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The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  214 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Suitable for both beginning and advanced writers of fiction and nonfiction, The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life distills 20 years of teaching and creative thought by the well-published author Priscilla Long. The Writer's Portable Mentor helps writers understand and incorporate the regular practices of virtuoso creators; provides a guid ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published February 23rd 2010 by Wallingford Press
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Julie Christine
I get the same rush of hands-rubbing-together glee buying a new writing guide as I do a new cookbook (well, almost - if only writing guides had drool-inducing photographs of Truffled Saint-Marcellin or Bucatini all'Amatriciana or Salted Caramel (fill in the blank with anything).

An unread book on the craft of writing is full of possibility, of secrets waiting for revelation, of motivation and inspiration. It may contain the one thing I need to know that will turn my writing life around, the check
I did every single exercise in the book, taking notes about how to apply what I learned to my teaching, and murmuring with joy at all the new twists I found on ideas and techniques that I've tried in many ways to share with my students. Though I do not agree with everything Priscilla Long says, I must assert (and I do not say this lightly): this is the best writing craft book I have ever read. Thank you, thank you, for sharing this life-work, Priscilla Long.
Nov 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If I could get one book and only one book to help me improve as a writer, it would be The Writer's Portable Mentor. I'm a fan of writing books that have me work with my own writing. Using this book, I have developed an ear for sound, a nose for (my) flabby sentences, an awareness of sentence structure, a styem for developing vocabulary to fit a piece, and a real love of metaphors that deepen the work, not distract. The exercises in this book are as helpful the twentieth time as they are the firs ...more
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-again
So far I have given this as a gift five times and my friends are all sick of hearing about it.
This is material I review over and over. The book is packed this book with everything from lessons on productivity, grammar discussions, lessons on diction and syntax, and something I haven't seen in many books: instructions on how to observe the world and turn what we experience into words. Unlike many books which simply address craft elements from the author’s perspective, she addresses the topic of
Jennifer Louden
One of the best books on writing. It is the one I refer back to the most often, as a writer and mentor.
Mar 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: continuous-read
The short review:WOW!!!!
David Clark
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I used portions of this book when teaching an introductory non-fiction writing course. I found many of the chapters a useful resource for students with specific writing issues. Particularly Part II--"Finding a Structure" or Part III--"The Art of the Sentence" provided instruction and examples that actually helped students to see in practical ways how they could move their sentences and structure to something better.

Some of the chapters--for instance, "Passive Voice--need to be longer (adding mo
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Priscilla Long has been my mentor for the last six years. Without her input on discipline, grammar, sentences—all the ways she encourages virtuoso writing in her classes, and her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor—I couldn’t have done the hard work to write a memoir that's being published next year. I teach writers of personal essays in my home, at Hugo House, and for The Red Badge Project, a writing program for soldiers. Priscilla's book is as instrumental as a journal for my students. It defin ...more
Charlie Holmberg
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for anyone revising a novel or writing an essay, especially where prose comes in. The book covers basic structure and selling points, but it's value is in its guide to prose--using metaphor, sounds, imagery to really make your writing better. It really helped me where I was struggling, and even after reading it through, I read it again, because there's so much useful information in there. Long includes a lot of great exercises to strengthen writing as well. I definitely rec ...more
Robin Meadows
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
My favorite writing book ever. Priscilla Long covers brainstorming to stretch your ideas; choosing words that combine precision with beauty; building sentences, paragraphs and overall structures that propel your stories; and more. And she gives examples of all this as well as practical tips on how to do it yourself. She makes me think about my writing and how to enjoy the process more than any other writing teacher - I would love to take a class from her.
Sep 01, 2010 marked it as to-read
I'm on page 51 of 360 of The Writer's Portable Men...: I didn't get into Long's class at Hugo House. I was crushed, because I'd made such a particular point of being at what I thought was the front of the line; I called at the stroke of noon. Alas, several hours earlier, more than a dozen others lined up outside the Hugo House doors. I am 4th on the waiting list. I'm consoling myself w/ this book. Thank goodness she wrote it.
Nov 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommended! especially for writers looking to write in a lovely, literary style.

Priscilla Long carefully crafted this book based on years of teaching writers and seeing what works best. It is filled with specifics and exercises and wonderful detail, as well as encouragement.

Every writer should read this book.
Ruta Sevo
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Full of good advice, and lots of guided exercises. Great analysis of sample texts illustrating particular structures. Like a course in writing.
William Adams
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-how-to
Priscilla Long’s book gets down to the nuts and bolts of writing, the brass tacks, the irreducible, atomic elements of the craft. You can read books all day on how to write scenes, develop character, and manage pacing, and those books are essential for beginners, but where writers often get bogged down is in neglect of the basics.

