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Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within

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In her fifteen years of teaching, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has found that the biggest stumbling block for aspiring writers (especially women) is not fear of the blank page but frustration with the lack of time. What woman doesn't have too much to do and too little time? Finding an hour free of work, children, or obligations can seem impossible. But anyone can find fifteen m In her fifteen years of teaching, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has found that the biggest stumbling block for aspiring writers (especially women) is not fear of the blank page but frustration with the lack of time. What woman doesn't have too much to do and too little time? Finding an hour free of work, children, or obligations can seem impossible. But anyone can find fifteen minutes, whether you're sitting in traffic, waiting at a child's soccer practice, or watching the coffee drip. DeMarco-Barrett has created a practical, inspirational guide for fitting serious writing into those stolen moments. She offers writing exercises and techniques for generating ideas, as well as pragmatic advice from the well-known authors who appear on her radio show. With fifteen minutes a day, she can help you to ignite your pen and become the writer you have always wanted to be.


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In her fifteen years of teaching, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has found that the biggest stumbling block for aspiring writers (especially women) is not fear of the blank page but frustration with the lack of time. What woman doesn't have too much to do and too little time? Finding an hour free of work, children, or obligations can seem impossible. But anyone can find fifteen m In her fifteen years of teaching, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has found that the biggest stumbling block for aspiring writers (especially women) is not fear of the blank page but frustration with the lack of time. What woman doesn't have too much to do and too little time? Finding an hour free of work, children, or obligations can seem impossible. But anyone can find fifteen minutes, whether you're sitting in traffic, waiting at a child's soccer practice, or watching the coffee drip. DeMarco-Barrett has created a practical, inspirational guide for fitting serious writing into those stolen moments. She offers writing exercises and techniques for generating ideas, as well as pragmatic advice from the well-known authors who appear on her radio show. With fifteen minutes a day, she can help you to ignite your pen and become the writer you have always wanted to be.

30 review for Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within

  1. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Ibrahim ♥

    I love this book. I adore this book! I already feel powered up. I am even surprised that the author chose to say that the book is directed towards women "a busy woman's guide to igniting the writer within". Well, I am a a man I am eating up every word of it. I love especially what she had to say in the introduction about working in fifteen-minute segments instead of saying "I will write a page per day" or such the like. We simply need to get started and do a little bit here and and a little bit I love this book. I adore this book! I already feel powered up. I am even surprised that the author chose to say that the book is directed towards women "a busy woman's guide to igniting the writer within". Well, I am a a man I am eating up every word of it. I love especially what she had to say in the introduction about working in fifteen-minute segments instead of saying "I will write a page per day" or such the like. We simply need to get started and do a little bit here and and a little bit there. We need to chip-chip-chip away at the job at hand!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Montanaro

    Great book all about how to find time to write, how to find content to write about, and how to live the life of a writer, etc. I love how accessible the material was, and comprehensive. Some may say that the book is too basic, but I loved how the author covered everything. It was organized into different sections which made it very easy to follow. It took me months to read because I did all of the exercises as I went along. It includes so many wonderful writing prompts that I may incorporate int Great book all about how to find time to write, how to find content to write about, and how to live the life of a writer, etc. I love how accessible the material was, and comprehensive. Some may say that the book is too basic, but I loved how the author covered everything. It was organized into different sections which made it very easy to follow. It took me months to read because I did all of the exercises as I went along. It includes so many wonderful writing prompts that I may incorporate into my writing process. I can see myself going back to this book over and over like an old trusted writing friend. If you are a writer, or interested in becoming a writer, I highly recommend it!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ciara

