24 Jul Episode 221: #FeelingExposed in Memoir and Fiction
This week, Jess got a message from some family members who’d read the draft of her forthcoming book, The Addiction Innoculation. They had … thoughts.
Those thoughts turned out to be nothing drastic—but the emotional roller coaster Jess rode while waiting to hear more was a doozy, and got us all thinking about how much of ourselves is exposed when we write non-fiction with a memoir element, how real memoirists do it, and how often readers—especially those closest to you—read our fiction looking for hidden truths. It’s a fun conversation that also covers pool floats, parents, dream offices we probably wouldn’t use and more.
Links from the Podcast
Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl by Sandra Beasley
Mrs. Everything by Jen Weiner
KJ: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
Jess: Notes on a Silencing by Lacy Crawford
Sarina: Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane
Thanks to everyone who supports the podcast financially. To join that team, click the button below:
But it’s all good. The pod is free as it always has and always will be. This shownotes email is free, too, so please—forward it to a friend, and if you haven’t already, join our email list and be on top of it every time there’s a new episode.
KJ Dell’Antonia 0:00
Hey there. Before we embark on a new episode, I get to tell you about our new sponsor, Dabble. I wrote my last book in a mad combination of Word and Scrivener and it worked fine. But putting the whole thing together in the end was hard. And I accidentally left a chapter out of a draft, confusing everyone. With Dabble the whole book is always just sitting there, already compiled and together as a unit, but still easy to navigate around in using chapters or scenes. It’s magical, and I can’t wait to make full use of it this time around. Give it a spin at dabblewriter.com and let us know what you think. Is it recording?
Jess Lahey 0:38
Now it’s recording. Go ahead.
KJ Dell’Antonia 0:41
This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone and try to remember what I’m supposed to be doing.
Jess Lahey 0:45
Alright, let’s start over.
KJ Dell’Antonia 0:46
Awkward pause. I’m gonna rustle some papers. Okay, now one, two, three.
I’m KJ Dell’Antonia and this is #AmWriting, the podcast about writing all the things – fiction, nonfiction, memoir, essays, proposals, pitches. In short, as I say most nearly every week, this is the podcast about sitting down and getting your writing work done.
I’m Jess Lahey. I’m the author of The Gift of Failure and the forthcoming Addiction Inoculation that’ll be out in April 2021. And currently writing some stuff for The Washington Post and Air Mail. And yeah, I guess that’s about it.
Sarina Bowen 1:31
And I’m Sarina Bowen, the author of 35 romance novels. And I’m currently writing nothing and it is glorious.
KJ Dell’Antonia 1:41
I’m KJ Dell’Antonia. I’m the author of How To Be a Happier Parent and the novel The Chicken Sisters, which is coming out this December look for it in bookstores near you if you can be in them and goodness knows I hope you can, but I’m not holding my breath. I am the former editor of The Motherlode Blog at the New York Times where I sometimes still contribute. And I write things for other places. But I am primarily now focused on fiction, kind of, mostly, more about that in a minute maybe.
Jess Lahey 2:12
Speaking of being able to go into bookstores, I was able to go into one for the first time recently, they’re limiting their customers. I went to the Phoenix Bookstore in Burlington, and I was able to browse and I had just forgotten how much I miss browsing and I found a couple of books and I was so excited to just sort of be able to look at the things and not online. It was very exciting.
KJ Dell’Antonia 2:37
I have been really aching to do that and haven’t done it since March, but I have a couple of possible abilities to do that in my immediate future I hope.
Jess Lahey 2:50
I stayed in like the gardening section and the cooking section and just looked at all these books. I miss it. I miss it so much. Hold on, can we go back to what Sarina said about not working on anything right now like this is monumental because you’re always working, Sarina, you’re constantly working. Are you taking a break right now between projects?
Sarina Bowen 3:15
I am. And it’s partly because I’m just burnt out and need a break. And partly because I have a lot of promo and organizational stuff that could really eat an entire month. And I’m ahead for the first time in many months – ahead of publication schedule.
