September 01, 1997 12:00 PM

by Rosemary Daniell

Reading about how to write has always seemed to me to be like reading books about how to have sex—vaguely titillating but a poor substitute for the real thing.” Daniell makes that observation midway through this memoir-as-writing-manual, but by then she has already proved just how earthy, inspiring, and even rapturous her take on the creative process can be. The southern poet and author of the 1985 memoir Sleeping with Soldiers has taught in high schools, prisons and hospitals. She was 45 when she formed a women’s writing group called Zona Rosa (Spanish for Pink Zone) in Savannah in 1981. What began as a motley gang of five has since expanded to embrace hundreds of women—from teenagers to nonagenarians—Ph.D.s, Baptist housewives, aging good ol’ girls and black Southern belles whose shared joys and sorrows, support and stimulation have helped the members find their voices. Regular guests include some well-known males too—best-selling authors Pat Conroy and John Berendt, for instance. Daniell can be forgiven her hard sell that art is born of suffering and not something too rarefied for average folk to create. After all, she manages to talk about the inner child and the wild woman and sound intelligent rather than inane. (Faber and Faber, $24.95)

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