    i wasn't crazy about the title of this book, because it seemed kind of narrow & gimmicky. this impression was strengthened by the cover design, which riffs on "chick lit" & seems geared for a demographic that i prefer not to include myself in. but i gave the book a shot anyway, & i'm glad i did because i really liked it! i have a weakness for books about writing (read about other people's writing processes, tricks, tips, ideas, & exercises always helps me feel creative & inspired), but they can i wasn't crazy about the title of this book, because it seemed kind of narrow & gimmicky. this impression was strengthened by the cover design, which riffs on "chick lit" & seems geared for a demographic that i prefer not to include myself in. but i gave the book a shot anyway, & i'm glad i did because i really liked it! i have a weakness for books about writing (read about other people's writing processes, tricks, tips, ideas, & exercises always helps me feel creative & inspired), but they can be hit or miss & not all of them are applicable to the kind of writing i do. there are a lot of books about fiction writing out there, which is tough for me because i don't write fiction. i usually try to adapt ideas for the kind of writing i do, but i didn't really have to do that with this book because it struck a nice balance of having practical advice one can apply to just about any form of writing. the writing exercises were clever & useful, covering all stages of the writing process, & the author draws on her many interviews & conversations with working published authors to ask what works for them & how they respond to conventional wisdom about writing. the underlying premise of the book is that, in order to be a writer, you have to write, & that means writing when you can--not just when you feel motivated or inspired. i think this is very good advice. this book gets the ultimate compliment: even though i initially checked it out of the library, i liked it enough that i bought my own copy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    When you read through this book and get to the end of every section you will want to write someting down about that chapter and the memory that it stirred up....You have to pace yourself through this book and keep a journal with you as writing ideas will pop up....wonderful read...going through it again....

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    On first read through, found that it is a good read for men also; good insight and great tips for getting started in writing as a hobby or career.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    The good read "I'm finished" button doesn't really do it for me, because this classic is constantly by my bedside and on my desk, waiting to inspire, instruct and encourage me every time I open it. I first read it as a less-experienced writing loner. Now I am part of a regular writing group and have way more confidence. Still, I find that this volume is as essential as my reading glasses are. It goes from bedside, to car, to purse to beach bag, a consistent companion on the writing journey with The good read "I'm finished" button doesn't really do it for me, because this classic is constantly by my bedside and on my desk, waiting to inspire, instruct and encourage me every time I open it. I first read it as a less-experienced writing loner. Now I am part of a regular writing group and have way more confidence. Still, I find that this volume is as essential as my reading glasses are. It goes from bedside, to car, to purse to beach bag, a consistent companion on the writing journey with me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Loved this book! It has so much practical advice for writers, regardless if you are a woman or not. This book has been essential for me in starting my writing journey.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wendi Lau

    “Think about what you wish for and imagine how you’d like your life to be in six months, a year, five years from now…Now set your timer for fifteen minutes and write down your ideal scenario…If you can’t see yourself as a writer, how will you ever find your way there?” Loved this Set Your Timer exercise early on in the book. Throughout the book, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett urges writers to set aside tiny blocks of time to devote to their passion. Despite all our responsibilities, we can eke out just “Think about what you wish for and imagine how you’d like your life to be in six months, a year, five years from now…Now set your timer for fifteen minutes and write down your ideal scenario…If you can’t see yourself as a writer, how will you ever find your way there?” Loved this Set Your Timer exercise early on in the book. Throughout the book, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett urges writers to set aside tiny blocks of time to devote to their passion. Despite all our responsibilities, we can eke out just 15 minutes for ourselves. Like other books, Pen covers listening to our surroundings for inspiration and dialogue, creating a writing space, applying writing craft, revising, etc., but it also gives specific direction if you need ideas to fill the daily 15-minute window, which will hopefully grow to more. This book is a great start for people who want to write but feel they don’t have the time. For people who don’t know what to write about. For those who aren’t sure they have what it takes. Every journey starts with a few steps, and then a few more. DeMarco-Barrett encourages readers to expose bits of their writing soul a little at a time. A reader/writer will increase the time as she takes ownership of her writing and frees the writer within.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Djrmel

