ARE THERE ARE SOME PHRASES that should never appear in print? Maybe, maybe not. After all, I’m all for place savers — cliches, song lyrics, bumper sticker phrases — in that infamous vomit draft I write about so often. But in the later and final drafts, I’d say there are exceptions. And of those, perhaps there are two words no memoir writer should ever use. This idea came to me after a online conversation with the writer Brock Heasley, after he suggested that he knew exactly which two words should be banned for life from our work. See if you agree. [Read more…]
“IT’S FUNNY.” What would happen if we eliminated that phrase from our language – our dialogue, our thinking and, most important of all, our writing? It’s too easy to say that much as “like” and “you know,” which serve no earthly purpose in human understanding, the ubiquitous “it’s funny,” is also fairly harmless. Annoying as they are, those other pesky blots on our language are mere filler. But “it’s funny,” is the top phrase writers should never use. It’s dangerous – treacherous, even – and I say the hell with it. [Read more…]
WRITING MEMOIR IN PRESENT TENSE suits grief in ways that the past tense simply cannot provide. Think about it for a moment and you may agree. Or better yet, read Amy Biancolli on writing her new book, Figuring Sh!t Out: Love, Laughter, Suicide and Survival, and see if the case she makes for the immediacy of the tense does not change how you feel on this. It did for me.
I’VE TRIED MEDITATION, dosing myself with the prescription to apply it at the same time each day. And when I do, the silent, tunneling lack of thought sculpts my sharp edge into something I can use in the world, rather than something I merely use against myself. Exercise, too, razors off some degree of my resistance. But neither one has done enough recently to let me write something I want to write, and the longing for words soon became a search for a new kind of support. What to do? [Read more…]
AUTUMN IS WHEN THE SERIOUS books are published, and as much as I love a good summer read, I look forward to fall with the hunger of someone who has been living on sandwiches and now really needs a meal. Much like those movies that are considered Oscar-bait, books released late in the year are considered the real contenders for the big prizes, though how they will do in competition is of less concern to me than whether or not they are simply a good read. It looks like I’m in for a great season. [Read more…]
A FEW WEEKS AGO I ran a piece about getting help from a sibling while writing memoir. But how about getting professional writing help? What does that look like, and how does that work? When I was introduced to Anna Whiston-Donaldson, I knew I had the person to answer that question. After Anna began chronicling a horrific and life-altering experience on her blog, she was contacted by a publisher who offered a book contract and someone to midwife that book with her. Rare Bird, just out, is rocketing its way to great sales. And for good reason: It is a remarkable read. [Read more…]