Reviews of Cultivating Words
“The preface to Cultivating Words includes the statement: “Gardeners are among the most generous people on earth.” Paula is referring, of course, to the way gardeners share their plants and expertise with each other. It’s true. And this little book tells
how to take that natural generosity and spread it even further. Her directions are absolutely friendly and to the point. At first I thought she wasn’t very well organized, but then I realized that that was part of the charm.
“This isn’t The Chicago Manual of Style. This is a chatty book about garden writing, getting it published, selling your ideas to editors, and other subjects that could be downright boring if not done with Paula’s flair for the right word. Often she uses her own work when it gives the best example, but she also goes to the classics: Edward Abbey, Laurence Durrell, Jamaica Kincaid, Verlyn Klinkenborg, and John McPhee among others.
“Her examples are really the secret joy of this book. Every time she addresses a new topic – short articles, feature stories, revising, writing queries (to get an idea accepted), or editing – she uses real examples from real writers. Including herself. It’s fun just to read all the possibilities. I actually found the whole thing quite entertaining and informative – even if I’m not planning to write anything. But maybe I will change my mind now that I’ve read this book.”
[Editor’s note: Panich highly recommends two books you may find inspiring:
- Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life
by Natalie Goldberg (New York: Bantam Books, 1990)
- Will Write for Food
by Dianne Jacob (New York: Marlowe & Co., 2005).]
Jane Cole, retired librarian, DESERT BOTANICAL GARDEN, Phoenix, Arizona
in The Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries, Inc. Newsletter.
Number 105. May 2007. (PDF)
(The Lloyd Library and Museum, a privately-. funded independent research library, holds,. identifies, acquires, preserves … )
Dan Hinkley, writer, plant explorer,
and cofounder of Heronswood Nursery says . . .
“Identifying the constructs and mechanics of good writing is much like learning another language to, at last, understand your primary. This is a superb read and reference for those who write as well as those who read. Together, it is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Zinsser’s On Writing Well, watered, fertilized and put on the windowsill. “
“If there ever was a text that might encourage a botanical artist to try his or her hand at writing, Cultivating Words is it. Chapter titles alone lead one to connect relationships within the two realms of painting and writing. Thoughts on how Gardening is Like Writing (think how it is like painting); Coaxing Subjects and Characters to Life; Pruning and Patience; Leafing out in Public; Practice and Discipline and Time. Many of her guidelines apply to art prepared for publication – Know what the editor wants; Know your audience; Simplify the presentation.
“Lessons on discipline, the importance of keeping journals, tips on traveling with the aim of writing (and painting?) are invaluable, as are her resources for learning and citing botanical nomenclature and finding markets for publication. Advice on sentence structure and paragraph format are well told, but the strength of the book lies in her encouragement of finding and expressing one’s voice.
“The book is filled with examples of Paula’s writing, enlivened with discussions of how and why she wrote as she did. She is both wise and generous. Snippets from other writers such as Diane Ackerman, Verlyn Klinkenborg and Susan Orleans are analyzed with an ear for what makes each exceptional. Emphasis is on writing for newspaper columns and magazine features, but the scope is broader than that.
“Whether one has been asked to submit a plant description for an exhibit catalog, seeks to publish an illustrated travel journal, or dreams of publishing a tome showcasing ones botanical portraits, there is guidance here.”
– Bobbi Angell, for the newsletter of the American Society of Botanical Artists , December, 2005
Anyone Writing About Plants…
“Cultivating Words, by Paula Panich supplies marvelous guidance to anyone who wants to write about plants and gardens, showing how to bring life, clarity and a distinctive tone to any article, as well as the mechanics of good writing and getting published — very detailed and useful to professional authors as well as to the novice.”
– Thomas Powell, Avant Gardener, November 2005