I recently ran into a new writing guide, Write of the Living Dead, by Araminta Star Matthews, Rachel Lee, and Stan Swanson. As a now veteran English teacher as well as writer of my own writing guide (though mine’s a YA novel: How I Got Rich Writing C Papers*), I get to weigh in on what I see of value in Living Dead. Lucky me, there’s a lot to see.
I’ve encountered countless writing guides in my day. MLA has one. So does APA. Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style sits on many writers’ bookshelves (including my own), reminding them of language’s purpose and power. Lynn Truss complains (convincingly) about bad grammar in her Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. Stephen King combines compelling memoir with style and publication advice in his On Writing. Karen Elizabeth Gordon gothically pulls apart and puts back together the English language in her Transitive Vampire grammar books. Diana Hacker provides examples of strong style and formatting in her much-used-in-schools The Bedford Handbook. The list goes on and on. Well, now we have a scary-good addition to this esteemed list. Matthews, Lee, and Swanson’s Write of the Living Dead borrows Gordon’s dark outlook and then pulls off an impressive feat, combining elements from other successful writing guides to create a comprehensive manual that covers everything from writing process to style to mechanics to format to genre (story, poem, essay, e-mail, resume, and more!) to publication, all in dark, bloody good fun. The setup: Each chapter is narrated by a different undead character dealing with a zombie apocalypse. Teachers of writers in high school, college, and beyond will find one helpful, engaging example and explanation after another. (My favorite chapter title? The sixth: “Persuasive Writing or Please Can I Eat Your Brain: A Zombie’s Guide to Writing Persuasively.”) In the first chapter, Reginald Spittoon (an author hurrying to write his chapter before his zombie bite becomes an urge and new identity that overtake him) provides an example of an effective opening to an essay—a challenge, more specifically: "The hunting and slaying of vampires is inhuman and should be outlawed. According to existing laws, there is nothing wrong with taking a sharp wooden stake and pounding it cruelly through the heart of creatures that, in many cases, possess more intelligence than their living brethren" (21). You’ll find full model essays in there, too. Write of the Living Dead’s engaging points of view and sense of humor make each chapter’s teaching all the more approachable and exciting. I’m excited to share this fresh (or rotting, decaying, and rancid?) new voice with my students.
*Not bad for shameless promotion, eh?