Joy Writing: Discover and Develop Your Creative Voice

by Kenn Amdahl

ISBN 0-9627815-2-5

ISBN-13: 978-0962781520

175 pages, trade paper, first printing Nov. 2005


More info on

Kindle Version

Joy Writing is an introduction to the process of writing for students and adults. It demonstrates how word choices add vigor and clarity or drain them away. Subjects include active verbs, metaphor etc. as well as less conventional ideas. The author earns his living writing books that make dull subjects fun: if he can explain calculus and electronics in clear, humorous language, imagine the fun he has with his favorite topic.

Ideal for students faced with taking the new SAT or for adults with a literary dream; the author supports concepts with examples from more than fifty writers, including John Steinbeck, Annie Dillard, Dave Barry, William Shakespeare (Mr. Barry insists that his name always precede Mr Shakespeare’s) Margaret Atwood, B.J. Chute, Donald Trump, Edward Ormondroyd and others.

Reviews and Blurbs:

Writers Notes Magazine

Reviewed by Michelle Reale

I love this book. Bold statement, I know, but let me be honest right up front. Kenn Amdahl truly writes for the writer in Joy Writing. He is not writing to impress, he’s not writing to be fashionably inscrutable, he really is writing as a guide and coach, albeit a tough and often unforgiving one, for those at any stage in their writing career.

Kirkus Review/

Verdict: Joy Writing is not just a self-help book-it is a love letter to language, literature, and the creative voice.

Kenn Amdhal’s Joy Writing will almost inevitably be compared to, and judged against, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.  It is, after all, a slim, spare volume devoted to language and the art of writing.  Joy Writing, however, is distinguished by the author’s winning conversational style and his use of original, arresting images to freshly garnish some familiar pieces of advice.

In some ways, Joy Writing is actually more akin to On the Sublime, an ancient treatise on the theory of great writing, which describes what gives great writing its power to move us, whether the best art is that which most closely imitates nature, and the role of the creative impulse in human nature-though Amdahl couches his enterprise in far more modest terms.

Anyone who has ever felt the need to write will immediately identify with the writer, but the book is enjoyable and engaging even for those with no grand literary aspirations. Not only is Amdahl’s little book an informative, coherent guide to the elements of writing, it is brimming with life, humor, and genuine enthusiasm on every page.

Reviewed by Tim Coover

Leslie O’Kane (aka Leslie Cain)

“Amdahl give sound, practical advice for writers of all levels of experience and he augments his pearls of wisdom with laugh-out-loud quips. This work reminded me why I got into writing in the first place. Joy Writing is a joy to read.”

Leslie O’Kane, screenwriter and bestselling author of nearly twenty mysteries including the Domestic Bliss series, Poisoned by Gilt, Death by Inferior Design, Manor of Death, False Premises and many more.

Barbara Steiner

“In this little gem of a how-to, Amdahl offers the same advice I give my students. If writing isn’t fun, don’t do it. But soon you’ll want to share your stories, and Kenn provides sound advice on technique and making your work professional. A must for beginners or anyone who takes joy in writing.”

Barbara Steiner is the bestselling author of more than sixty books, including many for children and young adults. She also teaches creative writing.

Francine Mathews (aka Stephanie Barron)

“Joy Writing is a joy to read: full of wisdom, pithy advice, and one essential reminder–that writing is pointless when it ceases to be fun.”

Francine Mathews, bestselling author of suspense novels including Flaw in the Blood, Blown, Alibi, The Cutout, Death in a Cold Hard Light, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in Rough Waters and (writing as Stephanie Barron) the Jane Austin Detective series, including Barque of Frailty, Lordship’s Legacy, Ghosts of Netley, Wool House, Stillroom Maid and many more.

George Garrett:

“I am happy and honored to be included in Joy Writing.”

George Garrett, professor, poet laureate of Virginia, namesake of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ “George Garrett Award For Outstanding Community Service in Literature, “ winner of the PEN Malamud Award for short fiction, founding board member of AWP and beloved (if irascible) creative writing professor. Author of dozens of books, articles, and stories. Sadly, George has completed his earthly manuscript and begun his celestial one.

Reg Saner:

“Amdahl’s advice comes delightfully lightened with wit and humor. His book equips would-be authors with ignition and saves them needlessly spinning their wheels.”

Reg Saner, writing professor, essayist, poet laureate of Boulder,Colorado, winner of the first Walt Whitman Award and the Wallace Stegner Award, author of The Dawn Collector and many more.

Teresa R. Funke

“As a successful writer’s coach, I have used Kenn Amdahl’s book “Joy Writing” to help teach my clients the elements of good writing. Kenn’s concise approach to each section makes his book quick and easy to read and his humorous writing style guarantees his points will stick in my students’ memories. Kenn has somehow managed to put together a writing book that is both instructional and entertaining. I now recommend this book to all of my clients.”
Teresa R. Funke
Author and Writer’s Coach. Her books include “Remember Wake”

“A little like reading Elements of Style on amphetamines, Joy Writing by Kenn Amdahl cascades over its pages with enthusiasm for writing. I wanted to take up my pen and buy a box of yellow tablets before I finished reading it. Yellow highlights throughout my copy remind me that there are other writers that I want to read. The examples he chooses are engaging and witty. Much of his advice is common sense: “Revising means making choices.” Some of his advice is surprising, “Let yourself write badly when you create first drafts…” And some of his advice is phrased in a silly way, “…the poet must distract the Colonel Klink/editor within himself. Simply telling him to wait in the closet isn’t enough, we need him in a different time zone.” Most of it is practical; join a writing group. And all of it is written in an intimate, conversational tone as if Kenn were talking directly to the reader. Joy Writing is 160 pages of inspiration for budding writers.

