Aside from the title, which I loathe, this is exactly what I have been looking for: a practical how-to book on the craft of writing fiction that I can adopt as a required text in my creative writing classes. I have been looking for a plain-spoken, practical, down-to-earth, and intelligent book without any marketing-speak, and this is that book.
Best of all, it includes five strong short stories — by Greg Hollingshead, Diane Schoemperlen, Edna Alford, Rachel Wyatt, and Fred Stenson himself — that Stenson refers to and analyzes throughout. It's so useful to have short stories in a writing textbook that I can't believe I haven't seen it in any other similar book.
My tastes are much different than Stenson's but we agree on how a book on writing should look. This isn't the best or most thorough book I've seen, but as a general overview of writing craft and a good introductory textbook it can't be beat. In fact, it IS an introductory creative writing course in a nutshell: each chapter ends with some exercises and if you were to actually read through carefully and complete all the exercises you would have finished a decent little self-directed course.
— Jonathan Ball