Jan 212014

Kicking-In-the-Wall“When you hit a wall, kick it in.”

That’s the advice playwright Sam Shepard gave to musician Patti Smith early in her career. She had said to him, “I would go as far as I could and hit a wall, my own imagined limitations” and that was his response.

Sound familiar? This line from Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, inspired author Barbara Abercrombie to write Kicking in the Wall: A Year of Writing Exercises, Prompts and Quotes to Help You Break Through Your Blocks and Reach Your Writing Goals.

Inside are 365 five-minute writing exercises, a great way to jumpstart your writing for the new year. Dip in and pick anything to start. Here are some examples:

  • Write about the time you were ruthless. With a garden, a poem, a relationship, or a place.
  • “Go forth and be fancy today.” — Rachel Kann. Write the first image that pops into your head from the quote. Don’t overthink it. Don’t think at all. Just jump in.
  • Write about a time you had to be patient. Or wished you had been. Write about what your body does when you’re feeling impatient.

Why are writing prompts worthwhile? You might think you don’t need them because you have your own writing to do. But so much richness can come. First there’s the simple pleasure of remembering, or writing about a feeling or an event. It’s freeing and satisfying, because your job is only to get it down.

Best of all, it’s easy, because you don’t have to pitch it or edit it. Decide what to do with your writing later, if at all. And you can easily work in a food theme, because food applies to any prompt when you’re obsessed with it.

If you’d like a copy of Kicking in the Wall, please leave a comment below. I will pick a winner at random and send you the book, signed to you from me. This offer is good in the US and Canada only.

And perhaps I’ll see you at two upcoming events, where I will teach food writing technique and craftsmanship:

Friday, January 24, 2014, 1-5 p.m.
Food Writing for Food Lovers
Birmingham, AL

Have you been to Food Blog South yet? It’s a wonderful, inexpensive conference, with the money going to charity, and two evening parties featuring alcohol and Southern food. How can you go wrong?

I’m teaching a four-hour workshop Friday afternoon, before the conference begins. We’ll focus on how to tell a story effectively, and dissect the techniques award-winning food writers use. There’ll be time for writing exercises and, most of all, the chance to amp up your writing skills.



February 15, 2014, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Food Writing for Food Lovers
The Writing Salon
Berkeley, CA

I rarely teach in the Bay Area these days — I’ve been bit by the travel bug lately. But I’m back for a 1-day workshop in the East Bay. Here is an inexpensive day-long overview of food writing, particularly the craft of writing. We’ll also cover freelance writing, blogging, recipe writing and getting a cookbook published.

Join me! You’ll meet all kinds of fascinating people in this class, including food bloggers, writers from other genres, caterers, chefs, restaurateurs, and cooking teachers.

(Disclosures: This book was sent to me by a publisher, an this post contains affiliate links.)

Update: Susan Cooper is the winner of the giveaway. Thanks to everyone who entered. I used Random.org to generate the number.

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  44 Responses to “Book Giveaway and 2 Classes Coming Up”

  1. Well, I wish I could attend one of your writing workshops.

    I love writing prompts and have been collecting them for my own workshop… writing from the gut, practice… I’ve not heard of this book but it sounds great!

  2. I’d love the writing prompts! I’m doing Jeff Goins’ 500-word challenge this month and would love to continue this for the rest of the year (or my life!) because I’ve seen how much it helped me in my writing :)

  3. Just reading this brings back memories of some of my favorite times writing. I would love a copy!

    • Oh that’s wonderful, Anita. I get excited when people say they love writing. I am sometimes stuck in a love-hate relationship!

  4. I just started Bill Roorbach’s “Writing Life Stories” and am learning a lot as I work through his exercises.

  5. I love the idea of having writing prompts to keep my craft sharp. They’re a great way to think of different angles that you might not have otherwise.

  6. I just signed up for your seminar in Birmingham and cannot wait! I admire your work and am learning the craft of writing about food. Would love to have this book of prompts. See you in Birmingham!

  7. I’ve been enjoying your blog for about three years now. I especially appreciate news about helpful books. This one looks like a winner!

  8. The hardest part about writing for me is putting my tush in the chair. I spend time searching for ideas rather than simply writing. The book sounds like a kick-starter! Bring it on!

  9. Hi Dianne, Since the New Year I’ve been reading two of your recent recommendations, The Most of Nora Ephron and Naked, Drunk and Writing inspired as such, I believe I’m ready for Kicking in the Wall!

  10. I was given your book, Will Write for Food, for Christmas and am enjoying it immensely! Writing prompts and short writing exercises are a great way to “Kick in the Wall” and I would love a copy of Barbara’s book.

  11. I do hope you will make it to Denver one day, it is a beautiful city and I would love to attend your workshop. This book sounds like a great writing tool, useful many times over. Thanks.

