Q&A: Robert Bruce, 101 Books

Robert Bruce is a full-time writer who lives in Nashville and works for Dave Ramsey, a personal finance guru with a nationally syndicated radio show. I met Robert (virtually) several years ago while we were both blogging about golf. In 2010, Robert, “a former English major who loves to read,” launched 101 Books. The blog took off and has thousands of avid readers and followers. This Q&A is excerpted from 101 Books, with Robert’s permission.

Q: What’s the point of 101 Books?

ROBERT BRUCE: Other than reading through 101 books, all on Time Magazine’s list of ALL-TIME novels published since 1923? I like to read. I like lists. I like big projects. I like blogging. Why not? When I started the blog, I thought I’d simply write a “review” of each book, with a related post here and there, maybe once a week. But the blog slowly morphed into a 5-day-a-week deal, and I’m loving it.

Q: If the Time Magazine list is 100 Books, why is the name of your blog 101 Books?

ROBERT BRUCE: I explain this a little more in my first post, but basically the list only includes books published since 1923, which was the year Time Magazine started. Ulysses just missed the cut because it was published in 1922. Since it’s widely regarded as the greatest novel in the history of the history, I decided to include it.

Q: How do you have time to read that many books?

ROBERT BRUCE: Great question. I don’t necessarily have time, but I make time. I read during my lunch break, for about 30 minutes, and I read at night after my wife and kid have gone to bed, for about an hour. Reading and running are my two hobbies right now. I think everyone needs a little breather, a little downtime, to re-engergize the batteries. Reading is one of the ways I do that. Continue reading “Q&A: Robert Bruce, 101 Books”

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Going Amish: The Pen and Pencil

In “Need to Get Focused? Go Analog” at fastcompany.com, Drake Baer made the case for those primitive writing instruments–the pen, the pencil. “Handwriting trains your brain,” Baer wrote, according to a Wall Street Journal story.

The basic idea is that using more senses is better, smarter. Making strokes with a pen or pencil is more creative than tapping keys. It slows down the writing process and increases thinking power.

So, could a pen or pencil and paper be a better way to write, or at least to write an initial draft? It worked for writers for hundreds of years. They had no other choice.

Referenced in the story, blogger Harry Marks wrote the last 40,000 words of his second novel using a pen and paper. He said his book turned out better. Part of what helped Marks was being “unplugged.” “I’ve learned the only things worse than procrastination are distractions,” he wrote at Curious Rat (his blog), “and if I’m going to overcome them, I need to cut them out of my life as much as possible.”

Marks called it “going Amish.” I like that.

I do a little bit of old-fashioned writing, usually in my notebook. I like the idea. I enjoy watching words and sentences form on paper. But, honestly, I’m on my laptop 99 percent of the time.

What about you? Do you ever actually write, putting pen or pencil to paper?

“How to Write a Novel in 100 Days” by John Coyne

My friend and writing mentor John Coyne has published a new writing guide.

From the news release:CoyneBook

For anyone who has a story that needs to be told … or who dreams of writing and publishing a novel … or who has ever thought, “I could have written that book!”

Now there is a practical, inspirational and dependable guidebook that will skillfully coach the first-time novelist from idea stage to publishable manuscript.

In HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 100 DAYS, seven-time bestselling author and veteran writing teacher John Coyne guides the beginning or experienced novelist with a proven daily formula that he has used to write and publish a dozen widely read novels. Packed with advice, tips, encouragement, tasks, wisdom, questions and inspiration from Day 1 to Day 100, Coyne’s easy-to-follow manual will steer writers of all abilities to a finished, full-length, publishable manuscript in just over three months.

“The only two things you need to write a novel are the ability to write a simple English sentence and the desire to write,” says Coyne in the book’s introduction. “You can do it.”

John Coyne
Bestselling author John Coyne.

That fundamental belief and Coyne’s unwavering encouragement permeate HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL IN 100 DAYS. It’s like having your own personal writing coach constantly at your side.

Coyne has devoted a lifetime to the written word—as a student, a writer, an author, an editor and a teacher. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature. He has been published in national magazines such as SmithsonianGlamourTV Guide and Travel & Leisure. He is the bestselling author of 12 novels and a total of more than 25 books of fiction and nonfiction in many genres, including mystery, horror, romance, sports, history and instructional/how to.

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I recommend John’s book. I write nonfiction rather than fiction, but John has terrific guidance for writers of all stripes. In fact, I used his tips (in an earlier form) to help me write my first book, a sports narrative that was published by St. Martin’s Press.

Happy Banned Books Week!

I stopped in Jessie Peterman Library and learned it’s Banned Books Week. A celebration of “FREADOM,” Banned Books Week runs from September 22 through 28.

Here’s what the American Library Association (ALA) says:

ALA’s work opposing censorship takes place not just during Banned Books Week, but throughout the year. OIF tracks hundreds of challenges to books and other materials in libraries and classrooms across the country. We provide advice, letters of support, access to legal assistance, policy recommendations, and much more to librarians, teachers, and community members looking to keep books on the shelves. We conduct training, media interviews, and online education about how and why to defend the freedom to read.

Famous Banned Books

Here are some noteworthy controversial reads. The reasons why are in parentheses.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (encouragement of child abuse and drug abuse)

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (dark tone and unruly lead character)

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss (banned in China because of Marxist and homosexual ideas)

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (might be offensive to Muslim students)

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (promotes witchcraft)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (racial content, vulgar language)

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (considered sexist)

Animal Farm by George Orwell (communist text in introduction)

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (offensive language)

How many of the above banned books have you read?

Goodreads: ‘Getting Open’

Getting Open: The Unknown Story of Bill Garrett and the Integration of College BasketballGetting Open: The Unknown Story of Bill Garrett and the Integration of College Basketball by Tom Graham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this story. My mom grew up in Shelbyville, Indiana, and went to the 1947 state championship game. My dad has told me Bill Garrett stories over the years. This book helped inspire me to write my first sports history book.

View all my reviews