    Every writer occasionally needs someone to give them the reality check that the only way to get something written is to actually do some writing. DeMarco-Barrett's book is that along with a bunch of helpful ideas on where to find the time to write, how you might want to organize that time as well as your thoughts, and how not to feel quite so guilty about taking the time. I think the "busy woman's portion of the title might be a bit out dated, though, because I know lots of men who are just as i Every writer occasionally needs someone to give them the reality check that the only way to get something written is to actually do some writing. DeMarco-Barrett's book is that along with a bunch of helpful ideas on where to find the time to write, how you might want to organize that time as well as your thoughts, and how not to feel quite so guilty about taking the time. I think the "busy woman's portion of the title might be a bit out dated, though, because I know lots of men who are just as involved in the mundane aspects of business and family and don't think they have the time to answer the call of their muse. The book works off of one premise: that everyone has 15 minutes here and there through out their day that could be used for writing. It expounds on how to add those 15 minute gaps into bigger chunks of time by cutting the internet cord, turning off the television (although I don't think she's aware that television can be a window as well as a wall), and changing your surroundings. There are writing exercises at the end of each chapter that make use of the skill set she's introduced, and again, there's a repetitive thread, this time it's freewriting. So, why the high stars if the book is shallow on new ideas and excercises? Because the one idea that she hammers home again and again, the only person stopping you from writing is yourself, is one of the truest trueisms ever stated about self-expression.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Amy Kahle

    I can relate to so much of this book it's ridiculous. I am always amazed at how women who are so much busier than I am can find time to write. If they can do it, I can certainly do it too! I read through this book the first time and didn't do the exercises that are at the end of each chapter, but I am now re-reading it and doing each of the exercises as I go. This book is so motivating! I can relate to so much of this book it's ridiculous. I am always amazed at how women who are so much busier than I am can find time to write. If they can do it, I can certainly do it too! I read through this book the first time and didn't do the exercises that are at the end of each chapter, but I am now re-reading it and doing each of the exercises as I go. This book is so motivating!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cyn

    What a *great* book - highly motivational, crisply written, just so well done overall. It's written specifically for women, but I highly recommend this to anyone who's either interested in writing or already a writer themselves. Wonderful read. What a *great* book - highly motivational, crisply written, just so well done overall. It's written specifically for women, but I highly recommend this to anyone who's either interested in writing or already a writer themselves. Wonderful read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Short chapters, inspiring advice...will easily become a pillar in all my writing endeavors!

  13. 5 out of 5

    LS Schulz

    This was my second time through "Pen on Fire". The first time I just read it to see what I thought of the advice inside. I enjoyed it enough during my first read through to realize that I'd actually like to try my pen at completing the writing exercises within. That is what I did this time. While I doubt it would take a person this long to finish the book if they worked on an exercise a day, it took me this long because, sadly, I did not always complete an exercise daily. I am happy, however, to This was my second time through "Pen on Fire". The first time I just read it to see what I thought of the advice inside. I enjoyed it enough during my first read through to realize that I'd actually like to try my pen at completing the writing exercises within. That is what I did this time. While I doubt it would take a person this long to finish the book if they worked on an exercise a day, it took me this long because, sadly, I did not always complete an exercise daily. I am happy, however, to finally be able to say I have finished working my way through it. Yay! There was good advice in here. The exercises were interesting and some of them challenging, because they were focused on something I don't generally write about, but I worked my way through them anyhow. If you are looking for something to help get your creativity flowing and perhaps to help you start a writing habit, Pen on Fire may be the book for you.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chandrashekar BC

    Wonderful book. There are tons of books on how to write, but this rare books guides you how to find time to write in your busy life. For the famous question "How to write?" the answers can fill an ocean. There can't be a single books, which can effectively guides you on all aspects of writing. All though this book covers all aspects of writing (ex: creative thinking, Crafting, plot, scene, dialogs, POV, marketing etc..) the main objective is to help you to find time to wirte. To help you to stop Wonderful book. There are tons of books on how to write, but this rare books guides you how to find time to write in your busy life. For the famous question "How to write?" the answers can fill an ocean. There can't be a single books, which can effectively guides you on all aspects of writing. All though this book covers all aspects of writing (ex: creative thinking, Crafting, plot, scene, dialogs, POV, marketing etc..) the main objective is to help you to find time to wirte. To help you to stop procrastinating your writing and start immediately. All those 15 minutes tips which are given at the end of each chapter are really worth exercising.( At least we must attempt few). The tips and tricks suggested by author is practical and possible. The book is easy to read and easy to grasp. Go read it !! and start writing. Yes you are a writer !