  12. Aloha Diane!

    I would absolutely love a copy of this book. One of my resolutions this year was to be sure that I am writing something every day, even when I don’t feel like it. This sounds perfect for daily inspiration.

  13. Sounds like a great book and so fun. It is hard to think sometimes how to express a feeling though writing, this would be a great tool! Thanks for the chance. I love the exercises in your book as well.

  14. This book could be the jump-start I need to really improve my writing.

  15. Your point about relating ANY writing to food is exactly why I became a food writer, Dianne. Thanks as always for leading us.

  16. This would be a great book to help get me started with writing again.

  17. Thanks for the post and book giveaway. Safe travels!

  18. Writing prompts are just the thing to get the juices flowing, the pen moving and the chatty brain quiet!

  19. I was just showing “Will Write for Food” to a new blogger last night and suggesting she follow your blog. I always find such wonderful inspiration in your words. Thank you, Diane!

  20. Dianne, having just (finally) started my blog this month, I would love to attend the seminar in Birmingham, but it’s a little too late to make arrangements. Is there a list/website that has info for all upcoming conferences? I love the writing part of my blog, but I want to learn as much as I can about all aspects from writing to design. I need to get out my copy of Will Write for Food and review your chapter on blogging. Thanks for all the inspiration.

  21. The writing exercise examples you selected immediately got me to get out my pad and paper. Sounds like a great book.

  22. Hi Diane,

    This sounds like the perfect book to kick start a productive New Year of writing… I’d love to have it! I’m hoping to attend your Berkeley seminar if my schedule permits.

    Thank you for your inspirational posts and professional nurturing : )

  23. I love writing prompts, I use them as a jumping off points for writing short comedy sketches for my vlog.

  24. First, this is an awesome giveaway. I would love to a winner. Second I would love to attend the February 15th course, but alas that is my anniversary week-end and I won’t be around. Will you have another one in the future in the Bay area (or near by)?

  25. Diane — Looking forward to seeing you at FoodBlogSouth! What great advice about how to defeat that, “wall.” I have been trying to break through that block for a while. On some days it feels like I am playing the popular game Minecraft in which players break through virtual rock walls!

    I think this conference will be what I need for some fresh ideas — but I will definitely look for that book!


  26. I need this book. Your comment about every exercise can be applied to food was a kick through the wall.

  27. I’m just starting my career as a food writer and would like to learn more about writing prompts.

  28. I love writing prompts and that they come in book form is even more marvelous. Thanks for sharing this info and giveaway. Would love to meet you again at future writing and food conferences. Thanks, Dianne!

  29. Every time I sit down to write I stare at the screen waiting for the magic to happen. And then somehow the words come out – not very good ones and not many but they do come. Having short exercises/prompts everyday would help a lot to get past this stage. I will definitely look for this book in the store or on-line. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  30. I just taught my first writing class through my local library–Food Writing 101. I love writing prompts, too, so I gave each student crisp apple slices and a dollop of homemade dulce de leche and asked them to describe the experience of eating it without adjectives or adverbs. It’s challenging! I’d love to check out this book for more ideas for my own writing. Wish I could come to Berkeley–I’ll look into it.

  31. I got on a kick last summer where I was writing with prompts daily. I used the ones by Molly O’Neill posted on her CookNScribble Facebook page. They really stir some creativity! I’d love a copy of this book and hope to get back into that good habit again soon. Thanks, Dianne!

  32. Dianne, Kicking in the Wall is just what I’m looking for. I founded a creative writing/critique group in my little country town (I have ten writers so far-yippee), and we write to prompts for the first hour. One can never have too many prompts. And I like the casual, breezy tone in the examples you gave.

    I’m sorry I’m not attending FBS this year to meet you and catch up with my Southern friends. Have a blast for me.

  33. Dianne, I’d love to have this book. I attended a creative writing class 13 years ago in Toronto, was so much fun… but my professional life got hectic, and with a newborn child and all, I did not get much time to continue my hobby…
    In any case, I look forward to resurrecting my creative exercises, as I got mote vacation days this year and would like to spend some more time on food-writing.

    Also, I’d love to attend an European event at which you are a speaker.

  34. Hi Dianne! Still using the valuable info. from your class at The Cook’s Warehouse in Atlanta. Would love a copy of the book. Safe travels!

  35. I can use all the help I can get with writing. Please throw my name in the hat.

  36. I’d love a book of writing prompts! I’m currently in journalism school and writing lots of articles but not a lot of fiction, which I love. I think a book like this could really help.

  37. I’ve added the book of writing prompts to my TBR list. I know I will love it as I have a thing for collecting and doing writing prompts. Your workshops sound great. Food writing is something I like to do, but have yet to fully give it the necessary attention I need to for anything to truly come of it.

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