KJ Dell’Antonia 3:34
Wow, that sounds glorious.
Jess Lahey 3:36
That’s really amazing. KJ, what are you doing?
KJ Dell’Antonia 3:38
Well, my agent has just given me back some edits on what I hope will be my next novel. So I’m finishing those up and then we’ll figure out where we are going from there. But I suspect that I will finish those edits up and then that will be sort of temporarily finished and then it is time to start something new. So I am wandering through the world thinking what’s the next novel? Who’s it about? And I’m spending a lot of time thinking things like well but wait the last two were about people and their mothers. I apparently can’t stop with people and their mothers. And then I was like, Well, lots of authors can’t stop with people and their mothers.
Sarina Bowen 4:26
Well, we all had one or we missed having one, so that’s a big theme.
KJ Dell’Antonia 4:34
It is universal, but it’s almost feels like it should be its own genre. And then I’ve been noodling a possible nonfiction thing. Just a little something about writing.
Jess Lahey 4:57
That’s really exciting.
KJ Dell’Antonia 4:58
I’ve been having fun thinking about it.
Jess Lahey 5:00
Yeah, I didn’t expect to have many deadlines right now. But then stuff came up and I was asked to write some things. I’m working on two book reviews that will be due in the next couple months, two books that I never would have picked up on my own. So I’m learning a lot from both books and I can’t say what they are. And then Tim and I are writing a piece together for a big national publication about going back to school in the age of COVID. And the problem with that it’s going to be in print and so the word count has to be pretty on target. And the problem is this is such a big topic that even our outline at one point was longer than our final word count. Well and I just texted you guys about this before we started, but working in the same house together, Tim and I write together pretty well, but we normally do it in separate locations. And you know, no one’s going to work, no one’s going to school, and we just had the dumbest argument about absolutely nothing. And we just don’t argue very much. And so I realized man, it is so time for someone to go work somewhere else because I can’t take it anymore.
KJ Dell’Antonia 6:26
I was on Instagram and a lovely writer whose name I have now forgotten, was showing her writing shed and it was as cute as anything and she was a New Englander. So it was clearly not only useful for part of the year but I just looked at it I thought that is amazing. Plus, if I had it, somebody else would have taken it over.
Jess Lahey 6:46
You know who has a great one is Julie Lythcott-Haims. She does all of her interviews from there and she writes there and it’s called like a yard pod. And it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s just stunning, it’s filled with books, and it’s bright and sunny, and it’s behind her house, and no one goes in there really but her. It’s pretty lovely.
Sarina Bowen 7:05
That is living the dream.
KJ Dell’Antonia 7:08
You’d think so, but I bet I wouldn’t even use it. I tend to sit smack in the middle of everything. It’s stupid, but I do. I don’t use my office anymore because there’s someone else in here. I mean I record in here, I don’t know, I used to write in here.
Jess Lahey 7:27
It does sound like this wonderful thing – I was at a house recently and they have a little glassed in studio overlooking Lake Champlain. And I thought about it and I’m like, it looks so beautiful, but you’re right, I think I would just not spend a lot of time out there.
Sarina Bowen 7:45
I would – take me!
KJ Dell’Antonia 7:51
Alright, yard pod for Sarina.