  15. 4 out of 5

    Patrice

    Pen on Fire is not a book to read front-to-back and be done. It is to be absorbed, marked up and kept on a shelf nearby to reference again and again. DeMarco-Barrett has gleamed wisdom from many fellow writers and written an easy to understand guide. Her short, to-the-point chapters are well-grounded and easy to read whenever you have a few minutes. I found the fifteen minute exercises helpful to solidify the content as I pursue my own writings. Pen on Fire is easily at the top of my list of boo Pen on Fire is not a book to read front-to-back and be done. It is to be absorbed, marked up and kept on a shelf nearby to reference again and again. DeMarco-Barrett has gleamed wisdom from many fellow writers and written an easy to understand guide. Her short, to-the-point chapters are well-grounded and easy to read whenever you have a few minutes. I found the fifteen minute exercises helpful to solidify the content as I pursue my own writings. Pen on Fire is easily at the top of my list of books to reference with it's organization and valuable guidance.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tanja

    I don't know what I expected with this book but I only made it to page 27 before I got to the point where I just can't go on. There are some writing "exercises" that sound interesting but I'm not one of those people who always have a pen and a scrap of paper with them at all times. And with my current job at a busy doctor's office I'm so tired after work that it's much easier to sit down with a good novel and read a few pages before I drift off to sleep at the end of the day. I don't know what I expected with this book but I only made it to page 27 before I got to the point where I just can't go on. There are some writing "exercises" that sound interesting but I'm not one of those people who always have a pen and a scrap of paper with them at all times. And with my current job at a busy doctor's office I'm so tired after work that it's much easier to sit down with a good novel and read a few pages before I drift off to sleep at the end of the day.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Boomers Gems

    Good Stuff!

  18. 5 out of 5

    DMuse

    Excellent book! I found it at the library and then I had to buy it. It got me writing so much! I still refer to it over and over again

  19. 5 out of 5

    Meg Wheeler

    I was so pumped to read this book. Upon first glance, this was going to be THE book. I loved the title - "Pen on Fire" - I pictures a Rocky-type scene where I'm bouncing around on both feet, hands in the air, ready to write magical works that launch me into being a bestselling author. The actuality of this book, however, was somewhat disappointing. The writing itself never clicked for me - perhaps it was a preference but I just didn't enjoy the author's style of storytelling. I also felt like th I was so pumped to read this book. Upon first glance, this was going to be THE book. I loved the title - "Pen on Fire" - I pictures a Rocky-type scene where I'm bouncing around on both feet, hands in the air, ready to write magical works that launch me into being a bestselling author. The actuality of this book, however, was somewhat disappointing. The writing itself never clicked for me - perhaps it was a preference but I just didn't enjoy the author's style of storytelling. I also felt like the advice she gave was overly personal and somewhat obvious. Not to say that obvious is always bad - often times, it helps to have the obvious put right in front of you as a reminder that the simplest answers are often the best. But I went into reading this book expecting to be motivated, engaged, excited and launched full steam into writing, and instead I found myself skimming sentences and skipping pages. Given that the book is meant to help busy women find time to write, a part of me wishes I had spent my time writing instead of reading this book! That said, I'm always hesitant to slam a book simply because I don't like it or because it doesn't have the effect on me that I desired. This book may work well for others looking for a guide to building a life of writing amidst "real" work, family, chores and life.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    This was an excellent book for women writers everywhere. Who doesn't need help learning how to do any task in a short amount of time? We all lead full and busy lives especialy in today's fast paced society where we have become so accustomed to everything (literally) at the touch of a button. Barabara Demarco-Bennett's novel Pen on Fire eloquently and succintly teaches writers how to hone their craft in the shortest amounts of time possible. Written in seven parts divided by topics such as craft, This was an excellent book for women writers everywhere. Who doesn't need help learning how to do any task in a short amount of time? We all lead full and busy lives especialy in today's fast paced society where we have become so accustomed to everything (literally) at the touch of a button. Barabara Demarco-Bennett's novel Pen on Fire eloquently and succintly teaches writers how to hone their craft in the shortest amounts of time possible. Written in seven parts divided by topics such as craft, tools & rituals, living the life, overcoming obstacles and mining your life, each chapter tackles one of the many controversial topics every writer wants to know about on how to improve your writing, how to make the most of your time, where to find and how to use inspiration and what to do once you've written your first draft. Each chapter starts with an inspirational quote by famous authors and notables and concludes with a 15-minute exercise to try on your own. I would definitely recommend this one to all my writer friends, whether you are just starting your journey or have been writing all along, this was an inspirational, motivational and educational handbook on the craft of writing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tai Harris

