Tag Archives: Writers Resources

Creating a Media Kit

Are you planning to publish a book soon or in the distant future? (If you’re looking for a Perry update, you’ll find it at the end ;)). Also, pre-orders for Kin Types must be in by Thursday. Pre-order HERE.

Finishing Line Press has been very good about providing sample materials for promotional purposes. Because of their help, I felt that I had the tools to put together a media kit, as they suggested.

I thought I would share a list of the component parts that go into a media kit.

The first page is a cover image of Kin Types with “Press Contact” information. This info consists of:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email address
  • Website address

You might want to include a telephone number, but it is also suggested that the media kit be available through your website. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my phone number that available.

Look at what I’ve listed. Address. Do you want your address on there? I found the same question came up when I was listed with Poets & Writers. But we have a post office box that we use for business, so I use that for writing business. If you don’t have a post office box, you might want to consider getting one now.

You probably already have more than one email address, but if you don’t, you might want one that is expressly for writing or at least doesn’t have too much spam going into it.

Do you have a website-website or is it your blog? Either is fine–just make sure that the address you use is going to remain the same for the next couple of years at least.

After the front page of the media kit, you will have a TABLE OF CONTENTS, and the table of contents will include these items

  • Biography
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Press Release
  • Reviews
  • Blurbs
  • Interviews

Your biography should be a few short paragraphs long and just cover the main points, especially as relates to your writing and perhaps your specialization in something related to your topic of writing. On my biography page I first put my new headshot taken by Renee Rivers and then my three paragraph bio. Sometimes people use funny bios that show the writer’s sense of humor, but not much else. I think these are meant to show that the writer doesn’t have a big head. Personally, I don’t much like those. That sort of thing is for a Twitter description, not a bio that is meant to encapsulate your experience as a writer.

The bio takes time to craft. If you haven’t written one for yourself yet, there is no time like the present. Write it in 3rd person, not first. You can keep revising it as you get publications or something major changes in your life, but it helps to have one ready-to-go. And you need it to submit to magazines and journals, agents, etc. So I think writing your bio is your first assignment ;). The best way to begin is to look at other writers’ bios as models.

Next up is the Curriculum Vitae–or CV as it’s usually called. Are you Googling it yet? hahahaha Kind of like chapbook or feral cat, really. Most of the world uses the word RESUME. But in academics and the literary world, CV is what it’s called.

The format for a CV is slightly different than a resume, and the biggest difference IMO is that a resume is supposed to be pretty short so you don’t wear out somebody who is considering hiring you. But in a CV long is where it’s at. Because long shows that you’ve done a lot of stuff. And for writers that means publishing a lot. On a CV, you list alllllll your publications, except for maybe that fairy tale you wrote when you were seven. Since most writers making a media kit for the first time won’t  have a long list of publications, what are they to do? I just wouldn’t put in the thing. Who cares? The media kit is what the writer chooses to make it, after all.  If your CV isn’t your strength, don’t use it.

!But I have a question for genre writers: do you use a CV for agents or for media kits?

Next is the Press Release. But I haven’t done that yet, so I have no advice!

Then there are reviews. I only have one advance review, written by Carla McGill. Thank you, Carla! After Kin Types is published I hope to get more reviews and can then add some to the media kit.

I have two blurbs for Kin Types, from Justin Hamm and Carol Bachofner. I’ve included them both on the same page. Doll God has three blurbs, but that seemed fitting because it was a full-length book.

Until two weeks ago, I didn’t have an interview for the media kit, but then Marie from 1WriteWay interviewed me, so now I do. Thank you, Marie!

Now you see the things you have to start to think about ahead of time: lining up reviews, interviews, writing a biography, and so on. And I originally thought all I had to do was write and tweet about it!

If you are experienced at creating a media kit, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Perry update: he loves tuna juice, which is the water from the can of tuna. It’s just a once in a blue moon treat as I don’t believe in giving cats too much fish. Fish is a secret ingredient in far too many cat foods, and fish can cause serious health problems if it’s too big a part of the diet.

Also, I am starting to train him with little pieces of turkey. When he actually takes it out of my hand I will open his cage door so he can go in and out in the room. At least that is my plan at this point.

Perry lets me come fairly near to him. He seems more and more calm and less frightened, but I don’t feel he is ready for me to try to touch him.

Here he is on the upper level of his 3 story cage house

From the gardener: peppers are ripening so he figured out a way to dry them outside. He didn’t want to dry them inside because they could makes the cats sick.

