Thursday, October 3, 2013

Learning from the Pros

While I was working on the research and writing of my book, I tried to read as many memoirs, biographies, and collections as I could. This tactic introduced me to so many different writing styles and was my D-I-Y approach to learning how to tell a story. From that collection of books, emerged my short-list of wonderful guidebooks:

  1. Growing Up, by Russell Baker: It still holds as my all-time favorite memoir. His gift of story-telling is unsurpassed. This should be read within the same 90 days as reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith.
  2. Anything and everything by Anne Lamott, but especially Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. For any anxious, new, blocked, or expert writers, this is a gem like no other.
  3. All Over But the Shoutin', by Rick Bragg. An unbelievable story told with incredible candor.
  4. Living Out Loud, by Anna Quindlen: A great collection of columns and perfect bedside book.
  5. The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls. Thanks to Dennis, I have a signed copy of The Glass Castle with Ms. Walls' encouragement to me, "To Kathy, Good luck writing! Jeannette Walls"
  6. God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours, by Regina Brett.
From the list, you can see that I am genetically predisposed to enjoy works by columnists! Ellen Goodman is my other go-to gal for describing the human experience and how it affects the heart.

So with my lessons from the pros, I plowed ahead and tried to write a book from my folders of research. In fact, I wrote the first draft of what would become Preacher Kid, from cover to cover, as a detached reporter focused on getting the facts right. Then after some soul-searching and life detours, I rewrote the entire book from a personal perspective, recognizing that my voice added value to my grandma's story.
Preacher Kid on the Needham Library "New" shelf!

I think, over time, my voice may develop into something different, but will still retain a certain true core. When I write my next book (!), we will see if any evolution has taken place. One of my favorite voices to listen to is Anne Lamott. She has a freshness, intelligence, and liveliness found in her stream-of-consciousness writing that engages me as if she is sitting on my back porch, shooting the breeze with me. She writes with an abandonment I don't yet have. She possesses a window into my soul and much of what she writes articulates or uncovers true feelings I share. It is a fantastic combination.

And speaking of Anne Lamott, I won her latest book in a contest this week! When I saw that she was giving away copies of her soon-to-be-released book via Goodreads, I decided to click the button and enter.

I wrote about one of Anne's other books in a prior post. Her sequel to Help, Thank, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers was written in the aftermath of the December 2012 Newtown, CT tragedy. The book is titled, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and RepairIf you know me well, you can see the appropriateness, on many levels, of me winning Stitches.

Thank you to all of the professionals who have helped me so far!

No comments:

Post a Comment