1 Aug
My gurus at the beach by annewarrensmith
My gurus at the beach, a photo by annewarrensmith on Flickr.

As you can see from the photo, my friends and I are at the coast, reading and discussing two wonderful books: 

Both books are memoirs, but are very different from each other. 

The JCO book is full of descriptions of her writing process and glimpses into her real life.   She is such a prolific writer with more than 100 books and collections and essays and poems that have won too many literary prizes to count.  In her journals we find her obsessive work ethic and her preoccupation with her characters and always planning the next book.  She worries that her work isn’t popular, but cannot stop writing huge, dark stories that many readers find hard to read.  Getting a glimpse into her mind for the ten years of the journals is a wonderful experience.  I loved reading about how she gets an idea and seems to know the title from the very beginning.  Then, she compiles hundreds of pages of notes as she does research about the time and place and dreams about the characters.  Only then, when it feels right, does she begin Chapter One.  She writes clear through, sometimes finding that her characters surprise her and the plot may go in unexpected directions.  Later, she does a revision.  And then, she’s done! Another 600-page novel.  Done!

[Why does it take me more than a year to write a children’s book?  Six months (or more) to write a short essay?]

“Wild” is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read.  Cheryl Strayed decided in the mid-nineties to rescue herself and a life gone awry by hiking the California stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail — alone.  She wasn’t well prepared for the wilderness, and the tale of how she survives and also heals herself is spell-binding.  She’s a terrific writer besides and shows us all that good memoir can be with character growth and change, tension, humor, setting as character, and more.  Everyone I know who has read this book has had trouble putting it down.  Some are reading it for the second or third time.  Highly recommended!


6 Responses to “ON THE OREGON COAST”

  1. Rebecca Smith August 12, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    I really enjoyed Wild, a wonderful and intriguing story!

  2. bainlynn6@aol.com August 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

    I really enjoyed these two books also. Both authors seem to express themselves effortlessly. I chuckled when JCO said something about how she couldn’t understand why someone who had TO STRUGGLE TO WRITE, would bother writing at all!?
    I’ve yet, in my looooong life, run across a writer in real life who doesn’t struggle 🙂
    I’m excited about this forum as a space to share our struggles! Thanks, Anne!

    • annewarrensmith August 12, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

      You know, I had an agent say that to me once — she didn’t understand, she said, why I continued to revise one of my short stories. It’s still unpublished, so maybe she was right. But we invest so much in a story, it impossible to let one die. I hated her comment, a dash of cold water on my passion for that story. As you can see, I’ve never forgotten what she said.

    • Ann Marie Etheridge August 23, 2012 at 12:37 am #

      Right, Lynn. I had convinced myself that my first drafts were my best work, and look back now with tremendous humility. Been working on a chapter from my memoir for eight weeks! Painful for a “rapid-fire” gal like me:-)

  3. Rick Lamplugh August 13, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    Anne, I’m going to read both books. And I love how your voice comes through on the blog. I can see you standing in a classroom, or across the table at a coffee shop, sharing your thoughts in your distinctive way.

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