Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Reading and Life Writing

One of our fellow life writers mentioned a visit to a fiction writing group and a point that she felt certainly carried over into life writing:  reading other books in our genre.  And now, with summer reading starting this week, is the perfect time to jump in!

You can easily register for summer reading on Plum Library's website.  You do not need a special card from Plum Library, but you do need a library card with the Allegheny County Library Association.  You can check to find your closest ACLA library on their site.

Some memoirs recommended by your classmates were (check the Carnegie Library for availability.  You can request to have the books delivered to the library of your choice.):
  • The works of Frank McCourt:  Angela's Ashes, 'Tis, and Teacher Man
  • Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic
  • Tracy Elliott's Unbroken  
You can also find award-winning memoirs at A Reader's Place.

Memoirs I have enjoyed even if they haven't changed my life include:
  • Steve Rushin's Road Swing  
  • Anthony Youn's In Stitches  
  • Margaret Overton's Good in a Crisis 

One caution I have heard about reading anything within the genre of your own writing is to take it all with a grain of salt.  Use what you find as a guide, not gospel.  Look for conventions.  How long are the chapters?  How does the narrative unfold?  How do they give you caveats?  Note what you like.  One comment from a colleague of mine also made me take notice.  Memoir and fiction are different.  Memoir involves a certain bit of your own thoughts--essay if you will.  Too much essay and we get bored or lost.  Not enough essay and we wonder what the point was.  Note which memoirs you really love and the balance of these two aspects.  Remember it as you write and also as (or "if") you query publishers.

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