There are 3 or so more days left to pre-order Kin Types at this  link.

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Filed under Book promotion, Kin Types, National Poetry Month, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Publishing, Writing, Writing Talk

Are You Ready for a Poetry Coach?

How would you like to work on and develop your poetry under the specialized coaching of the person who encouraged Doll God into existence?  It’s now possible to work with Caroline Goodwin from wherever you live through a new project called OneRoom Poetry Group!

I took a prose and then a poetry course through Stanford University from Caroline a few years ago. It was during the poetry course that she said something that completely changed the way I saw my poetry. I’d been farting around fooling around with writing poetry for more years than I would like to face. She asked me to start pulling my book together. What book?! I thought to myself. But she had complete confidence in me, something I lacked when it came to my writing. With her help I did pull together my first book. Imagine my shock when it won a state book award. It would never have happened without Caroline.

You can find my review of her gorgeous poetry book Trapline here at Poetry on the Edge.

On to the link to this wonderful opportunity:  OneRoom Poetry Group

There are only a few spots left, so don’t delay if you want to take advantage!

From the site:

Here’s what happens when you join:

  1. Your experienced coach will reach out to you and schedule time to talk, to learn what you struggle with, and help you craft a set of concrete and achievable goals and a tailored practice plan to meet those goals.
  2. You will get access to a small, intimate support group of people working towards similar goals.
  3. Your coach will stick with you for the long-haul, making suggestions, sharing feedback, holding you accountable from day-to-day and week-to-week, and celebrating with you when you achieve your goals.

Meet the group coach

Caroline Goodwin

“I taught my first creative writing course in a Vancouver, BC public high school in 1994. After attending Stanford as a Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry from 1999 – 2002, I began to teach at California College of the Arts and Stanford Continuing Studies. My areas of expertise are poetry and memoir; I have published four poetry chapbooks and one full-length collection. I love teaching and consider it a privilege to engage with my students’ creativity and the development of their individual voices. I am currently serving my community as the first Poet Laureate of San Mateo County, CA.

If you end up working with Caroline, I can’t wait to hear about it. She’s a fabulous poetry teacher.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing, Writing Talk, Writing Tips and Habits

A Group Journey Out of Homelessness: A Book Review

I was born with the desire to know what it’s like to live more than one life. If you’re a reader, you understand what I mean. That’s why we read. For the time it takes to read a novel or memoir, we can get inside someone else and look through his or her eyes at the world around us. Better yet, we can hear that writer or character’s heartbeat.

When I choose a book I tend to choose a memoir or fiction that is closely tied to one protagonist. But I just finished a book that is a compilation of memoirs by a group of writers.

These writers are bound together by a writing class and a commonality: they have all experienced being homeless. Writing Our Way Home is subtitled “A group journey out of homelessness.” Edited by southern writer and blogger Ellen Morris Prewitt, whose touch is so light her name is not on the cover or title page, this book weaves together the stories of fifteen writers and organizes them thematically.

I began reading slowly because I wanted to isolate and listen to individual voices in the group and not confuse them with each other. I needn’t have worried. Very early on, I began to “hear” who was “speaking” within the first sentence or two of each brief entry. I listened to Leroy Scott’s straightforward prose, Cynthia Crawford’s engrossing storytelling, Tommy Payne’s brilliant and varied writing style, Latasha Jackson’s pattern of detailed imagery (sipping peach wine in the bath, the lost doll collection), and other unique voices. As Tommy himself says, “It is easy to tell a book written by James Michener from a book written by Ian Fleming. An Ernest Hemingway novel from a play written by Shakespeare.” And so it is with these writers.

Most importantly, I learned what these fifteen people had to say about their own lives and about the condition of being without a home.

The book developed from a writing class that Ellen teaches in Memphis. The class and the Door of Hope organization that runs the class seem to be based in Christian teachings, although I don’t find much about religion on their website other than that they offer contemplative prayer classes, as well as creative writing.

If you have ever—even once–looked at a homeless person and forgot that he or she has a whole history of living, relations, emotions, and past belongings, as well as current needs, hop over to Amazon and pick up a copy of this book! If you want to find out if you should give a handout to someone who asks, you will find eleven answers.

