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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Michele Norris wrote a new memoir

The only thing I want more than to read Michele Norris’s new book, The Grace of Silence, is a few hours freedom to actually sit and read it. Norris relates stories of her own family’s experience to the overall backdrop of race relations in the United States, both then and now. Specifically, Norris examines how her family remained silent on some of their most personal racial incidents, including Norris’s father being shot by a police officer after serving in WWII and her grandmother’s job – no joke – as a traveling Aunt Jemima.

Using the intimacy of personal story to extrapolate grander issues is one of the most powerful ways memoir can touch us as readers. It’s a way of using true-to-life specificity as a relatable experience that readers can compare and contrast with their own. I say this as one who detests anecdotal evidence and meandering anecdote, something one of my instructors would likely call a “bathtub story.” However, listening to Norris report on a wide variety of prescient, fascinating topics over the years, something tells me she knows precisely how to make her family’s story not only interesting but relevant and meaningful to readers who are willing to explore their lives and how race relations affects it.

Listen to Tom Crann’s 12-minute interview with Norris from Minnesota Public Radio news today.

If you’ve read the book, please let me know what you think.

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Focus on the story, not getting published

If you’re a young writer and you’re not reading Steven Pressfield‘s blog, particular on Wednesdays for his regular “Writing Wednesdays” segment, you’re doing your art a great disservice. He’s got plenty for we who are trying to improve our writing each week and it’s worth your time.

A couple weeks ago, Steven wrote a post entitled “The Crazier the Better” about a friend named Paul’s concern his writing was going to such dark places and he was so into it that the darkness was perpetuating itself and as a result, no publisher would ever want the book. Steven’s advice is to pursue the harder ideas, that is, the ideas that excite us and even if they seem crazy will likely make the most compelling stories. I couldn’t agree more and urge you to read more of Steven’s reaction to Paul’s (self-imposed) dilemma.

I’d add one other thought on why Paul should continue this writing he’s so caught up in, whether it’s dark or not. As Steven puts it, “He’s worried that the book will come out so evil, no one will want to touch it.” My advice: time spent writing should be spent on the story, not worrying about hypothetical publishing deals. It’s great to dream about publication and beyond – I certainly do it from time to time – and yet if I’m worrying about publication as I write the story then I’m not focusing on the right thing(s). This is, I think, especially true when writing a novel. If one is trying to finish a novel (sometimes the hardest thing for many a young writer to do – finish a novel), get those 300 pages printed or 50,000 words typed up or “The End” down on paper and then worry about whether some publishing house will buy it.

If it’s good, someone will buy it. No matter how “dark” it is.

What thoughts do you have? Leave them here and/or at Steven’s blog post.

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Your Friday Recommendation #30

Get out of the house and write.

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How to fail at reading

The number one way to fail at reading is to fall out of practice. That’s the number one way to fail at anything, by the way.

Ever give up on a sport? A diet? A relationship? Knitting? Writing? Blogging? Not everything is like riding a bike. Sometimes one can lose many of the skills they once held dear or at least tried with all their might to achieve. And I think this pertains to 1. the enjoyment of reading, 2. the ability to be a careful reader, and 3. remembering, after a long absence from reading, that reading is a good thing.

I understand reading isn’t for everyone just like spearfishing isn’t for everyone or parenthood isn’t for everyone or combining peanut butter with chocolate isn’t for eveyone. That said, reading has been around for a long time. A few billion people throughout history have said it’s not only good but downright important. People have died so that others might read (don’t believe me? Read about Avorres and his allies or watch the Arabic language film, Destiny). I’m not sure those are attributes to be taken lightly.

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir. If you’re reading my blog, you likely enjoy reading. And if you like me teaching reading, you too hope to put the right book in the hands of a non-reader and open their eyes. All right, all right, I won’t get too sappy here, but this is important to me. Important enough for me to write about five books for boys tomorrow as the latest Your Friday Recommendation.
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