    “Pen On Fire: a busy woman’s guide to igniting the writer within” is a great reference book for aspiring writers and for busy writers who feel they lack adequate time to write. I picked this book up because my life became very hectic and I thought it could help in getting me back into writing by showing how to fit in time to write. Barrett offers great insight on how manage your time and busy schedule to incorporate a few minutes of writing each day. The chapter “trusting fear” is a chapter that “Pen On Fire: a busy woman’s guide to igniting the writer within” is a great reference book for aspiring writers and for busy writers who feel they lack adequate time to write. I picked this book up because my life became very hectic and I thought it could help in getting me back into writing by showing how to fit in time to write. Barrett offers great insight on how manage your time and busy schedule to incorporate a few minutes of writing each day. The chapter “trusting fear” is a chapter that shouldn’t be overlooked. Barrett writes “if you are a worrier, rather than fretting away the day or eating too much or calling your friends your tales of woe, write. Writing helps diffuse worry, helps you become more rational and see worry for what it is” (215). This book helps you to realize that wasting time being frustrated with the fact that you have no time to write is actually the time you should be writing. In order to improve my own writing, I need to write and this book has helped just that. It not only helps you to organize your time but also helps you work on your craft, generate ideas, and gets your creative juices flowing again.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Snell

    I just finished this (quite enjoyed it, too!), and while I'd like to go back and take a closer look at some of the exercises, I first wanted to jot down a couple of quotations from it that I particularly liked: "Good first lines hook the reader. They also hook the writer." So true! Get a first line intriguing enough, and you can't help but write the rest. And I appreciated this, an excerpt from an interview with Jodi Picoult: "When I write, I never feel particularly creative. Instead, I see a succes I just finished this (quite enjoyed it, too!), and while I'd like to go back and take a closer look at some of the exercises, I first wanted to jot down a couple of quotations from it that I particularly liked: "Good first lines hook the reader. They also hook the writer." So true! Get a first line intriguing enough, and you can't help but write the rest. And I appreciated this, an excerpt from an interview with Jodi Picoult: "When I write, I never feel particularly creative. Instead, I see a succession of scenes in my head that, apparently, it's my job to translate into words so that everyone else can see them, too." That's exactly how it feels to me, but I've never heard it put so well. "Pen on Fire" was a nice surprise I happened upon during the holiday season. It was interesting but still easy-going, and exactly what I was in the mood for.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Mckeel

    My mother gave me this book a few years ago, as kind of a creative writing self-help how-to book. It wasn't great, and is geared for people who are trying to get started with creative writing and trying to fit it around an already full life, which isn't my situation. But I actually got a lot out of it. The last half of the book has a lot of good pep-talk wisdom about coping with rejection, sticking with writing projects for the long haul, and that sort of thing. There were also some exercises an My mother gave me this book a few years ago, as kind of a creative writing self-help how-to book. It wasn't great, and is geared for people who are trying to get started with creative writing and trying to fit it around an already full life, which isn't my situation. But I actually got a lot out of it. The last half of the book has a lot of good pep-talk wisdom about coping with rejection, sticking with writing projects for the long haul, and that sort of thing. There were also some exercises and ideas that I thought would be helpful for teaching undergraduates about creative writing.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan Wyler

