Sunday, August 23, 2009

More Ink for 2 Great Memorists

They both deserve it. I’m talking about the good ink two of my favorite new memorists (and friends) just received this past week.

A few days ago I opened the September issue of Writer’s Digest, which is full of yummy stuff about writing memoir, so it’s a great issue for me. I’m reading along and get to page 57, in the middle of Jenna Glatzer’s article, “Master the Memoir Basics: 5 Essentials,” and what book does she choose to site as an example of an excellent memoir? Kim Michelle Richardson’s The Unbreakable Child. (I did a review of Kim’s book here, and a Q&A with Kim here.)

Glatzer uses Kim’s book as an example of her 4th essential of memoir writing: A Hopeful Ending. Her opening sentence in this section speaks straight to my heart:

“It’s not time to write your memoir until your life has some sort of resolution of the main theme…. that it leaves the reader with hope….”

This very issue has tripped me up over and over again… trying to write about something that isn’t resolved yet. That’s the reason I set aside my first memoir, Dressing the Part: What I Wore for Love, at least for now. This second one I’m trying to get started on should be easier (Jesus Freaks, Belly Dancers and Nuns) because I keep thinking I’m in a better place in my spiritual life now and I’m ready to write about it, but then I keep hitting new bumps that change the geography of the story. I wish I could write fiction and just make it up as I go, but I don’t know if I’ve got enough imagination.

Anyway, Glazer says (in the WD article) that Kim’s book “delivers what the title promises: We read about a grown-up child who was not broken, and that leaves us with hope that she’s going to be OK, despite the abuse.”

And she is better than just OK. Her book is doing well and she’s touring and reading and signing… and working on a second book, which is going to be fiction!

In addition to the praise Kim received in the Writer’s Digest article, my friend, Neil White, just got a big spread in today’s Commercial Appeal. And to sweeten the pot, the article, “Finding ‘Sanctuary,’” was written by my friend, Karen Ott Mayer. (I did a Q&A with Neil on my blog, here.)

Karen’s article tells the backstory of Neil’s life, and also includes a nice sidebar about leprosy and an update on Carville, the federal prison that doubled as America’s last leprosarium, where Neil spent over a year incarcerated for kiting checks. Kudos to Karen for a well-researched, well-written article, and to Neil for the ink.

If you haven’t read either of these wonderful, redemptive memoirs, put them on the top of your “to read” list. You won’t be disappointed.

But my writing group is going to be disappointed if I don’t get a critique sample off to them today or tomorrow. We’re meeting this coming Saturday and right now I’ve got nothing. I need to follow Kim Richardson’s advice (she’s writing 10-11 hours/day now, on her first fiction novel): “Butt in Chair.” Hard to do on such a gorgeous afternoon! The low humidity and sunshine are calling me to get out for a walk, and the empty refrigerator is calling me to the grocery store. Walk. Shop. Write. Sigh….


tim said...

Thanks for the head's up about the latest issue of WD including a lot of memoir.

In my memoir writing, I have found it crucial to get some distance from the material I'm writing about--not just emotional, but real, honest to God distance. I am thousands of miles from where I grew up. I think it was Harry Crews who wrote about not having any luck with his writing if he was living too close to the place where he was born. He talks about finding a sweet spot: move too far away and he was lost, too close and he was overwhelmed.

I didn't realize you had started one memoir and then moved on to another. I have done the same, but I have been loath to admit that the first one collapsed on me. I am not even sure why. I am hopefully optimistic about this latest one. And I still plan to go back to the first one someday, but I am clearly not ready to write it today. Maybe I need to move somewhere exotic to get that first one finished?

Susan Cushman said...

Thanks for checking in, Tim. I just visited your blog. Are those swimmers your kids? Precious. Anyway, I tried to get some physical distance from my roots to write... I applied for the Seaside (Florida) Writer in Residence for January/February 2010, but didn't get in. It would have been great being at the beach for a month. Instead, I'll just have to try to get some "distance" in my mind as I sit with butt in chair....

tim said...

Those swimmers are indeed my kids. It has been a swimming summer. I think "butt in chair" is a good a way as any to get where you need to go. It's fun to think about what all is necessary to get writing, but nothing beats sitting down to write. Good luck!