What are these basics? Chapter 2 is about using words better. It covers topics like Where to Find Good Words, collecting words, creating your own lexicon, sound effect
Suezy Proctor
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: instruction, writing
Whether you are just beginning or returning to writing, there is nothing better than a good book to jump start your brain. The Writer’s Portable Mentor is a great book for just that. Sitting on my shelf with the giants – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Writing is My Drink by Theo Pauline Nestor, and Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer, Priscilla Long’s book provided me with fresh insight to things I already learned, but needed a fresh perspective on.
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
I really liked this book and thought Priscilla Long explains concepts in a clear and humorous way. I appreciated how the chapters were broken down, both focusing on the structure of writing (topic sentences, fragment sentences, phrases etc.) but also included best practices of writing (write everyday even if it's only a little). I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in writing or understanding how writers are able to capture humanity.
Neil Mathison
Sep 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I'm a writer. I don't begine writing without the Portable Mentor withing arm's reach. Priscilla Long breaks down the process of writing to the basics: collecting the writer's thoughts, identifying a form to write into, and about all, the mastery of a sentence. I would not be without this book. I bring it with me everywhere.
Alison Quigley
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rest assured that if you’re a writer wanting ways to improve your sentences then this intelligent and energising book is for you. Upon finishing, I dashed off to grab notebooks to start on the journey of keeping lexicons and to capture musings. Wish I’d found this book earlier!
Cathy Carpenter
May 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018-read
This had a number of good tips and gave me a lot to think about, but I actually didn't enjoy the author's writing style! So I will take her specific advice with a grain of salt. Still, her tips will help me look at books I do enjoy and figure out what I would like to emulate.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Best writing advice book I've read in a decade or more.
Malachi Antal
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
good shotgun confetti. i recollect the bastardmobile short story. Edmond writers group recommendation. heavy on exercises. nyet. pricey.
Jan 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, writing-reading
The high points of this book are really high -- full of wisdom, sound advice, and inspiration culled from a wide range of samples -- and even the lower points (by comparison) are worthwhile for the perspective and helpful tips to be found here and there. The most useful parts to me were on the practice of being a writer -- the idea of striving for virtuosity, treating your work with respect, habits and mindsets to adopt as a practitioner of the art and craft of writing. I particularly like her i ...more
Joshunda Sanders
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
I made myself finish this last night because I couldn't fathom having a book on my currently-reading list that dated back to February.

There is some really great advice here.

It is an intense little book, though.

If you want to do independent clause/preposition/paragraph work, it's is awesome. There is even advice about transitions, revisions, putting your work out in to the world -- all really great.

Not only does Priscilla Long explain how one becomes a virtuoso writer (perpetually debatable)
L. Donovan
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If I were reduced to only one craft-of-writing book for the rest of my writing life, this would be it. (And let me admit: I'm a craft addict!)

Priscilla Long's text, The Writer's Portable Mentor, will be a classic. Her prose is image-rich, clear, and original. The book is subtitled, "A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life." Her humor is gentle, but piercing in its revelations; her illustrations from modern works of literature show a depth of knowledge of many writing styles; her "writing pr
Literary Mama
Priscilla Long's new book, The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft and the Writing Life, aims toward similar ends but through different means. On the first page, Long states, "This book is for writers who strive for virtuosity." Long begins at the beginning, with words and sound. She urges writers to collect and store words, to develop their own lexicon, and to use a poet's ear to work with rhymes, assonance, and repetition. "Every word, every sentence emits sound," she says. "The qu ...more
Jul 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Great book for me in the sense that I have been looking to improve my grammar and use of language in my writing. I've only just finished it and I already feel like I am carrying something with me into my writing.
One thing I kept getting hung up on however was the author's references to "first-rate writers" which gave off a feeling like these were super-human beings or something. That part made me feel just a little intimidated on occasion, although I think the author was trying to inspire the r
Judith Shadford
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous. A book that I really don't want to let out of arm's reach. While I'll never duplicate all of the journals for all of the exercises, probably to my detriment, the fact that that suggestion is right there...within arm's reach...may well get me out of a corner. The best chapter was Getting the Work into the World. Like a business. Produce, market, distribute, produce, market, distribute. Don't wait 8 months for a response, then go into a funk for 4 months, then omigod, it's been another y ...more
Ann L.
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This should be the go-to book for all writers. Yes, all writers--in all genres. It delves into the right amount of examples and explanations for high-quality writing in prose style, sentence structure, and diction. The right amount of detail so I can look up reference very quickly but then get directly back to my own writing. I am writing in the mystery genre and hope more mystery authors use this book for a guide to writing.
Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it

Really good at "different"--that is, organized by writing need with thought-provoking quotes from writers on a topic, a bit of explanation of how-to, and exercises for that writing aspect. In the hands of a skillful writing workshop facilitator, especially effective, since it came out of a Seattle writers' group. Keep it on your desk!
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the best book I have read to date on the craft of writing. It is simple, yet, covers the appropriate topics: Choose a structure for your story or book, nouns and verbs are the backbone of good writing, a thesaurus is a good thing, etc. I peruse this book in bits and pieces as I pursue my writing, much like browsing a recipe book to get some ideas.

An excellent reference manual.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
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  • Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers
  • MFA in a Box
  • The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself
  • The Daily Writer: 366 Meditations To Cultivate A Productive And Meaningful Writing Life
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  • The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House
  • The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer
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  • Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore
  • The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing: Everything You Need To Know About Creating & Selling Your Work (Writers Digest)
Priscilla Long is author of Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers, and Other Creators (Coffeetown Press), a book of essays titled Fire and Stone: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (University of Georgia Press), and Crossing Over: Poems (University of New Mexico Press). She is also author of The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the W ...more
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