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One brash request, 7 books, and 34 bits of advice for writers

poynter.org – Thursday February 9, 2023

How a whimsical invitation featuring the Rolling Stones and a Shelley poem led to some essential writing advice.

Early in October I received a small package from England, which looked most interesting even before I opened it. The envelope celebrated “Her Majesty the Queen’s PLATINUM JUBILEE.” Five stamps carried the postage, each with a distinctive image: Soldiers from World War II; three lines from my favorite Percy Bysshe Shelley poem, “To a Skylark”; four members of the Rolling Stones; and a gray cat with its eyes closed.

When I flipped it over, it was sealed with a Mick Jagger stamp and a handwritten note: “He also can’t get no satisfaction …”

I was intrigued. Whoever sent this seemed to know something about my interests and sensibilities. The sender was a writer named Paul Khanna. He described himself as a scribe who was, like Jagger, not getting satisfaction from his work; no mention of his acting career. He had written three diet books and had taken a course on screenwriting during the pandemic. He experienced personal setbacks. Both parents suffered serious illnesses and his cat went blind. (I thought of that stamp of a gray cat with its eyes closed.)

What did he want from me? It turns out he had read two of my books and found them helpful. He then caught a notice of my new book, “Tell It Like It Is: A Guide to Clear and Honest Writing,” due out April 11. He wanted a preview copy. “Just like the Apollo 13 which launched on that day,” he wrote, “I’m feeling lost in space and can’t wait to find my way home.”

To read the full article on poynter.org, click here

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