Reviewed by Alice O’Grady, English Teacher, Wilson HS, Long Beach, CA. for Flamingnet Book Reviews (book reviews and website by and for kids and young adults)

The Bookwatch

Joy Writing, by published author Kenn Amdahl is an expertly presented introductory guide to the artful approaches to creative writing. Covering the major aspects of the writing process, Joy Writing begins with the fundamental question of “why write?” and then presents five major sections in methodical order: “Before You Write”; “Beginning to Write”; “Thinking about Language”; “The Overall Flow of any Work” and “Improving.” For its outstanding perspective, interpretation and quite stimulating presentation, Joy Writing is very strongly recommended and “user friendly” reading for both novice and seasoned writers alike, but most particularly those aspiring writers struggling with expressing or developing their own distinctively artistic and creative style.”

The Bookwatch is published by Midwest Book Review.

William Patterson:

As a high school creative writing teacher, I know something about the difficulty of talking at a captive, but not necessarily captivated, audience about the joys of reading and writing literature. As a creative writer myself, I know something about the difficulty of finding a helpful text on the same subject. That being said, I found Amdahl'(then again – I already enjoy writing and teaching quite a bit).

I found Amdahl’s prose to be straightforward and seemingly honest and his examples to be helpful. The key to guidebooks such as this is threefold: organization, relevance and variance of example, and brevity of personal anecdote. Amdahl’s text fares well in these areas.

The text’s sections are well organized (and usually well titled-this is more important than one might think for younger readers/writers) and provides short chapters with relevant and variant topics and examples. For this reason the text applies well to a variety of younger writers with varying tendencies, tastes, and needs. Although Amdahl cannot avoid the personal anecdote (after all it is his book) he does so with some restraint and does keep the discussion interesting.

To conclude this and keep it short, I can recommend this book to young adults and teachers of young adults who want to become more effective and more appreciative writers. It doesn’t answer all the questions (nothing does), but it can provide the needed push to get more words on the pages, and it can help many begin to solve the problems of the empty page.

William Patterson, Lawrence HS, English Department, Lawrence, Kansas (on, a review site run by and for students)

Mac McCaskill, BlackDogBooks on

I always ached to belong to a club. The block where my house stood featured only one other house and few children populated the neighborhood. Without the built in neighborhood gang, I had to seek elsewhere for companionship. Like so many other young boys, I demanded an enlistment in the Cub Scouts. My Dad was too busy, so my mother assumed the awesome responsibilities of Den Mother and I donned the yellow kerchief and funny hat, lasting about a year before the forced camaraderie and endless list of tasks wore me down. At about the same time I abandoned the life of a Scout, I read my first adult novel, Robinson Crusoe, and found admission into a club that would sustain me for the rest of my life. Reading about Crusoe’s haunted and solitary existence on a deserted, tropical island freed my mind and stimulated by imagination in ways I never thought possible. He lived in my mind as a friend, a person whose story was a part of my own. Treasure Island and some of the Tarzan stories from Edgar Rice Burroughs followed and I was hooked for life, save for a short period in high school and college where the forced reading demanded by domineering English professors weakened the addiction. I was content for a long time only to offer club membership to the characters on the pages I read, with the occasional honorary membership to other readers whose habits matched my own. It didn’t occur to me until very recently, though, that the founding and controlling members of my special club are the people who create the characters and write the stories I read.

Kenn Amdahl’s Joy Writing gives voice to that revelation, encouraging me, and others like me, to upgrade our membership in this select community. Amdahl writes, “there is honor in being an attentive listener or an avid reader but sometimes we need to speak back. So we write.” Joy Writing is no Writing for Dummies book, laying out checklists and tricks of the trade to follow at every turn while you compose the Great American Novel. And Amdahl is no literary genius, holding forth on the elements of great literature which must be included in any respectable attempt at writing. Rather, Amdahl’s sassy little book is more akin to the Nike “Just Do It” commercials. Equating his own inner muse to Bart Simpson slinging mud around the room, Amdahl encourages aspiring writers to write badly for the sake of writing. Get your thoughts, emotions, and ideas down on paper, no matter how ugly they might first appear, he says. Only then should you permit your inner editor, he calls his Colonel Klink, to take over. And allow your reading life to inform your writing life, closely reading your favorite authors and books to identify techniques on which you can rely and, eventually, expand. Throughout Joy Writing, Amdahl provides simple, down to earth suggestions on writing style, character, story, vocabulary, and so on. Never preachy, Amdahl constantly encourages, insisting that you write what and how you want, aiming only to improve your work and never to alter it.

Amdahl’s primary message is to write simply for the joy of writing. Don’t think about publication; don’t think about what your friends or family will say; and don’t even think about you own inner critic. When you sit down at a computer or with a pen and paper, use the opportunity to claim membership in that unique community, communicating in that special way that exists only on the written page. Make your goal to write and only to write. I don’t know if I’ll ever publish a book or even submit a book to a publisher for consideration. But, in a small way, I have already started to exercise the full benefits of my membership in this club. And I intend to write.

This book is highly recommended for the reader and the writer alike.
Five bones!!!!!
Mac McCaskill
(BlackDogBooks on

Susan Lutz Hamilton:

The book covers language issues in writing, basic techniques and provides ample tips on how to improve writing. It is one of the more fun writing tomes I have read. Kenn uses wit and example to make his point without beating readers over the head.

Here’s an example of how he addresses the common writing problem of the overuse of modifiers. “Modifiers can make fine jewelry for your sentences, but don’t let your manuscript leave the house dressed like a tramp.”

Joy Writing is worth a read as a skill brush up for writers before they send a manuscript out.

Susan Lutz Hamilton, Dialogue Publishing