Welcome to the Writer’s Life: How to Design Your Writing Craft, Writing Business, Writing Practice, and Reading Practice
Paulette Perhach (Paraguay 2008–10)
$18.95 (paperback), $9.99 (Kindle)
Reviewed by James W. Skelton, Jr. (Ethiopia 1970–72)
Most of us have read books about how to write or be a writer, but this book by Paulette Perhach is by far the best “writer’s book” I’ve ever read. When I began reading it, I was pretty sure I could claim to have already become a writer, but before I was halfway through the text I realized I’m still trying to be a writer. By the time I finished reading Welcome to the Writer’s Life, it was clear that it’s not just another writer’s book or a rule book, it’s much more than that, it’s a writer’s ultimate instruction manual on becoming a successful writer.
The amount of information and advice that Paulette provides the reader in 290 pages is simply astonishing, and she does so in a way that is both entertaining and educational. Her style is so natural and open that she makes you feel like you’re reading a letter from a close friend. Now that I’ve read the book, I’m going to reread the many pages I marked and underlined and make notes that I’ll use for future writing projects.
Paulette often shares her insightful wisdom, which seems to be far beyond her age and experience. For example, she writes of her years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay in the introductory chapter, and reveals how much she wanted to become a writer until she finally “shifted from wanting to be a writer to working to be a writer.”
Paulette’s breakthrough moment occurred during her service as a PCV in Asuncion, Paraguay at the age of 26. She was sitting on a bus when a young woman stood at the front of the bus and announced that she was going to give everyone a copy of a poem she had written, and if they liked it they could give her some money, but if they didn’t like it she would take the poem back. That poet made such a deep impression on Paulette that she wrote, “Seeing that poet taught me that being a writer is not about being special. It’s not about being published; it’s not about being famous…. That marked the day I really began to work.” She adds, “After seeing that poet on the bus, I stocked up on writing books in the Peace Corps library and, as they told me to, tried to write every single day no matter what.” This brief, introductory scene reveals the life-changing vision that inspired Paulette, then an aspiring writer, to dedicate herself to becoming a real writer.
Paulette concludes the introduction by stating, “I lay down this book for you as a welcome mat to the writing world. By the power vested in me, I say, ‘Come on in.’” She had me at “I lay down this book,” and I knew immediately that it was a sincere invitation to learn about being a writer, although I’m still trying to figure out what “being a writer” will mean for me.
Paulette breaks the bulk of the remainder of the book into a treasure trove of four distinct parts: writing practice, reading practice, writing craft and writing business. Each section contains insightful quotes from other writers that relate directly to the subject at hand, interesting experiments that are designed to provide practical experience, well-conceived advice and instructions about the topic, and helpful tips on ways to improve every aspect of being a writer. Through it all, Paulette manages to deliver a continuous stream of insights and advice that serve to give the reader user-friendly recommendations and instructions that show you how to get to work to be a writer. In so doing, she has made an invaluable contribution to all of us who are either wanting to be or working to be writers, and has made it more likely that we’ll achieve our goal to become accomplished writers.
But wait, there’s more! If you thought this wonderful book was all that Paulette has produced on this subject, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that she also created a website for the book, which includes templates, recommendations, more advice, forms and links to other websites. The website contains a phenomenal collection of material you’ll find at www.WelcometotheWritersLife.com, and you’ll be as amazed as I was by the sheer volume of detailed information and documentation that’s available for free.
Jim Skelton served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia from 1970-72, and worked in the Smallpox Eradication Program there. He is the lead editor and a coauthor of the book entitled Eradicating Smallpox in Ethiopia: Peace Corps Volunteers’ Accounts of Their Adventures, Challenges and Achievements, which was published by Peace Corps Writers in November 2019. He has also published a memoir about his life as a PCV in Ethiopia, Volunteering In Ethiopia: A Peace Corps Odyssey,
Jim has practiced law for more than 44 years, specializing in upstream international petroleum transactions in emerging markets. His work has taken him to over 35 countries in Europe, the Former Soviet Union, the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, and North and South America. He served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Houston Law Center from 2008 to 2016, teaching the course in “Energy Law: Doing Business in Emerging Markets,” and is a coauthor of the second edition of the textbook Doing Business in Emerging Markets: A Transactional Course. He has published 25 articles for legal periodicals and books, and has made 18 presentations at international conferences in Houston, Dallas, London and Moscow.