That is what I did this time. While I doubt it would take a person this long to finish the book if they worked on an exercise a day, it took me this long because, sadly, I did not always complete an exercise daily. I am happy, however, to ...more
Chandrashekar BC
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. There are tons of books on how to write, but this rare books guides you how to find time to write in your busy life. For the famous question "How to write?" the answers can fill an ocean. There can't be a single books, which can effectively guides you on all aspects of writing. All though this book covers all aspects of writing (ex: creative thinking, Crafting, plot, scene, dialogs, POV, marketing etc..) the main objective is to help you to find time to wirte. To help you to stop ...more
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Pen on Fire is not a book to read front-to-back and be done. It is to be absorbed, marked up and kept on a shelf nearby to reference again and again. DeMarco-Barrett has gleamed wisdom from many fellow writers and written an easy to understand guide. Her short, to-the-point chapters are well-grounded and easy to read whenever you have a few minutes. I found the fifteen minute exercises helpful to solidify the content as I pursue my own writings. Pen on Fire is easily at the top of my list of boo ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
I don't know what I expected with this book but I only made it to page 27 before I got to the point where I just can't go on. There are some writing "exercises" that sound interesting but I'm not one of those people who always have a pen and a scrap of paper with them at all times. And with my current job at a busy doctor's office I'm so tired after work that it's much easier to sit down with a good novel and read a few pages before I drift off to sleep at the end of the day. ...more
Boomers Gems
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good Stuff!
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book! I found it at the library and then I had to buy it. It got me writing so much! I still refer to it over and over again
Meg Wheeler
Jun 03, 2016 rated it liked it
I was so pumped to read this book. Upon first glance, this was going to be THE book. I loved the title - "Pen on Fire" - I pictures a Rocky-type scene where I'm bouncing around on both feet, hands in the air, ready to write magical works that launch me into being a bestselling author.

The actuality of this book, however, was somewhat disappointing. The writing itself never clicked for me - perhaps it was a preference but I just didn't enjoy the author's style of storytelling. I also felt like th
Nov 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
This was an excellent book for women writers everywhere. Who doesn't need help learning how to do any task in a short amount of time? We all lead full and busy lives especialy in today's fast paced society where we have become so accustomed to everything (literally) at the touch of a button. Barabara Demarco-Bennett's novel Pen on Fire eloquently and succintly teaches writers how to hone their craft in the shortest amounts of time possible. Written in seven parts divided by topics such as craft, ...more
Tai Harris
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
“Pen On Fire: a busy woman’s guide to igniting the writer within” is a great reference book for aspiring writers and for busy writers who feel they lack adequate time to write. I picked this book up because my life became very hectic and I thought it could help in getting me back into writing by showing how to fit in time to write. Barrett offers great insight on how manage your time and busy schedule to incorporate a few minutes of writing each day. The chapter “trusting fear” is a chapter that ...more
Jessica Snell
Dec 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
I just finished this (quite enjoyed it, too!), and while I'd like to go back and take a closer look at some of the exercises, I first wanted to jot down a couple of quotations from it that I particularly liked:

"Good first lines hook the reader. They also hook the writer."

So true! Get a first line intriguing enough, and you can't help but write the rest.

And I appreciated this, an excerpt from an interview with Jodi Picoult:

"When I write, I never feel particularly creative. Instead, I see a succes
Jenny Mckeel
Sep 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
My mother gave me this book a few years ago, as kind of a creative writing self-help how-to book. It wasn't great, and is geared for people who are trying to get started with creative writing and trying to fit it around an already full life, which isn't my situation. But I actually got a lot out of it. The last half of the book has a lot of good pep-talk wisdom about coping with rejection, sticking with writing projects for the long haul, and that sort of thing. There were also some exercises an ...more
Susan Wyler
This book lends comfort to those struggling to write, through helpful reminders and tasks, and lots of quotes from accomplished modern writers who share their own frustrations. I advocate writing for writing's sake, believe that everyone would benefit from keeping a journal, but I don't think most people who want to write a book are called to be writers.
If you can live without writing, maybe it's better to do that. I worry that we're inclined toward mediocrity, with so much written, everything
Karen (Living Unabridged)
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Fabulous advice. Helpful writing exercises. Encouragement. A reminder that we don't have to have huge chunks of time or a retreat in order to write.

(One quibble: there is nothing in this book that wouldn't also apply to a man, but I guess that's not how they wanted to market it. Men might want to wrap the cover in brown paper and read without shame. Or you could always say you were just holding it for your wife.)

Recommended for: those who want to write, those who are writing but need more encour
Aug 26, 2011 rated it liked it
First, I need to say, I am not the demographic for which this book was written, so take my review with a grain of salt. I thought the first part of the book was slow and nothing too unique about it, but towards the middle I enjoyed the chapters and felt there were many good prompts and suggestions. It slowed down again for me at the end. I do like the author's writing style so I'll probably pick up a few of her other titles. ...more
Beth Lind
Oct 03, 2012 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. It had some good advice within the pages -- but not a lot that really applied specifically for women. Most of the advice was just about getting into the habit of writing (which is apparently harder for me than I'd like to admit). Overall, a good pep talk with lots of writing prompts that seem good. ...more
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Although it is named and mostly written for women, the one with family responbilities, this book is suitable must read for every writer.
Filled with clear and concise, fun and engaging chapters, and creativity booster exercises. This book is helpful for all kinds of writer, even the nonfiction ones.
Aug 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
There are some really fun creative writing exercises in this book. I liked the way every chapter ended with a writing exercise. I didn't get through the whole book before it was due back to the library though. ...more
Jan 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you've always wanted to write, but never felt you had the time, this is the book for you. Every two or three pages, the author, Barbara DeMarco Barrett, gives the reader exercises to inspire writing and build craft. ...more
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
  • The Last Good Guy (Roland Ford #3)
  • The Elephant Whisperer
  • Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff
  • The Broken Earth Trilogy: The Fifth Season / The Obelisk Gate / The Stone Sky
  • The Mark on the Wall
  • The Appeal
  • The Madman's Library: The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities from History
  • Brighton Rock
  • The Weekend
  • Real Life
  • Upright Women Wanted
  • I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life
  • The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
  • Possession
  • A Minute to Midnight (Atlee Pine, #2)
  • Funny Ha, Ha: 80 of the Funniest Stories Ever Written
  • Neighborhood Knight
See similar books…
See top shelves…
I host "Writers on Writing," which airs Wednesdays at 9 a.m. PT on KUCI-FM ( and streams live. (On iTunes, too, under college radio.) The show is podcast at and More than 600 shows have been podcast, including goodreads members/authors Cheryl Strayed, Gayle Brandeis, Mary Castillo, Phil Doran and Jim Tomlinson. I teach online through ...more

News & Interviews

The last five years of world history have been nothing if not...eventful. When living in interesting times, there's nothing better for...
44 likes · 11 comments