Now that I’ve read Writing our Way Home and had time to let it settle into my bones, I feel it’s permanently changed me. A big thanks to Roderick Baldwin, Donna Connie, Cynthia Crawford, Jacqueline Crowder, Veyshon Hall, Tamara Hendrix, William L. Hogan, Jr., Latasha Jackson, Anthony Johnston, Robbin K., Rhonda Lay, Jockluss Thomas Payne, Leroy Scott, WJS, and Master Major Joshua Williams for inviting me into your lives.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Books, Essay, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

The 30/30 Challenge of Tupelo Press, and How I Proved I Have a Screw Loose

I’ve gone and done it. I must be crazy.

Throughout September, I will be “running” a poetry “marathon” for the Tupelo Press 30/30 project. By donating in recognition of my efforts, you will be supporting a fabulous independent, nonprofit press.

I promise to write a poem a day for 30 days. Since it took me decades to cough up not even twice that for my first poetry collection Doll God, you can see what a feat I am trying to accomplish.

To help preserve poetry as an art, it’s important to support the independent presses and literary magazines. These are the places that publish nearly all published poetry today. It hasn’t been a positive era for them. I’ve seen many lit magazines close up—and when the presses go out of business, we often don’t even hear about it.

Every dollar you donate will go toward the operation of the press, enabling it to continue publishing beautiful books that would not get picked up by large commercial publishers. You can read the daily poems, as well as the bios of this month’s poets, and donate here.

As incentives to donate, I am offering the following:

  • For a donation of $10, you tell me what subject or image you want to see in a poem, and I’ll write that poem.
  • For a donation of $20, I will dedicate a poem to you or someone of your choice.
  • For a donation of $40, I will send you or someone of your choice, a signed and personally addressed copy of my book, Doll God.
  • For a donation of $55, I will send you or someone of your choice, a signed and personally addressed copy of my book, Doll God, and I will dedicate a poem to you or someone of your choice.
  • For a donation of $100, you get two copies of Doll God and two dedications!
  • Remember that if you donate $129 for a Tupelo Press subscription, you will receive the 10 free books of their current series.

For any of the above donations, including the subscription of 10 books, please remember to click or write my name in the honor field. Then email me at luannecastle@gmail.com and let me know what dedication or subject you are interested in. If you “earned” a copy or two of Doll God, please give me your mailing address and to whom you would like the book(s) addressed.

Again, you can read the daily poems, as well as the bios of this month’s poets, and donate here.

If you decide to help keep Tupelo Press publishing its amazing variety of books, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!

Wish me well, please. It starts tomorrow, and I’m nervous as can be!

 

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If you are not able to donate, the other poets and I would still love for you to read our first draft work. I love feedback. Every day, I will post a link to that day’s poem over here so feel free to critique or pat me on the back (or the head, if you think that is more appropriate after reading the poem), encourage me, tell me what you like or what you don’t like. Or tell me a funny story or something completely unrelated that the poem reminded you of ;). Or just say hi in your own incomparable way so that I remember there is a world outside poetry. Gonna be an intense month!

One more thing: by November 1, I plan to take down all September’s 30/30 posts.

That’s us poets in the photo 😉

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Filed under #AmWriting, Blogging, Doll God, Inspiration, Literary Journals, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, WordPress, Writing, Writing goals, Writing prompt, Writing Tips and Habits

You Wanted to Hear What That Flash Nonfiction Course Was Like?

Marie from 1WriteWay and I completed our Flash Essay on the Edge course. It was offered by Apiary Lit, which offers editorial services, as well as courses they call workshops.

The course instructor was talented writer and teacher Chelsea Biondolillo. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Brevity, Passages North, Rappahannock Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Shenandoah, and others. She has an MFA from the University of Wyoming and is a 2014-15 O’Connor Fellow at Colgate University. You can check out Chelsea here or do a search for her pieces in online magazines. Her knowledge of the genre and generosity to share that knowledge with her students was outstanding.

I took the course because I hadn’t written for months, mainly because of my father’s illness and death. Knowing the way I operate, I figured that a course would force me to focus and get a little writing done.

As planned, Marie and I evaluated the course when we were finished. We are both posting a list of the pros and cons of the course, as we saw it. At the end of the list, I’ll give you my additional impressions. Check out Marie’s post because she will give her own impressions.

