November Book Club | Recap

 
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For November, we delved into the world of the personal essay with Adair Lara’s book “Naked, Drunk and Writing: Shed you Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay.”

I have to admit that I choose this book club pick for selfish reasons. I’m an aspiring essayist and I needed some motivation. Although I went through college thinking I was going to be a fiction writer, something switched about a year after I graduated when I attended a personal essay writing class at Grub Street in Boston, MA. I took the class because I was feeling stagnate, still depressed that college was over and that I was working as a waitress full time, barely writing a sentence a day. I must have read an essay collection, or maybe I just wanted to go for something different. I can’t remember exactly. What I do remember is that I completely feel in love with the genre after the 6 week class was over.

I had always thought my life needed to be exciting and irresistibly interesting in order for me to write a memoir of any kind. But personal essays disproved this. They satisfied that desire I have for wanting to know everything about everyone, little details about their life that seem trivial but are oh so telling.

Writing personal essays also validated that I have something to say and what I say is important. This is something I’ve struggled with since I was a little girl, something I still struggle with. Is my voice valid? Is it worth hearing?

The answer is yes.

Currently, I have one essay floating out in the world as I await to see if it will be published. It’s a scary thing sending your voice out into the void, and at the same time, completely thrilling.


“Naked, Drunk and Writing” is part confidence boost and part craft/structure based. Lara sprinkles her humor and wit throughout the entire book while she explains everything from endings to sentence structure, from story arc to choosing your tense. After working twelve years as a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, Lara really knows her stuff. I can see using this as a reference guide while editing or while I’m having writer block for years to come.

Here are a few of my favorite quotesthat filled me with excitement about my future writing projects. I hope they inspire you too!

Writing is a kind of word-drunkenness that makes you want to do that- to take off your clothes and turn your experiences into art, despite who may be watching, despite your embarrassment, despite anything the world and your own self-doubts throw against you.
— p.7

“It’s about shedding your inhibitions and loosening your defense so that you can stand naked before the truth that lies dormant within you. It’s about the intoxication that comes with the terror and beauty of being exposed and vulnerable so something bigger than you ever thought you were. It’s about developing the courage, confidence, and skill that will take you through the arc of becoming a successful writer.”
— p. 10

Write it down. Whatever it is, write it down. Chip in into marble. Type it into Microsoft Word. Spell it out in seaweeds on the shore. We are each of us an endangered species, delicate as unicorns.

Check out my interview with Adair Lara from earlier this month. You can buy “Naked, Drunk and Writing” here!

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For weekly prompts, online classes, call for submission lists, recommended reading and exclusive access to our writing community forum to connect with other writers, share your work, and give/ask for feedback, join our Tribe at www.writeordietribe.com

October Book Club | Recap

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October was all about learning from one of the masters; Ray Bradbury. I first encountered his work in middle school when Mrs. Saucier assigned my 7th grade class to read “Fahrenheit 451.” I remember being completely enthralled by the dystopian universe as I think it was the first book of this genre that I had ever read. (I was a historical fiction girl.)

Later, in college, I took an American Gothic literature class and was assigned “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” I also found his short story, “The Veldt” in an American Short Story anthology in college and it continues to be one of my all time favorite short works of fiction to date. (Please read it if you haven’t already. So subtle creepy and wildly inventive.)

With a lengthy list of publications throughout his lifetime, I figured reading what Bradbury had to say about writing would be extremely useful to aspiring writers.

I learned a LOT from this short collection of essays and I thought I would share with you some of my favorite moment from the book.

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This book read very much like a casual conversation, at times, especially in the preface. Bradbury starts us off with pondering the question: what does writing teach us?

First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right. We must earn life once it has been awarded us. Life asks for rewards back because it has favored us with animation.

Art can not save us from all that we wish it could like war and natural disasters and death, he says. But what it can do, is revitalize us through it all. He also says that art is about survival and for many of use, we can not live unless we write.

I was particularly struck by this, because I have been drawn to writing stories and to writing as a form of expression since I began forming letters as a girl. I can't picture my life without writing and yes, it is indeed a form of survival for me!

I found a lot of inspiring lines throughout the first essay:The Joy of Writing. Bradbury’s enthusiasm feels as though it is leaping from the page and instilling itself in me as I found myself getting fired up throughout passage like:

“If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer...For the first thing a writer should be is - excited.”

“How long has it been since you wrote a story where your real love or your real hatred somehow got onto the paper? When was the last time you dared release a cherished prejudice so it slammed the page like a lightning bolt? What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering and shouting them?”  

The larger part of the book makes up the lessons Bradbury learned while beginning his career. He also lays out a number of his works and explains how he came to write about the subject, what inspired him, how long it took etc. I noticed that most of his great works didn’t take very long at all for him as he explained being led by the story, banging away on his typewriter. The story practically wrote itself! he claims a number of times. ( I'm very jealous of that fact. I feel like it takes so many revisions for me to get to the core of what I'm trying to say. Anyone else?) 

In the essayRun Fast, Stand Still, Bradbury talks about a writing exercise that leads him to create a number of his famous short stories. He simply wrote out a list of nouns. Example: THE LAKE. THE ATTIC. THE NIGHT TRAIN. THE MIRROR MAZE. He said all these nouns were “the provocations, finally, that caused my better stuff to the surface. I was feeling my way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.”

We learn later that a lot of the nouns he chose were connected to repressed memories or childhood fears. I found this completely fascinating and I wished that he wrote more on the subject. I want to try this as a writing exercise (maybe a future Write or Die Tribe prompt?) and see what could come out of it. I mean, it turned him into one of the most renowned American authors…

I could go on with more quotes and more notes I scribbled while reading this work. His advice is clear and backed up by his own successes so it doesn’t feel like fluff or deflated words telling you what you should and shouldn’t do. I can see this being a book I keep on my bookshelf for years and refer back to often.

I would love to know your thoughts on our October Book Club selection! What is your favorite Ray Bradbury book or story? Let me know in the comments!

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For weekly prompts, online classes, call for submission lists, recommended reading and exclusive access to our writing community forum to connect with other writers, share your work, and give/ask for feedback,  join our Tribe at www.writeordietribe.com