Friday, January 29, 2016

A post about familial influences and as a result, a very biased book review

"So why do you want to write? For most people, living a good life and writing are not synonymous. In your case, however, they might be. Words call you. You aren't content to merely take note of life swirling around you and rising within you. You want to have a say about it, and talking isn't enough. Talking is evanescent. You want some permanency to your words."

 English teachers know the name Tom Romano as the author of many books about the craft of writing and most significantly as the face of the multigenre writing movement. He has inspired many teachers with his words and his teachings but long before he was inspiring future English teachers, he was inspiring me, a young impressionable child, not even a decade old yet. You see, Tom Romano is my uncle.

But even before I read every single one of his books, he was my writing role model from a very young child. He modeled a writing life for me and I am a writer today because of his influence.

I still remember the summer my family stayed with him and my Aunt Kathy when we moved to northern Kentucky (they live in southern Ohio, not far from Cincinnati). At the time, he was working on his very first book, Clearing the Way. I didn't know what a big deal this was until years later when I became a teacher and actually read the book for myself. But what I do remember from that time is that he would get up very early in the morning, hole himself up in his office, and write for hours.

He explained to me, a rather boisterous and opinionated 6-year-old, his strict rules about noise level and distractions in the house until a certain time of the morning. If I woke up before 11:00, even if it was 10:59, the mandate given by the resident author of the house was as follows: “No TV before 11:00!”

This became such a routine that I found myself, upon awakening every morning, walking down the hall, peeking my head in the doorway of his office and chiding him with an exasperated, “I know! No TV until 11:00!”
Reading with Uncle Tom as a wee one

But even if he weren't my uncle, it would be very hard not to be inspired by his words. Because for him, writing is life. It's not a pedantic set of rules and regulations one must follow in order to be considered talented or proficient. In his mind, in order to be a writer, one must write. Trust the gush. Revel in words and language. Write to elucidate your own thinking. It's as simple as that.

With Uncle Tom and Aunt Kathy at my recent graduation party
And so, as I suspected, Tom Romano's seventh book is just as inspiring as all of his others. Write What Matters has a somewhat different feel to it though. It has more of an imperative tone than his previous books, but it's done in a kindly way that compels one to write, not a condescending and sanctimonious way that will discourage young writers. *coughcoughThe Elements of Stylecoughcough* Romano comes across as the wise but gentle sage, ready to take on his young charge, not unlike say, a lovable and revered Mr. Miyagi or Obi-Wan Kenobi.

I especially appreciated the short chapters in Write What Matters, making them easily transformed into mini-lessons or quickwrites to share with students. I already know of quite a few chapters I will be sharing with my own students.  And as a self-proclaimed foodie, I will no doubt be using the "Make Me Taste It" chapter as a writing prompt in class. After all, one of the reasons I'm a such foodie to begin with is because I take pleasure in not only experiencing the flavors and textures of a perfectly executed dish, but also in describing those flavors and textures with language. I drive my husband a little bit crazy when we try a new restaurant because I spend just as much time describing my food as I do eating it.

So if you're looking for a book that will inspire your students (AND YOURSELF!) to pick up a pen or stare down the blinking cursor of a blank computer screen and say to it, "You don't scare me," you'd be hard pressed not to find inspiration in Write What Matters.

Write What Matters: For Yourself, For Others by Tom Romano
Published: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Zigzag Publishing
Pages: 158
Disclosure: Copy gifted to me by the author


  1. Love your biased book review and the photo of you and your uncle (definitely taken after 11 am)!

  2. Love this, and love that you have someone in your family to talk to, bounce ideas off of, collaborate with... How wonderful!
    In so many young pictures I can just barely see similarities, but that picture... you can absolutely tell it's you!

  3. Love how you crafted this book review--Sharing the family story gives Romano a personal side that makes me want to read this book...My students and I could use a little inspiration :)

  4. I've read your uncle's books for a long time. Wow, you are lucky to have such a connection. I'm sure this book is inspiring, and hope many teachers read and use it to help their students learn the joy of writing themselves.

  5. Tom Romano your uncle!?! Wow you had no choice but to have a literary life. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. What Julieanne said - you were meant to do the work you do!

  7. Very cool! I need to check out some of his work. I'm not a writing teacher, but am sure his books would help my own writing. :)

  8. You are a lucky girl to have so much inspiration so close to your home and heart!

  9. Wow! I love his books so much! I have this one and adore it. Thank you for the "biased" book review. What a lucky uncle!!! :)

  10. Beth, to have Tom Romano as your uncle and first guide to the writing world is amazing as many of my colleagues have said. Tom is such a wealth of knowledge. I have followed him for many years and revere his writing. I can understand why you are biased. Tom's books speak for themselves so I am excited to know that he has a new book that I have not read.