Spilling Ink

A book written about writing that is also very well written.

Book Review No. 14: Spilling Ink by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter

Series: (standalone)

Genre: Nonfiction/writing advice

Content for the sensitive reader: Werewolves and vampires (for writing prompts/fun examples, nothing too creepy), suspense, no foul language whatsoever. Very clean!

BookmarkedOne Rating: 8/10

Completion Date: 2016

So I don’t usually put much stock in nonfiction.

Or advice, actually.

But Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter’s Spilling Ink was quite good. Good enough that I wanted to find out what else they’d written. And actually started hunting their book titles. Because you kind of have to when one of them is called Olivia Kidney.


The pair of authors are funny, easygoing, and not in the least bit afraid to mention their own fears and shortcomings as they first became writers. Spilling Ink includes fragments of their own stories–how Anne Mazer chose to become a writer quite suddenly, and how Ellen Potter fought for her goal no matter what stood in her way.

Beyond that, there are absolutely charming writing prompts, examples, stories, and of course, writing advice. Not to mention that being written for tweens (or slightly older kids like me), the book has a light, easy-read rhythm that’s far more engaging than most nonfiction. Almost (but not quite) to where you could confuse the two.

A few of my favorite parts:

  • Writing examples of show don’t tell featuring a vampire and a life of endless chocolate,
  • Anne Mazer’s descriptions of writing an animal story starring a paranoid housefly (wow do I wish I’d thought of that),
  • The official certificate for permission to write anything (probably the best advice in the book),
  • The suggestion to have a sleepover party with your characters where you eat cookies and share deep dark secrets to make the writing easier. And now that I wrote that, I think I need to change my vote for favorite part of the book. The suggestion was accompanied by an adorable illustration of a boy and a Viking chatting and nibbling sweets. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Is it a writer’s guide to everything that will teach you how to be the next James Riley or Avi or Kathryn Lasky?

No. Not even close. That’s impossible. Even if the book was as big as a first-edition encyclopedia with appendices and an extra volume just for where the copy editor fell asleep with his nose pressing the J on his keyboard.

And besides. Most authors will admit when they started they had no idea what they were doing anyway. And if you had a copy of that magic book, please send it their way.

But Spilling Ink makes writing a little less terrifying. Simpler, if you will. It doesn’t bog you down in challenging the conventions of form or needing to write perfection (talking to myself here). Instead, Spilling Ink lets you laugh and enjoy yourself and wonder if maybe writing a story, just for fun, would be something cool. If maybe, like riding a bicycle down a giant hill or learning to play the flute, it might be something that’s just you. And by then, Spilling Ink is there to point you in the right direction and start you on your way.

And that, I think, is the only thing a writing book can do. The rest of the adventure is up to you.

Speaking of which…I have an urban fantasy wizard to go argue with this evening, so I’ll be wishing you all happy reading and scurrying on my way.

Published by bookmarkedone

Voice actress, book addict, musician, and writer. Likes 2CELLOS, chocolate cake, and walking in the rain.

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