Good Reads for Writers
Reviewed By Cathy Belben
A short list of things I have not done: destroyed a laser using binoculars and cigarettes, plugged a sulfuric acid leak with chocolate, converted an umbrella into a grappling hook, built a bomb out of toothpaste. My greatest act of improvised genius? Devising a better way to empty the cat box.
Even if you weren’t a fan of the ’80s TV show MacGyver, whose main character was notorious for his ingenious solutions and incredible escapes, you’ll enjoy the essay collection What Would MacGyver Do: True Stories of Improvised Genius in Everyday Life edited by Brendan Vaughan. Writers describe scenarios in which their creative problem-solving has allowed them to do everything from cleaning the gutters to stopping an asthma attack.
Except for a couple of cameos by better-known writers (Esquire’s Chuck Klosterman, for example), most of the contributors are regular folks who had a good idea and a fun story to tell. Besides learning some novel strategies for situations like using Chex Mix for car traction in the snow, I was also inspired by the idea of writing about unique solutions to problems, and I think other writers will be, too. As you read What Would MacGyver Do,consider writing about your own life and the unique, creative ways you’ve solved problems or escaped from uncomfortable situations—you’re almost certain to come up with a fun writing topic.
Cathy Belben lives in Bellingham, Washington, where she earned early fame for her award-winning fourth grade essay, “What the flag means to me” and later wrote bad rhyming poetry for the Whatcom Middle School Warrior Express. She recently survived a year in Hollywood writing for the show Veronica Mars. She’s returned to her normal life as a high school teacher and librarian, a triathlete, a weightlifter, a yogi, a dog’s mom, a cat’s slave, an artist, a napper, a nanny and an auntie. She’s thankful every day for everything.