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    Writing a Book Review/Literary Column

    For the avid reader, writing a book review or literary column can prove an interesting and enjoyable enterprise. Depending on your interests and the direction the newspaper editor will allow you to take, your column might include literary news as well as book reviews.

    My book reviewing began when I was a newspaper reporter for the local weekly paper. The editor often received books, especially those by local writers or about regional topics. He suggested I review them and possibly interview the author if it was a local person.

    When I was editor of a travel publication, I developed a "Book Nook" column and reviewed books, current ones and previously published ones, that related to the area we encompassed.

    You also can include book reviews in other columns that you might write. Over the years, I've written a "Country Kitchen" column for various newspapers. In this column I sometimes mention cookbooks that my readers might find interesting. In my "New Hampshire of Yesteryear" column, I review books relating to the history of the state.


    Types of Material for Book/Literary Columns

    A book review/literary column may take a variety of directions, depending on the type of publication you're writing for and the philosophy of the editor.

    • Reviews of books - This type of column contains only book reviews. These books may be of many types, particularly if this is a newspaper column. However, if it's a column in a magazine, the books generally will be only those relating to the magazine's slant or content.

    • Opinions of books- Sometimes the book review will be solely a summary of the book. However, generally the reviewer will give an opinion of the book and how it meets literary standards or the interests of the readers.

    • Interviews of authors - Some reviewers will interview authors and present a human interest story about the author's life and why he/she wrote the book. I always found these very interesting to do and a great opportunity to meet many authors.

    • News of writing events - Your column might include literary events around the region as well as reviews of books. For this type of column you could use press releases as a springboard for your news and stories.

    • Stories of book stores - Often bookstores host interesting displays and events. The owners might have fascinating backgrounds. Also, you might find book areas and reading nooks in stores one doesn't generally consider a source of books.

    • News of Library events - If you work at a library, you might be called upon to provide a column for the local newspaper about events and new books at the library. If the library doesn't provide this, a book review and literary event columnist might want to include library news.

    As a reviewer, you often will receive books free of charge. Sometimes these are sent to you without your requesting them. However, it's not really ethical to request books you don't intend to review.

    If you're an avid reader and writer, you could find doing a book review or literary column for a newspaper or magazine very enjoyable.

    Copyright © 2003 Mary Emma Allen

    Mary Emma Allen has written many types of columns during her career. Currently she writes for print and online publications and has collected some of her columns into books. Visit her Web site at http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea.

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