THE LAST FEW WEEKS have brought the bounty that May is known for. Let’s see if I can give a rich and quick recap for you of those things I found online and in the world that might get you writing memoir. Ready? Read on.
People frequently write in asking for writing tips, and perhaps the greatest tip I can give you is that if you are looking for a sure-fire way to combat writer’s block, you need look no further than doing a little research. And while I would go so far as to say that there really is no such thing as writer’s block, I know many would disagree.
Here’s a good example of what to read to get you up and writing memoir. For those of you whose memoir writing includes reporting on times lived during the 1960’s and 1970s, this recent New Yorker piece by the ever-marvelous Susan Faludi will be your new favorite read. Marvelously reported, it beautifully captures a time and place in America. Reading it will inform you about those years and send you back to your own work a better writer.
Perhaps the greatest bounty of this season are books I’ve spotted, have been told about, or have run into at the bookstore. Among those fine memoirs that are just out are these:
- Life in a Marital Institution: Twenty Years of Monogamy in One Terrifying Memoir by James Braly. Adapted from his popular monologue of the same title, this book hovers and teeters on that thin line between hilarity and utter, wrenching heartbreak. I had to read it twice to study how he limns that place so successfully without pitching to one side or the other. In the first read I simply got swept away with the dual stories of his marriage and his sister’s battle with disease.
- Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, by Monica Wesolowska. I have rarely, if ever, read anything like this book, whose revelations about family under pressure will undoubtedly shake up some readers. They delighted this one. Honest, filled with grace and fine writing, this is a book to read and to study. (And here’s a great news flash: Monica will be the featured writer here in my series, Writing Lessons, on the blog on June 11th. This book deserves all the attention it is getting).
- My Foreign Cities, by Elizabeth Scarboro. You probably read the remarkable essay that began this book, appearing some time ago in the “Modern Love” column of the New York Times. Let me give you a few clues: A happily married mother of two is contacted by a university that it is holding a vial of frozen sperm from her deceased first husband. What to do with it, the university wants to know? And thus, a tale is born. Marvelous.
- Shocked, My Mother, Schiaparelli, and Me, by Patricia Volk. Crazy funny, this writer has a sharp eye matched by a sharp wit. Nineteen-fifties New York never looked so good.
Want to read my favorite, recent, most provocative book review? Of course you do. It’s here, written about a memoir by Julian Barnes. And how about an astonishing book for children of all ages that combines art, memoir and the topic of the Holocaust? This came to me through a friend who recently attended a show of the fabric pieces by Esther Nisenthal Krinitz that narrate Holocaust survival. Caught in a 64-page picture book. It’s great.
Those tips ought to get you writing more memoir. So write on.