Cover image for The playful way to serious writing : an anything-can-happen workbook to inspire and delight
The playful way to serious writing : an anything-can-happen workbook to inspire and delight
Allen, Roberta, 1945-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., [2002]

Physical Description:
vii, 200 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PE1413 .A38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



For anyone who has ever dreaded the blank page or struggled to find something to write and then agonized over how best to write it, or has simply found writing to be hard work, The Playful Way to Serious Writing breaks down common writing barriers and frees the writer within. Drawing on extensive experience in teaching creative writing and a lifetime of free artistic expression, Roberta Allen, novelist, short story writer, and author of Fast Fiction, has created a unique book of writing exercises packed with hundreds of verbal directives and visual cues. The key, Allen says, is ENERGY, "the force behind the words, the desire to bring forth something that has never before existed." Allen's ENERGY METHOD, which focuses creativity without interruption or that nagging inner critic, can be used for any type of creative effort at any level -- stories, novels, plays, memoirs, sketches, journals, and more. Attractive, engaging, funny, and free ranging, The Playful Way to Serious Writingis more than just a writing guide -- it is an endless sourcebook of ideas and a trusted creative companion.

Author Notes

ROBERTA ALLEN is the author of numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including The Playful Way to Serious Writing and Fast Fiction. Allen is also an established visual artist and has exhibited worldwide, with work in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Were a creative writing professor and a kindergarten teacher to conspire on a writing guide, it might look something like The Playful Way to Serious Writing: An Anything-Can-Happen Workbook to Inspire and Delight. In a big font that looks remarkably like a school teacher's penmanship, Roberta Allen (Fast Fiction; The Dreaming Girl) espouses the "ENERGY method" of finding your inner voice; it is, she says, "a way to break that shell of fear," "bypass the inner voice that stops you" and " lose yourself like a child in the magic of creating." Suspension of cynicism is required, of course: write about what an FBI agent would think of your life, or choose a letter that has the most "ENERGY" and pen a story featuring words starting with that letter, and Allen is there to warmly cheer you along. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Starting Out
What is the ENERGY Method?p. 12
How it worksp. 16
How to know when a word or image has ENERGYp. 18
How to rebelp. 19
How to use the exercisesp. 20
How to choose the exercisesp. 21
Splotchesp. 24
What is her secret?p. 26
Pick a letterp. 28
Why is she smiling?p. 30
Six figuresp. 31
Momentsp. 36
Looking Inward
How far back can you go?p. 38
Memoriesp. 39
More memoriesp. 41
Whose memory is it?p. 43
False memoriesp. 44
Still more memoriesp. 45
Two sides of the storyp. 46
A safe placep. 52
Objects not directly relatedp. 54
Pick a fearp. 58
More fearsp. 61
Still more fearsp. 62
What will happen here?p. 64
Found objectsp. 65
Realizationsp. 68
Life-shaping eventsp. 70
Found objectsp. 72
Woman sittingp. 73
Decisionsp. 74
More decisionsp. 75
Still more decisionsp. 76
What does he want?p. 78
Desiresp. 79
Dreamsp. 82
Imaginary dreamsp. 83
Looking Outward
Pick a letterp. 84
Who and where?p. 86
Loose linesp. 88
Three ways to explore characters or real peoplep. 90
Ten ways to get a piece or project unstuckp. 91
Pick a characterp. 94
Who have I left out?p. 99
Who and where?p. 100
Getting physicalp. 102
Minor mishapsp. 105
Shades of grayp. 106
Pick a problemp. 110
More problemsp. 115
What is his problem?p. 117
One or two?p. 118
Solutionsp. 120
Mixed feelingsp. 121
Emotional statesp. 122
More emotional statesp. 123
A strangerp. 124
Mirror monologuep. 125
Mouth piecep. 126
Eye piecep. 127
Found objectsp. 128
Combination piecep. 129
Hair piecep. 130
What's in the box?p. 131
Is she "real"?p. 132
How are they connected?p. 134
Four silhouettesp. 136
Who is she?p. 138
One of three womenp. 139
Pick a namep. 140
Before ...p. 142
After ...p. 143
Who is he?p. 145
Where and who?p. 146
Looking All Around
Pick a placep. 148
More placesp. 151
A real placep. 152
Another real placep. 153
Islandsp. 154
What was lost here?p. 156
A primeval placep. 157
Dream spacep. 158
Twenty-four figuresp. 159
More inspirationsp. 163
Pick two numbersp. 164
Whose hand is this?p. 166
What do they smell?p. 168
What does she smell?p. 169
A bad taste?p. 170
Eavesdroppingp. 172
Sound piecep. 174
Pick an actionp. 176
Pick an issuep. 178
Pick an animalp. 180
Pick a nounp. 182
More linesp. 184
Drawing linesp. 186
Cryptic writingp. 189
Looking Ahead
Now what?p. 190
How to run a Playful way groupp. 195
Acknowledgmentsp. 199