You Must Be This Tall to Ride
Contemporary Writers Take You Inside the Story
by B.J. Hollars
Writer’s Digest Books, 2009
$17.99, paperback, 304 pages
Read a Chapter!
View or download “The the Good People of Mars,” a short story from noted author Laura van den Berg. Plus, read her thoughts on how she wrote the piece, advice on using similar techniques in your own work, and exclusive exercises.
Online Exclusive: Q&A With BJ Hollars
Editor, writing instructor, and author B.J.Hollars shares his insights into the writing life in this exclusive Q&A.
About the Book
Compelling stories have the power to generate infinite wonder: It’s nearly impossible to imagine how authors begin their story, and, at the same time, you sense there’s much more beyond those final words. Here’s your chance to hear straight from the authors on exactly what goes into writing a compelling story.
In You Must Be This Tall to Ride, you’ll find 20 works of fiction and nonfiction by acclaimed contemporary authors, each
offering fresh perspective on the universal theme of “coming of age.” Then, after each work, the authors provide exclusive personal essays exploring the ins and outs of the writing techniques they employed, as well as practical exercises to help you utilize those tools in your own work.
Award-winning writers like Dan Chaon, Aimee Bender, and others grant you a guided tour of craft with unparalleled access to the process behind their creations, including how to:
• grow a story from the seed of an image or sentence
• allow experiments with language to lead you to plot
• turn even the most unlikely characters into heroes
• transform raw anecdotes from your own life into
compelling fiction and essay
Join these accomplished writers as they take you on a rollercoaster ride of stories. You’ll not only begin to understand what makes the wheels of a story turn, you’ll also gain the tools and strategies to transform lost characters and runaway plots into the greatest show on earth. So go ahead, step right up.
Your ride has just begun.
About the Author
B.J. Hollars has been published in many journals and has earned the Davenport Fiction Prize and a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. He is a book reviewer for Bookslut.com and a staff member for the literary journal Black Warrior Review.
Table of Contents
Introduction • Conjuring All the Old Ghosts
Steve Almond • Tell Me Where It Hurts
Inside “Tell Me Where It Hurts”: Writing What Matters
Aimee Bender • Tiger Mending
Inside “Tiger Mending”: One Question Leads to Another
Kate Bernheimer • A Tulip’s Tale
Inside “A Tulip’s Tale”: Lead With Your Obsessions
Ryan Boudinot • The Littlest Hitler
Inside “The Littlest Hitler”: From Preparation to Evaluation
Judy Budnitz • Immersion
Inside “Immersion”: Word Games
Dan Chaon • Prodigal
Inside “Prodigal”: The Fictional Essay
Brock Clarke • The Apology
Inside “The Apology”: Starting With an Image
Michael Czyzniejewski • Janice the Mantis
Inside “Janice the Mantis”: Creating Conflict From Character
Stuart Dybek • Field Trips
Inside “Field Trips”: ‘Like This Really Happened’
Michael Martone • The Spirit of St. Louis
Inside “The Spirit of St. Louis”: Beginning With an End
Antonya Nelson • Here on Earth
Inside “Here on Earth”: Dividing the Self
Peter Orner • Pampkin’s Lament
Inside “Pampkin’s Lament”: The Loser Hero
Jack Pendarvis • Sex Devil
Inside “Sex Devil”: Using the Dark
Benjamin Percy • Refresh, Refresh
Inside “Refresh, Refresh”: Showing Creative Restraint
Andrew Porter • Departure
Inside “Departure”: Mining a Setting for Emotion
Chad Simpson • Especially Roosevelt
Inside “Especially Roosevelt”: Uncovering Meaning in an Anecdote
George Singleton • Voted Most Likely
Inside “Voted Most Likely”: Our Never-Dry Well
Brady Udall • Otis Is Resurrected
Inside “Otis Is Resurrected”: The Core of Longing
Laura van den Berg • To the Good People of Mars
Inside “To the Good People of Mars”: Experimenting With Language
Ryan Van Meter • Youth Group
Inside “Youth Group”: Surrendering to Memory