Steering This Craft of Mine

c.s. lewis isaac asimov steering the craft stephen donaldson the left hand of darkness tolkien ursula k. le guin May 22, 2023

By Paul K. Roberts

I went on another adventure over this past week, traveling to a place that was both old and new for me. It was a place that had a familiar feel, but the experience was breathtakingly new at the same time. And I did it all without leaving the comfort of my own home.

That’s what books do for me. 

The adventure took me back to my college days, where I briefly re-lived some of the fears and insecurities, along with the pleasures and dreams, of those late teens/early twenties years - without the confusion that accompanied those days the first time I went through them. In my occasional autobiographical blogging I have mentioned a few authors that I feel have shaped my life and my writing, especially during those UniversityofIdahoWesternMontanaCollegebacktoUniversityofIdaho years. Isaac Asimov, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Frank Herbert, and Stephen Donaldson are just a few of the authors that I traveled with.

My tastes have expanded over the last few years while Carol and I have moved into this current stage of our lives. One new thing for me is the amount of time I spend with non-fiction, especially writers writing about writing. So when I finished one book last week (I typically have 2 or 3 non-fiction works going at any given time) I went on a search for a new one. Fortunately, Carol has spent a lot of time gathering such books throughout our years together, apparently anticipating the day when I would need one, and her sister Christy generously shares from her collection as well. So, when I went to Carol’s office and began to browse, it didn’t take me long to find several promising titles. The difficulty wasn’t finding, the difficulty was choosing. 

Then an author’s name on the spine of the book caught my eye…Ursula K. Le Guin…and my time travel to those college days began. 

If you look back at the list of authors I mentioned above, besides being science fiction/fantasy writers, note that they are all male. Ursula K. Le Guin was the first significant female author that impacted my thinking. As a young college student looking to find a good book to read (probably to avoid reading another textbook), it was the title of Le Guin’s book that grabbed me: The Left Hand of Darkness. 

I knew nothing about the author, but as a sci-fi fan and proud lefty, here was a book that sounded intriguing. I read the “never-before-published introductory essay by the author commissioned especially for this edition” while standing in the bookstore, and knew I had to have it. Her thoughts on science fiction (“ is not predictive; it is descriptive…”); her thoughts on novelists (“A novelist’s business is lying…”) were daring to my young, narrow, inexperienced in the ways of the world mind. I marched to the counter, wrote a personal check for the “One dollar and 95/100’s” (no sales tax in Montana!), took the book home, poured through it…and didn’t get it. I read it again several years later, and still struggled with it. But both times, I had a sense that I was reading something profound, and to this day I attribute the fault to me, and not to my good friend Ursula.

Now, back to my search for some good non-fiction.

Le Guin’s book “Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew” is a gold mine. It’s been sitting on our shelf waiting for me to find it. From the moment I read the introduction - apparently, I really like Ursula’s introductions - I was hooked, nodding my head in agreement, smiling at her humor, laughing aloud at her style and anxiously waiting for Carol to get out of bed so I could share my find.

Hm. I wonder if it is time to give The Left Hand of Darkness one more shot.


Share a title of a book with our community that you believe deserves another shot for you to fall in love with.

To leave a comment on our blog, you can use Disqus.  It is easy to sign up.  You can use Google, Facebook, Twitter or your email.  There is no cost.  Just put in your name and email address and create a password.  Then confirm your account with the email they send you. Then you can use Disqus to comment on the blog.  We would love to hear your thoughts.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Subscribe to our email list to receive the latest news and updates from Paul and Carol about Grow Me A Story.

Make sure you confirm your subscription in the email we send to you.

Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.