Course Textbook

PROs

  • The teacher prep was outstanding. She provided a wealth of readings, which were useful in showing me what flash nonfiction can look and sound like.
  • The course was only four weeks, so I found that to be very manageable. If it had been longer, I would have been too stressed during the summer and at this time in my life.
  • The instructor generally gave useful feedback, seemed qualified in the subject, and was very nice. She seemed to love her subject.
  • The instructor was accessible, responding within the same day if there was a question or concern.
  • Other than a problem I will list under CONs, the website was pretty easy to negotiate.
  • The online classroom had various forums that enabled you to share your work with the other students and have discussions.
  • The writing prompts were generally interesting, but I didn’t feel tied to them, which was good.
  • The course was not graded.  I could focus on what I wanted to turn in, not what I thought I had to turn in in order to get an A.
  • The course got me writing without adding stress to my life.
  • I got more writing done in this past month than I would have otherwise.
  • I feel that I know where to go with flash nonfiction now. It would be ideal to get more feedback down the road on attempts at Flash Nonfiction, but at least I feel much more comfortable with the genre from taking this course.
  • Above all, I had fun with the readings and the writing.

CONS

  • Although there were forums available, we had no real discussion of any of the readings. We were not strongly encouraged to interact with each other. We had maybe one discussion prompt during the whole course.
  • The readings and essay examples were available through either some kind of Adobe program that took a bit of time to figure out, or through hyperlinks that weren’t always easy to download.
  • We posted our written assignments privately to the instructor so I had no way of learning from what others had turned in or from reading instructor comments on the work of others. I didn’t care for this method as it diminished what I could learn from the course by a hefty percentage. I suppose this is the difference between the workshop method and a traditional style class.
  • We felt isolated in this class and had little interaction with anyone but each other and the instructor.  In the discussion forum, one other student interacted with us, and another made a couple of independent comments.  Other than that, it was a strangely quiet class.
  • Two platforms were used for the course:  an online classroom and a blog, so sometimes I had a little trouble negotiating the course. Sometimes I had to login in two places. This inconvenience turned out to be less of a problem than I first anticipated, but it could be streamlined.  The blog material could have been included on the classroom platform.
  • Since I don’t know how many people were in the course, I don’t know the instructor’s workload. My belief is that in a course that is short in length, the instructor should return assignments in short order. The lag time between turning in an assignment/beginning reading for a new lesson and getting the instructor’s feedback on my previous assignment was a little too long for my comfort.
  • The price at $199 was a little steep for four weeks and no discussion/no workshopping.

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 I want to make clear that I am really glad I took the course. Apiary hired a qualified instructor and offered a solid, contemporary course. There was so much that was right about the course. But I think it needs a little tinkering to make it better in terms of both learning environment and the economy of the course.

The above list really hits the main points of what I liked and didn’t care for about the course. The oddest thing for me was working in such an isolated environment. I’ve been in many workshops, and this isn’t a workshop. In workshops, your work is presented to the teacher and classmates. Typically, you receive feedback from both the instructor and at least a fair number of peers. I learn this way from what several people have to say about a piece. And I learn a lot from reading the work of others and seeing what all, especially the instructor, have to say about a variety of writing.

That said, there are people who hate workshops, generally because they have had a bad experience with one. I also find it fun to diss them sometimes. But, overall, they are an effective way to improve one’s writing.

The class seemed eerily quiet, perhaps because it wasn’t a workshop. But if we had had discussions about our readings, that would have provided some connection between students.

One other student (besides Marie and me) did participate in the class as much as possible. The course had a feature that she and I both used. It was called the Work-Sharing Blog. We were allowed to post anything we wanted to and see if anybody would give us feedback. It was not encouraged by the instructor or the course setup, but this other student and I both took advantage of it. I was thrilled to get feedback from her and from Marie on a piece I’ve struggled with.

I’ve taken online writing courses from a variety of schools/companies. They all have their pros and cons. For what I wanted this summer, Apiary’s course satisfied me fairly well.

If you are looking for an online writing course, my suggestion would be to decide how you want to learn and then ask questions. If you want a workshop, ask if all students will be sharing their work with the class and if the class will be providing peer feedback. Will there be guidelines for providing that feedback? The guidelines protect the writer from snarky or downright mean classmates. If you don’t want a workshop, ask those questions, too. Be aware that the majority of online writing courses are workshop-based.

Have fun! It’s so rewarding to get motivation, specialized readings, and writing feedback all in one place.

Once I get my thoughts together on the subject, I’ll post something about the genre of flash nonfiction, to give you an idea of what we were working on.

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Filed under #AmWriting, Creative Nonfiction, Editing, Essay, Flash Nonfiction, Inspiration, Literary Journals, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals, Writing prompt, Writing Tips and Habits

Assigning Stars to Books I’ve Read

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, AMERICAN READERS!!!