    This book lends comfort to those struggling to write, through helpful reminders and tasks, and lots of quotes from accomplished modern writers who share their own frustrations. I advocate writing for writing's sake, believe that everyone would benefit from keeping a journal, but I don't think most people who want to write a book are called to be writers. If you can live without writing, maybe it's better to do that. I worry that we're inclined toward mediocrity, with so much written, everything This book lends comfort to those struggling to write, through helpful reminders and tasks, and lots of quotes from accomplished modern writers who share their own frustrations. I advocate writing for writing's sake, believe that everyone would benefit from keeping a journal, but I don't think most people who want to write a book are called to be writers. If you can live without writing, maybe it's better to do that. I worry that we're inclined toward mediocrity, with so much written, everything in a hurry. Deep writing takes quiet, emptiness, and great swaths of time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Karen (Living Unabridged)

    Fabulous advice. Helpful writing exercises. Encouragement. A reminder that we don't have to have huge chunks of time or a retreat in order to write. (One quibble: there is nothing in this book that wouldn't also apply to a man, but I guess that's not how they wanted to market it. Men might want to wrap the cover in brown paper and read without shame. Or you could always say you were just holding it for your wife.) Recommended for: those who want to write, those who are writing but need more encour Fabulous advice. Helpful writing exercises. Encouragement. A reminder that we don't have to have huge chunks of time or a retreat in order to write. (One quibble: there is nothing in this book that wouldn't also apply to a man, but I guess that's not how they wanted to market it. Men might want to wrap the cover in brown paper and read without shame. Or you could always say you were just holding it for your wife.) Recommended for: those who want to write, those who are writing but need more encouragement and those who would like to improve their writing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sidra

    First, I need to say, I am not the demographic for which this book was written, so take my review with a grain of salt. I thought the first part of the book was slow and nothing too unique about it, but towards the middle I enjoyed the chapters and felt there were many good prompts and suggestions. It slowed down again for me at the end. I do like the author's writing style so I'll probably pick up a few of her other titles. First, I need to say, I am not the demographic for which this book was written, so take my review with a grain of salt. I thought the first part of the book was slow and nothing too unique about it, but towards the middle I enjoyed the chapters and felt there were many good prompts and suggestions. It slowed down again for me at the end. I do like the author's writing style so I'll probably pick up a few of her other titles.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Beth Lind

    3.5 stars. It had some good advice within the pages -- but not a lot that really applied specifically for women. Most of the advice was just about getting into the habit of writing (which is apparently harder for me than I'd like to admit). Overall, a good pep talk with lots of writing prompts that seem good. 3.5 stars. It had some good advice within the pages -- but not a lot that really applied specifically for women. Most of the advice was just about getting into the habit of writing (which is apparently harder for me than I'd like to admit). Overall, a good pep talk with lots of writing prompts that seem good.

  28. 4 out of 5

    LittleBookDruid

    Although it is named and mostly written for women, the one with family responbilities, this book is suitable must read for every writer. Filled with clear and concise, fun and engaging chapters, and creativity booster exercises. This book is helpful for all kinds of writer, even the nonfiction ones.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    There are some really fun creative writing exercises in this book. I liked the way every chapter ended with a writing exercise. I didn't get through the whole book before it was due back to the library though. There are some really fun creative writing exercises in this book. I liked the way every chapter ended with a writing exercise. I didn't get through the whole book before it was due back to the library though.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dee

    If you've always wanted to write, but never felt you had the time, this is the book for you. Every two or three pages, the author, Barbara DeMarco Barrett, gives the reader exercises to inspire writing and build craft. If you've always wanted to write, but never felt you had the time, this is the book for you. Every two or three pages, the author, Barbara DeMarco Barrett, gives the reader exercises to inspire writing and build craft.

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