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Book Review:

Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life

Reviewed By Valerie Comer
Copyright 2009 by Valerie Comer, All Rights Reserved


"It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly, a shot rang out. A door slammed.

The maid screamed. Suddenly, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon!

While millions of people were starving, the king lived in luxury.

Meanwhile, on a small farm in Kansas, a boy was growing up." ~~Snoopy

Barnaby Conrad, in an interview with Charles Schulz, asked the mastermind behind the Peanuts cartoons if he thought of himself as a frustrated writer and/or painter.

"No," he said. "I've just always wanted to be a cartoonist, and I'm happy to be just that. Cartooning is a fairly sort of a proposition. You have to be fairly intelligent--if you were really intelligent you'd be doing something else; you have to draw fairly well--if you drew really well you'd be a painter; you have to write fairly well--if you wrote really well you'd be writing books. It's great for a fairly person like me."

Charles Schulz had a fairly good idea of a writer's life, even so, though he imbued the most unlikely of his characters with the yen to be a famous author: the beagle, Snoopy.

Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life is a tribute to Schulz. It contains the entire set of cartoons depicting Snoopy-the-Writer in one volume, as well as the advice of over thirty authors from Danielle Steel to Elmore Leonard.  What kind of advice? Advice for Snoopy (and other writers who might be stuck in a rut!) on the writing life.

Each of the contributed essays is in answer to a specific cartoon.  When Lucy tells Snoopy, "You should write a 'page turner'. Write a book that will 'sweep booksellers off their feet!' You should write a book that is 'powerful, yet heartwarming!'" Snoopy thinks, "I'm having trouble with the first sentence..."

To this, Clive Cussler responds, "Snoopy, try this when you sit down to the typewriter: Just say to yourself, 'What if?'"

Cherie Carter-Scott shares advice on writing a self-help book, and though the essay is aimed at Snoopy, the wisdom is useful for anyone writing non-fiction.

Snoopy writes: "Those years in Paris were to be among the finest of her life.  Looking back, she once remarked, 'Those years in Paris were among the finest of my life.'  That was what she said when she looked back upon those years in Paris where she spent some of the finest years of her life."  Then he stares at the typewriter. "I think this is going to need a little editing..."

Thomas McGuane encourages Snoopy to find a way to let the words flow, to not worry too much about editing right at that moment.

The advice ranges from Julia Child's thoughts on writing cookbooks to Shelly Lowenkopf's commiseration with all of Snoopy's rejection slips to Frances Weaver's thoughts on humor in writing.

Charles Schulz's son Monte says this about his father: "Snoopy perched in front of a typewriter on his famous doghouse is one of the enduring images of Peanuts.  His flights of literary imagination take hold of every writer and remind us (as if we needed reminding) that once we admit to ourselves we require and adore the written word and the writer's life, we are bound to chase that ever elusive perfect sentence, paragraph, story, novel, poem.  Rejections, blocks, false starts, and dead ends distract us; they cannot lead us away from this holy destiny we know is ours. Without a doubt, my father used Snoopy the author to express his own love and frustration with the creative process, to illuminate the writer's life by poking fun at the often incomprehensible divide between author and publisher while showing the amazing resilience of the everyday writer struggling for acceptance and acknowledgment."

This slim volume showcases the struggle that is in every writer and reminds us that we are in the best of company--not only that of the great Charles Schulz but Snoopy himself!

Snoopy's Guide to the Writing Life

Edited by Barnaby Conrad and Monte Schulz

Published by Writers Digest Books

ISBN: 1582971943