Book Review: The Writer’s Toolbox

The Writer’s Toolbox is ideal for inspiring poetry, prose, screenplays and novels as it offers a jump-start into creativity. Even without those goals in mind, the Toolbox is just plain fun for storytelling with friends and family.

Pick one of the FS sticks – that stands for "First Sentence" – and begin. The wooden stick, like the popsicle variety, has words on it. Choose a stick without looking. Then, let your left brain puzzle over it, leaving "your intuitive and non-linear right brain free to wonder and create", the author suggests.

There’s a small timer to let you know when you’ve spent three minutes (or extend that if you wish), on the first sentence before moving on to the NS stick – the Non Sequitur – to create a surprising transition. The LS stick is for Last Straw and contains a catalyst sentence to create "a dramatic arc". The stick could say: "the time Leslie called me a leech". You can keep adding to that story by picking a Sixth-Sense card or start a new story with three Sixth-Sense cards chosen at random. The cards are made up of sensory details from all the senses.

The Protagonist Game offers a limitless number of plot lines. There are palettes like small disks you can spin to come up with a protagonist, goal, obstacle and action.

Callan began using "first sentences" when she taught writing to adolescents at a psychiatric clinic. Since then she has taught writing in hundreds of places to help people, who felt blocked, find new inspiration and joy in their work. If you’re not telling stories she says, it’s time to begin. The small book in the Toolbox offers lots of suggestions including questions to ask yourself after a first draft.

The Writer’s Toolbox can help you prime the pump for any sort of writing you are about to begin including a scientific proposal, legal brief or advertising campaign. But at this time of year, it’s especially valuable for vacation time with the family. On summer evenings or on rainy days, mix

up all the tools in The Writer’s Toolbox and make it your own. Just imagine the possibilities when you give permission to your imagination to soar.

Mary Ann Moore is a poet, writer and creativity facilitator living in Nanaimo.