The Well-Fed Writer, by Peter Bowerman

Reviewed by Terry Freedman

The Well-Fed WriterWhat's a book on writing doing in a publication about educational ICT? Looked at from one point of view it's completely out of place. However, that is not the only perspective available. Much of the ICT curriculum centres on the concept of audience. Whether it's preparing a presentation for a particular audience, or responding to user feedback, the work requires an attention to someone other than oneself, and something other than the technology. Peter Bowerman, the author of TWFW, has managed to forge a living out of writing. It follows, therefore, that he may be able to teach us something about audience, and have some useful web resources up his sleeve into the bargain.

The book is, in effect, a marketing manual for the would-be serious freelance writer. Thus there is much about how to choose products and services (free is not always second-rate compared to exorbitant, it turns out), and how to approach potential clients. There is good advice about website design and what you should provide on the site, a wealth of websites to explore, and guest sections by other writers (including a few I've come across in the blogosphere, and whom I respect as writers).

There are a couple of niggling things. One is that although Bowerman makes it clear that social networking is very important in today's economy (schools that ban them, please take note), he admits that he himself isn't a member of any of them. That is disappointing because he may have been able to distil into a few bullet points the best way of making contacts in such spaces from his own first-hand experience.

As far as I can tell, there is no information about print-on-demand. Given that writers can be their own publishers these days, a section on that would not, I think, have gone amiss. There was a section about it in his companion book, The Well-Fed Publisher, in which he disparages the use of PoD (although at that time Lulu had only just appeared on the scene, and Bowerman himself had not used it yet).

However, given the readability of the book, such annoyances can be overlooked. Although the jocular (in parts) tone can start to sound a bit forced occasionally, it more often has the effect of making you want to look up that website or read such and such a blog.

Bottom line:

Perhaps not the most obvious choice for an ICT department in a school, but full of hidden gems and a cornucopia of resources. Buy it.

Related article: The case for print-on-demand.