After I started transferring my memoir reviews over to Goodreads, I had to go through another critiquing process: assigning the number of stars to each book. What goes into that analysis is different from writing a review. A review focuses on all the ways the reader (the reviewer) reacts to and interacts with a book. I can love the experience of reading a book without thinking that overall the book deserves the highest score possible, 5 stars.

Also, there are books I want to give a 4.5, but I don’t know how to do that. Do you have to assign a 4 or a 5? No halves?

And what does a 5 mean? Does it always mean that I think the book is the most engaging story? Not necessarily because some books aren’t about the narrative. Does it mean that the book has the most literate, well-crafted sentences? Often times it does mean that. But not always. I am using 5 stars to mean a book that I can see myself reading again, should the occasion arise. And a book I can advise others to read, without qualification.

It kind of astonishes me how stingy some people are when they assign stars to books on Goodreads. I suspect those people have never written anything themselves ;).

Here are some unexpected stars in nature:

And here:

Speaking of book reviews, I plan on writing one for Julia Scheeres’ memoir Jesus Land in the near future.

This winter I will complete my tutorial in the Stanford program. In the tutorial I will be working with an instructor who will read my whole book draft (the memoir) and give me feedback for revision. Researching the Stanford instructors I realized that I so wanted to work with Julia Scheeres, especially after I read her Jesus Land.  Oh, what a book! Imagine my excitement when I got the email saying that my request had been approved and that I get to work with Ms. Scheeres this winter!

But I have to go work on my draft which needs another year’s worth of work before it’s ready. And I only have until the end of December. Good thing we’re not having our Thanksgiving dinner today. Pumpkin pie Saturday!

 

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Filed under Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Editing, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing goals

To Be Read as a Collection of Magic and Poetry

Michael Ondaatje, the author of The English Patient, wrote a memoir about his Sri Lankan family called Running in the Family.

The style of this book is quite different from other memoirs. The cover of my book has a blurb by Maxine Hong Kingston which calls what is inside the book “a truly magical world.” Since Kingston created her own magical worlds in The Woman Warrior and China Men, she’s a good judge of that. But Ondaatje’s book is not as tied to narrative as books by Kingston. In fact, the book has a few poems threaded throughout–and much of the prose moves beyond the lyrical to the truly poetic.

The book is very beautiful, and many readers have a very emotional response to the style of the book. When I began reading, I had the wrong mindset. I was expecting  a narrative. Big mistake. What I should have done was prepare myself by understanding that I would be reading a collection of magic and poetry.

The book is not tied to narrative or history. If a reader doesn’t know anything about Sri Lankan history or the racial structure of the country, she will miss a lot of what is going on–will, in fact, get the wrong idea about a lot in the book. But if the reader does know, what Ondaatje does so very well is to create the mood of a long gone time and place. In that way he is very Fitzgerald-ish.

My favorite parts of the book are the magical realism story of his unique grandmother who walked into a flood and the poem “The Cinnamon Peeler.” Here is a little taste of Ondaatje’s style with his lovely descriptive abilities and his dysfunctional relatives:

Only the mangosteen tree, which I practically lived in as a child during its season of fruit, was full and strong. At the back, the kitul tree still leaned against the kitchen–tall, with tiny yellow berries which the polecat used to love. Once a week it would climb up and spend the morning eating the berries and come down drunk, would stagger over the lawn pulling up flowers or come into the house to up-end drawers of cutlery and serviettes. Me and my polecat, my father said after one occasion when their drunks coincided, my father lapsing into his songs.

And now I will admit I have not yet read The English Patient. Or seen the movie.

What I learned from this memoir is that memoirists are free to cross boundaries–even into fantasy and poetry.

 

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Filed under Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

Memoir Writing Prompt: The Process of Discovery

One of my blogger BFFs is Sherri Matthews who writes A View From My Summerhouse. She recently tagged me in a writing process extravaganza. I eventually will take up the baton she’s handed me and write that post! In the meantime, check out her beautiful blog. If you aren’t already a reader, you will be!

I did a poll a while back asking about the best days for me to post from the standpoint of readers. The vote was overwhelmingly to keep the days the same: Mondays and Thursdays. I plan to do that. I am going to be hunkering down and getting more work done on my memoir now because my tutorial at Stanford is scheduled for winter quarter. (How will I EVER get a draft finished in time?!) I’m not sure if I’ll be able to continue memoir reviews throughout this period, but hey, I could write reviews of individual poems or flash prose ;). Know that I want to keep writing the book-length reviews, but it won’t always happen. I need to keep my own book front and center throughout the winter.

