Monday, January 28, 2013


So I've been on this reading kick lately: author memoirs. The latest is one my sweet husband gave me for Christmas, called BAD BOY by Walter Dean Myers. It was the title I most wanted after listening to Mr. Myers speak at Louisiana Book Festival -- only it sold out at the festival before I could get my hands on it!

And now I've read Mr. Myers describe himself as a scrappy young poetry-lover with a speech problem, trying to make his way in 1940s and 50s Harlem. It's a great read, even if you're not a writer. But for those of us who share Mr. Myers' particular passions, it's beyond treasure; it's necessary.

Here's what great about author memoirs: they remind us that every writer's story is different. There's no right way or wrong way. There are many paths.

Every writer's story is special, as every human's story is special. It's encouraging to hear about the confusion and struggles and failures of an author we admire, especially one as prolific as Mr. Myer's. Books like these provide a recipe for the writing life. They show how we each make decisions to make this life work. It's encouraging and uplifting and inspiring -- with a healthy dose of reality thrown in.

Something that jumped out at me, from the last chapter, which is titled THE TYPIST: "Killens, the author of Youngblood, And Then He Heard the Thunder, and other novels, also brought me into the Harlem Writer's Guild, an organization of black writers. He counseled me always to think of my body of work rather than to concentrate too heavily on a particular book. It was, I believe, good advice."

Why is this awesome? Well. It IS good advice. It's a variation on the "marathon not a sprint" metaphor. And also it speaks to the importance of community. And shows how all authors learn from those who come before.

Which is why it's important to be generous, whatever stage of the writer's life you currently occupy. Share your story somewhere. Remind people that they are not alone, and however unique our experiences, we are all part of the same fabric. And maybe most of all, allow yourself to be inspired and enriched by other writers -- especially the ones you secretly (or not so secretly) envy.


  1. Such good sentiments and advice, Irene. I've read many of these, but most of the time I was concentrating on using what I read to share with students. I possibly should re-read some to see if there's more to pull for the teachers, & me! Thanks for this. (I've started a writing group at school & we are going to meet at my house which is so close. I might share this with them soon!)

  2. Linda, I think that is great that you've created a writing group! Wonderfu. xo


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