Jess Lahey 7:59
So we do kind of have a topic this week that we were playing around with because I read a book this week and submitted my finished-copy-edited-now-in-galley-form pages form book to some first readers and have been having some anxiety attacks this week. So we wanted to talk a little bit about when you reveal yourself through your writing. And Gift of Failure I revealed some of myself, but there’s nothing embarrassing there really, there was nothing like too freaky in there. But this new book is very memoir-based, so much so that we actually talked about the possibility of coding it as a memoir as well. And it’s really scary because it’s about my substance abuse, my being an alcoholic, and about what I went through. And I read a book this week by Lacey Crawford called Notes On a Silencing and it’s about her sexual assault at St. Paul School. And so I’ve just had on my brain a lot lately the idea of putting yourself out there in your books and how what a challenge that can be, and we want to come at this from a couple of different angles. And for me a lot of this came down to the fact that I handed my book The Addiction Inoculation, over to my parents. And it’s right there in the flap copy that I come from a family where there’s a lot of substance abuse. And I got one of those phone calls, I was very careful when I wrote it, but I got one of those phone calls from my parents saying, can we talk? And it turned out okay, but I had that like my heart in my stomach. I thought I was gonna throw up, I’m like I was so super careful about what I put in there. And I didn’t tell anyone’s story, but my own story. But, man, putting more of yourself in a book is extremely anxiety provoking. And we wanted to talk a little bit about that and how that happens, or doesn’t happen, or what happens with fiction and that kind of stuff. So I was wondering if you guys had any thoughts on that.
Sarina Bowen 10:14
I read a memoir recently-ish called Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl by Sandra Beasley. And the subtitle is Tales From an Allergic Life. So she is super allergic to many things, which is not exactly like a hot button family issue. It’s not tales from being beaten in a cupboard, you know? But even the first line of her acknowledgment section says, ‘There’s no sentence more terrifying to two family members than I’m writing a memoir.’ And I loved that. I loved that as the first line of her acknowledgments and, of course, her life experience growing up with this somewhat unique, but unfortunately not unique enough, problem of having anaphylactic shock all the time from being allergic to half the world did bleed into her family a little bit. And her ex boyfriend is in there, she had to deal with it even though it wasn’t like a dark topic. So I had never realized that before until I read it in her acknowledgments.
Jess Lahey 11:31
I guess I also think a lot about you know, Mary Karr, who wrote Lit about substance abuse in her family. And of course, she’s written a whole bunch of stuff, and it’s all deeply deeply personal memoir stuff. And she talks about the fact that she lets people read all of this stuff that she writes ahead of time, and that there’s some veto power. Her mother apparently, you know, was like, ‘Look, you live this, go for it. This is your experience.’ But that’s definitely not what a lot of relatives do. A lot of relatives, mine included, were worried, really worried and I even let them see my book proposal. And in the book proposal I did say that I was going to talk a little bit about my family, but in pretty general terms. There were some ground rules (or some agreements) that we made early on about how much I reveal that isn’t my story to tell. And that’s also been interesting. Early on, when I was doing interviews about the fact that I was writing this book and people would ask me about my history and I had to make it really clear that I am not free to tell other people’s stories, I’m free to tell my stories. But where those stories overlap and how much my experience of someone else’s story am I allowed to tell? I’m always really scared that I’m going to get that wrong.
KJ Dell’Antonia 12:55
Sure, I mean, just to give an example that I will intentionally make completely not about any of us. Just say that you want to write about the reason that you’re a trapeze artist. And for some reason your father is super, super sensitive about his experiences as a trapeze artist because his dad was a trapeze artist and he found that really a difficult way to grow up. But the fact that he’s really upset about the whole trapeze artist thing because of his dad affects how he experiences or how he responds to you being a trapeze artist. And, you know, there you are. You sort of need to include your dad’s experience of trapeze artists in your memoir because otherwise his crazy reluctance to permit you to swing wildly from the trapeze just doesn’t make sense. I was just, I’ll call it coaching. So I had a friend come to me with a couple of essays recently, and by essays, I mean really long, literary things, 15-20 pages and such. And frequently you get a phone call like that, and you sort of opened the document with trepidation, but these were amazing. And this is a friend with a really interesting story. And I said, ‘Well, you know, it’s just gonna be up to you to figure out how much of this you want to tell because I think you have a memoir here as well as this other stuff.’ And she said, ‘Oh, both my parents are dead.’ And I was like, ‘Well, then you’re free.’ Now, I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone, and I do not want that day to come, but when it comes, yeah, you write anything you want.