Are you thinking that you might want to write a memoir some day? Or write down something that happened to you years ago? Are you already working on a memoir?

If your story involves either your nuclear family (now or then) or your childhood, I have an idea for some helpful pre-writing.

We have our stories in our minds. We know what people looked like, what our homes were/are like, inside and out, our neighborhoods, our schools, our workplaces. But when we go to write our stories, we forget that the reader isn’t privy to all this information. And we overlook what might be some of the most revealing parts of our stories. The prompt I thought up is a way of remembering those little forgotten pockets of information. Everything you write from this prompt won’t wind up in your completed manuscript, but I think of it as a process of discovery.

Envision the home where much of your interactions with family members took place. For each room of the house, write a very descriptive piece showing an event that occurred in that room. Don’t forget your brother’s bedroom, the basement, the bathroom. Every room.  Include specific details about the room.

What discoveries do you make?

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing, Writing prompt

A Time of Great Change, A Woman Who Adapts and Keeps Her Dignity

A long time ago, a blogger (I think it was The Poet’s Wife, but it looks like her blog doesn’t exist any longer) recommended a memoir to me, and I bought the book, intending to read it right away. Instead, I misplaced the book. The other day I discovered the book had slipped behind some others on the shelf, so I finally read it: Pang-Mei Natasha Chang’s Bound Feet and Western Dress.

Bound FeetIf you remember my review of Helen Fremont’s After Long Silence, you know that Fremont’s book was billed as a memoir, but focused more on a recreation of the lives of her parents during the Holocaust. Of course, there was some memoir story about Fremont’s own life, including how she and her sister put the pieces of the secret story together. Chang’s book goes a step further. While the book cover calls this a dual memoir–that of the author and her Great Aunt Yu-i–to me this is more the memoir of Yu-i as verbally told and recreated on the page by her younger relative. It is mainly Yu-i’s story. And what a story it is.

She was born at the very beginning of the 20th century in China. Times were changing rapidly. During the course of Yu-i’s life, she must learn how to become a more “Western” woman and still show respect for her elders and her heritage by adhering to the traditions that were most important. Yu-i was the first woman in her family not to have her feet bound, and yet when she was married by her family to a man she didn’t know, she acted very traditional, as if she had bound feet.

When he divorces her, she must learn to take care of herself and her responsibilities. She describes the change in herself this way:

I always think of my life as “before Germany” and “after Germany.” Before Germany, I was afraid of everything. After Germany, I was afraid of nothing.

Yu-i’s story is a triumph of admirable traits, resilience, and a loving family.

And who is this man who divorced her? Hsu Chih-mo, arguably the most famous Chinese poet of his time period. Check out this Wikipedia link about him.  Why did he divorce her? What happened to her after the divorce? Read. the. book.

 

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Filed under Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing

History, Headstones, and Helter Skelter

I was tempted to save this memoir for a Halloween blog post, but that might give you the wrong idea about this book written by a “gravedigger’s daughter.” Rachael Hanel, who blogs here, tells the story of growing up in a small town in Minnesota. Her father was a caretaker at the cemeteries, as well as a digger of graves.

The emphasis on cemeteries and graves in the book make their way onto the page of her blog, as well. Very educational and even entertaining to look directly at headstones and death, without flinching. While Hanel’s family story and history is very middle America (and I don’t mean that dismissively–it’s interesting for its specificity), the style she wrote the memoir in deviates from the norm. It is overwhemingly memoir-ish throughout, but also threads through journalistic techniques and in the last portion of the book even becomes more like a lyric essay–lyrical and reflective.

hanel

I was stunned to see how many photographs were “allowed” in Hanel’s book. They add a lot, and they made me a little (oddly enough) jealous because I know how difficult it is to get a publisher to agree to using photographs (presumably because of the cost).

As a child, Hanel was interested in violent deaths, even reading Helter Skelter, the story of the Manson murders, at age eleven. This fascination is not surprising given the emphasis in the family on death. Adult reflection tells us she has learned this:

Reading became a protection; the words were a blanket I wrapped tightly around me. The stories helped me prepare for the inevitable. I surrounded myself with these words, reminders that bad things happen to good people. I read somewhere that we are drawn to stories of death and disease to convince ourselves that we would act differently. That somehow, by learning of someone else’s story we can protect ourselves.

I not only agree with these words, but I think they are a main reason I love to read memoirs.

***

For a related memoir, check out this one.

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Filed under Book Review, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Research and prep for writing, Writing