Joseph Schreiber’s Art of Book Reviewing and Publishing

Posted on Feb 22, 2018

Mihika Agarwal

After an array of different poets, authors, editors and translators, we had a fun, exciting master class taught by Joseph Schreiber. Schreiber is a writer, blogger, critic from Calgary, Canada and maintains a literary blog called roughghosts, where he reviews books.

All of us probably looked exhausted with all the master classes; however, when Schreiber started the conversation as to how he got into writing and blogging, we were all immediately drawn in. His first piece, ‘Your Body Will Betray You’, was the starting point of his career. He spoke about how he became an experienced storyteller. He introduced us to different websites where aspiring bloggers and book reviewers can publish their work for free! Being a blogger myself, I found the session enlightening; I got to learn about the how the industry works. He not only gave us simple tips, such as writing and reading without fear, but also more complex ones, such as how to create one’s own blog through WordPress.

One thing that really struck to me was the concept of book reviews. Personally, I find book reviews difficult to write—because when I am writing them, I end up talking more about the story and often give away the ending of the book. If I was reading my review, I would probably find this really frustrating. Schreiber told us about his ideology—a review should not give away the end and it does not have to be entirely about the story. The review should be about what you liked about the book and it should be an interesting piece in itself, whether or not the reader actually wants to read the book.

One of my peers raised the question of whether we should write a review of a genre we are not familiar with or do not like. Schreiber replied, Absolutely not! I found this interesting. If we find a book boring, we should not take it up, as we would not to justice to the text; we would also torture ourselves doing something we do not like. Furthermore, he said, life is too short for that. That brought me back to reality as it made me think how I should always do something I love and only then would I be satisfied.

Schreiber also brought up the subject of self-publishing. Being aspiring editors, authors and designers, who dream of working in a publishing house or publish our own books, we found this discussion enlightening. He mentioned how one of his friends started his own publishing house called Inside the Castle and published a book called F Text. This fascinated me, since I have majored in English (poetry) and my senior writing project was a book of poems in which I used a variety of voices and stories with the help of visual effects­—blackouts, erasures, caesuras and white space. Schreiber was kind enough to gift me the book, for which I was extremely grateful and excited. I recommend it to everyone!

And to wrap up this piece, here is an excerpt from Schreiber’s piece on ‘Your Body Will Betray You’ which I have used to create an erasure poem.

Your Body Will Betray You — Joseph Schreiber
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  • L
    Lisa Hill
    Well, I am green with envy, I've been following Joe's blog for some years now and (as a book reviewer myself) I can attest to both the power of his words and the exquisite way he conjures ideas and images. So I am sure that a masterclass with Joe would have been absolutely great. (And yes, he's right. Don't try to review books you don't like, don't even read them unless you have to for study or work purposes. Reading and writing should be a pleasure!)
  • S
    Sifting through my experiences in Kolkata: Leading
    […] the same budding editor contacted me to let me know that she had written about my class for the Students’ blog on the Seagull School webpage! I feel an odd mixture of embarrassment and […]