Archive for February, 2010

This post has nothing and everything to do with writing. After six years living outside of the country, I forgot how low I can feel during the month of February. This year I’ve been especially cold and feeling bleak. I suppose my blood thinned in sunny Australia. But, there is nothing like kids to snap you into the moment. They’re home from school for the week and I didn’t want my bad mood to infect them, so I decided to embrace the snow. We’ve had a fantastic time sledding and learning (or re-learning) how to ice skate. I forgot how much I love to skate! As a tween I even cut my hair into a Dorothy Hamil style. Amazing what a little sunshine and exercise can do for an aspiring writer. My mind is clear and ready to create again.

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Mary Karr, author of three best-selling memoirs (most recently ‘Lit’), was interviewed by Amanda Fortini in the Winter 2009 issue of ‘Paris Review’. In the latter part of the interview, Karr discusses her craft. Here are my takeaways:

– Write about your hopes

– Don’t try to reconstruct empty spaces. ‘Sometimes what you forget says as much psychologically as what you remember.’ ‘You don’t remember something? Write fiction.’

– Don’t reconstruct dialogue. It makes you an unreliable narrator.

– ‘Internal landscapes are where I’ve spent much of my time.’ This was reassuring for me because often, I don’t remember my surroundings, but I remember what was going on in my head.

– Be reflective, self-aware. If the reader knows something about your psychology that you do not admit, you’re in trouble.

– Disclose motives. ‘In memoir the only through-line is character represented by voice. So you better make the reader damn curious about who’s talking.’

Finally, I love how Karr describes her own conflict in ‘Lit’. ‘My own bitterness and cynicism has to be pried away for the light to get in. The fury that I thought protected me from harm actually sealed me off from joy.

Karr is working on a textbook about memoir. I can’t wait for it to come out.

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I’ve spent hours reading about the e-book pricing battle between Amazon and MacMillan. I’ve wondered if I should simply bypass looking for an agent someday and publish my book on Kindle. Can I do the same for the I-Pad?  Or, should I set myself up as a small publisher on Amazon Advantage? I could round up all my aspiring writer friends and we could publish under our own label, use Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about us. Why not? Meanwhile, my book sat. I didn’t write many new words for a couple of days.

So, it’s back to my core business — writing. I need to figure out how to develop more characters in my memoir to avoid boring my readers to death with words only about yours truly. THEN and only then can I focus on the publishing industry.

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In her book ‘On Writing’ Annie Dillard says:

‘One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time… Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes         lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.’

I keep saving stories, anecdotes, even sentences to insert into my book at a later date. I have slips of paper scattered around my desk and Word files titled ‘Thoughts’ or ‘Ideas for later’ on my computer. Now, I’m throwing caution to the wind and putting these ideas into my chapters as I think of them. When I treat myself to a hard copy of my work, I’m able to see these thoughts and often find I move them to other parts of the book, but I’m one step closer to remembering them.

Of course Dillard means more with this quote. Put your heart into your work, let it rip. Almost makes you understand why writers are famous for drinking. It releases the inhibitions, loosens you up. I like to write in the morning and it’s probably not a great habit to start. I’ll just have to learn to give it up coherently.

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