Cathleen Rountree is a writer, visual artist and photographer, educator and lecturer, cultural mythologist, film historian and scholar, and writing consultant and mentor. She is the author of eight books including 50 Ways To Meet Your Lover, The Heart of Marriage: Discovering the Secrets of Enduring Love, and a decade series on the experiences of women with such titles as On Women Turning 60: Embracing the Age of Fulfillment and On Women Turning 70: Honoring the Voices of Wisdom. Rountree lives in a seaside village in Northern California with Dios, her Springer Spaniel companion and Muse.

This helpful paperback is based on seminars and workshops the author has given at universities, writers' conferences and writers' groups. On the opening page, she tells an anecdote about Jean Cocteau, the French poet, novelist, playwright, painter, and filmmaker who was once asked what he would save first if his house caught fire. He answered, "The fire." According to Rountree, passion is the spur to creativity. This practical and well-organized handbook covers many essential topics including meeting the muse, creating a sanctuary, assessing the practicalities of writing, getting started, knowing what to write, keeping the focus, overcoming the fear of writing, finding your style and voice, dealing with writer's block and procrastination, and writing as a solitary experience.

Tom Robbins is quoted as saying: "I'm always at my desk by ten o'clock in the morning so the Muse knows where to find me. Sometimes she comes and sometimes she doesn't, but if she does, I want to be there." Most writers emphasize how important it is to hold to a daily discipline of writing. In a later chapter, Rountree gives her interpretation of the movie The Muse, which is about a screen writer's relationship with this creative force. The author loves film and has spiced up the proceedings with an appropriate one for each chapter in the book. Check out her takes on Quills, Almost Famous, Il Postino and My Brilliant Career.

We were quite amused by a story told about Joseph Campbell by a close friend who sometimes traveled with him. The mythologist used to carry two suitcases: one with clothes and the other filled with books. For years whenever we went on vacation, we would carry an extra piece of luggage — a golfbag filled to the brim with books — hardcovers, no less! As Rountree points out, reading fuels all writing and is a fertile field for the imagination to romp in for fresh images and ideas. She quotes the French writer Francois Mauriac: "Each of us is like a desert, and a literary work is like a cry from the desert, or like a pigeon let loose with a message in its claws, or like a bottle thrown in the sea. The point is to be heard-even if by a single person."