Season 01, Episode 06
In this book talk episode, Nicki shares a few book titles on the subject of introductory memoirs.
Introductory Memoirs – Reading List on Bookshop.org
Mentions & Further Reading
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
The Mountain and the Fathers: Growing Up in the Big Dry Joe Wilkins
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch
Connect & Support
Exploring story in a time of collapse
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Nicki: Welcome to Nicki’s Wonder List, a podcast about exploring story in a time of collapse. I’m Nicki Youngsma.
In today’s book talk episode, I’ll be talking about a few works that relate to a particular subject. Today that happens to be introductory memoirs.
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Nicki: What I mean by introductory memoirs is memoirs that introduced me to memoir writing for the longest time. I didn’t give memoirs like a second thought. I had this idea.
Memoirs were just like books, about writers who write about writing and, um, that just like sounded so boring to me, you know? And I just kind of stayed away from that genre. Then I found out that’s not true, like at all. And I don’t even know where that idea came from. I became particularly interested in memoirs because I am working myself on a memoir project.
And I thought that memoirs had to be written a certain way. It turns out that they don’t like they do not have to follow a story arc that you might find in a novel. So when I came across works that were not structured that way, I realized that memoirs are actually a genre that interests me in a lot of ways and gave me some inspiration and models for that kind of work.
So let’s get started….
So the first title that I’ll share in this book talk is called on writing: a memoir of the craft by Steven King.
I found this book because I was actually for a long time looking to learn how to write fiction. And I really wasn’t interested in writing as a literary art until my brother died in 2010.
And then I had this poll to learn how to write creatively. This was a recommended instructive text. It was a surprise to me because I don’t really read Steven King. I never really found myself pulled to his work in spite of how popular it is though. I do know some of his works and I’ve read a couple of his books.
So the way that this is structured is it’s composed of two parts and the first part is a memoir. And then the second part is like a, how to get started writing. And one of those tips in the second part of the book being like no one needs to give you a permission slip. That was one of the most important pieces of advice was like, you can just start writing.
So, um, I listened to that. The author uses the term closed door and open door phases of writing. And I felt like that has also been super helpful for me, learning how to write creatively has not really been easy for me. Like I don’t really like sharing my writing. That’s not a unique experience by any means, but when I got started writing, I have found myself surprised at how closeted I was about it.
I’m a visual artist and I’ve never felt that way about visual art, but I did it about writing. So having this idea that it’s good to, to not share for a while. And then when you feel ready to do that, then you can do it. So there was just some language around that approach to how you share what you make.
And I found that to be really supportive. Another thing that I feel like is helpful is the focus on people will keep reading. If they’re into the. Some things that I didn’t like about this book, just kind of the opinions of the authors, um, what works for them to further their craft. And part of that is the writing routine.
And, you know, all writers I’ve met. Talk about like how this is a struggle, like. Staying in the routine, especially if you’re working on a project. So like a part of, um, this author’s routine is writing 2000 words a day and doing it at a particular time. And that felt really hard. I like listened to that at the beginning.
And then I realized that doesn’t work for me and it’s okay. Like I don’t have to write 2000 words a day that actually can look a variety of different ways. And I’ve learned that since, but at the beginning it was like, oh, I have to do it this way. Another thing that I just kind of like waved off is just an attitude expressed by the author, this book that there’s good writers and there’s bad writers.
And like, I just, oh, that guts me a little bit, cuz it’s just so dismissive. And so that’s, you know, my takeaway from this book.
The next title that I’m gonna share is called The mountain and the fathers: growing up in the big dry by Joe Wilkins.
I learned about this book through the author who I’ve had as an instructor. So this was another memoir that’s structured in a way that was a surprise to me. That’s written in a series of essays. There’s a big sense of place in this book. The, the author grew up in Eastern Montana and there’s a lot of poetic language in it. And I found that was a thing that kept me reading.
Because, you know, whenever you’re reading a book, there’s always that point where you’re just like, you’re really not sure yet, like, okay, am I gonna commit to this and see it through? And then you get to a certain point where you’re like, yes, I’m gonna finish. Like when you say yes to the book. So anyways, I read this not only for the content, but for the language.
The next book I’m gonna talk about is Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover.
So this book is a really popular book. I got it because my therapist actually lends it to me, the copy of which I still have meaning to give it back. My therapist lends it to me because the author writes some really compelling descriptions of trauma in this book. I really enjoyed a lot about this book, particularly those passages about trauma, about relationships, and then also about the author’s story and what drew them to learning about history.
This book has been sensationalized and some people read it from me, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps kind of, um, way, but the offers pushed back against that. That’s not what they’re trying to say in their memoir. They just wanted to tell their story, which is what memoirs are. I think overall what came through for me reading this story is how humble the author is.
Especially in writing this book, they’re really like, transparent about not knowing how to do something. And then they like tried it and they just kept learning how to do the thing they wanted to do. That’s called to them. I find that to be inspirational in a way of not just like finding a thing that you’re good at and it’s like magical.
And like you just ACE it… I just appreciate being with someone as I tell their story of just not knowing a lot and learning and being a gracious learner, that was something I took away from this also just what it is to learn how to see yourself and transcend similarly foundational hardships.
The next title that I’m gonna talk about is The chronology of water: memoir by Lydia Yuknavitch.
So this book I had recommended to me by a few people. It was interesting. I didn’t have the reaction that I thought I would. And I found myself sitting with this book a lot because of the content. The author is a survivor of losing an infant and then also of childhood sexual abuse. And so there’s just something very like weighty about that.
For me personally, I’m not a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, but I know people who. So, yeah, the content of this was just really sobering for me. And I think about this book a lot. I’m surprised at how much this book is present for me. So there’s a magic in. Again, it’s another book that’s done in essay.
Like it’s a collection of essays, which I also really like, this was another example of a memoir where I didn’t know that you could write a memoir like this and this one is, uh, written again a nonlinear way and it’s fun to read. It’s also, you know, there’s some interesting things that she does with language, um, and voice.
So that was also enjoyable to read. Like it was really refreshing. Then also there’s this permission slip that I felt like I got from this about writing, about things that are taboo. It’s another memoir work that has introduced me to reading memoirs as well as writing one. So all of these books together offer me a permission slip.
So to say, and like just some examples of one, what memoirs are and what they can be and what they can do for you. If you’re called to write one and people who I meet, um, and have met who are working on these projects or have done that. There’s like a calling that you do to do this. The other thing too, that I’ve appreciated about now that I’ve learned more about this genre and this kind of writing project, I think about some of these books on this list, how Steven King says, you need to write for the story. Like you need to keep the story going. And that’s what keeps people in. And the thing too with memoirs is even though they’re not fiction, they read like fiction or they can read like fiction. So this idea that, okay, I have to like fit my story into this plot arc. That seems completely like nonsense and impossible. But after reading some of these memories, it’s like, oh, actually the language is just as important as the story.
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Nicki: And the story can be told in so many ways.
If any of these titles peak your interest, then go to the show notes to buy books through the Nicki’s Wonder List store on Bookshop.org.
Purchasing through this storefront means you’ll be supporting authors, independent book sellers, and this podcast. Thank you for listening to Nicki’s Wonder List. Until next time.
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