Jess Lahey 14:42
I thought about that a lot. There are certain stories that I would love to talk about, but I do talk specifically in my book about the fact that ignoring things, and hiding truths, and pretending like everything’s fine when things aren’t fine, was a very big part of my story. And so it’s really scary – and for me one of the big things I talk about a lot in the book is that I am very honest about my personal life and my substance abuse because in my childhood no one was allowed to talk about it, in fact, we got in trouble for talking about it. So that was the thing that I was most scared of my parents reading and so once I realized they were okay with that, we were basically on okay ground. But it was also interesting because of the conversation I had with them was very much about my parents perception of a statement I made versus my perception of a statement I made and I was making it very generally and he was reading it very specifically. And once we talked about that, he was okay with it. But when we were disagreeing I’m like, well, crap, because this is now in galley version and have I now blown up a bomb in the middle of my family. And that stuff is so scary and yet it was so important to me to be as honest as possible. Because the very thing I’m trying to say in the book is that secrets and shame are what keep us sick. And so to not go there is counter to what I’m saying – about the need to get over our secrets and our shame. So it was it was a tricky situation, but one I felt was really important to to do justice to.
Sarina Bowen 16:21
Jess Lahey 16:23
I want to know, Sarina, one thing – so whenever people talk to fiction authors, they often say you know how much of you is in your characters? And I’ve always thought about you know, there are certain fiction books I would love to write and I’m always worried someone’s gonna think I’m projecting like my own stuff onto my characters and do you get any of that?
Sarina Bowen 16:44
Yeah, but of course you have to separate what the people close to you think versus what strangers think. So with memoir, it’s really important to your family existence that everybody you know is okay with your memoir. But in fiction, some misunderstanding just doesn’t have the same weight. So I have most of a manuscript somewhere for a women’s fiction that I haven’t finished or published yet. And my mother read an early draft of it. And she said, ‘I didn’t know that you hated Hanover.’ (which is the town where I live) And I said, ‘Mom, I don’t hate Hanover at all, but my character is not a fan.’ And so writing what you know, can mean just using everything you see about a place to look at it from different angles, which is what I had done, and it wasn’t my first book because of course, that kind of distance is hard to capture the first time you write a novel, but this one was a very confident view of living in this small town as a 40 something single woman who sees a lot. And I just was fascinated by the fact that she thought that I didn’t like my town just from some things that this character observed about it. But a stranger wouldn’t grab that and have as strong feelings about it. Probably. So when you’re writing fiction, in one sense, you’re handing over a chunk of your brain for the analysis of others, which is always a little uncomfortable, because there will be some things that you personally feel that just bleed in there and you can’t help it. Like I hate pumpkin spice lattes and none of my characters are a fan either.
Jess Lahey 18:48
Or certain kinds of beer, you’re very clear on your beer preferences, too.
Sarina Bowen 18:57
That’s right. Nobody drinks Bud Light in my book or if they do that is not a good character, like that person is going to murder somebody. So if you read all 35 of my books, you can find some things about me that are like my personal preferences and blind spots, which is, of course, important to the national discussion of how people of color are treated in fiction and seen in fiction. But of course, that’s true about every author, it’s hard to get fully away from all of the things you believe and don’t even realize you believe. But with a romance novel, though, you have this shield. So it’s like, here’s a piece of my brain, but it’s also filtered through the expectations of romance readers everywhere, like the genre is expected to behave in a certain way and I follow those rules and so you get parts of me but not all of me because I’m trying to give you the experience that a romance reader is looking for. And so that’s just easier than with memoir. It just happens less often.
Jess Lahey 20:08
Well, I don’t know because KJ likes chicken. KJ is from the Midwest, I’m thinking KJ wrote a memoir and she has a sister we don’t know about.
KJ Dell’Antonia 20:28
So I have a novel in a drawer. I haven’t looked at it in many, many, many, many, many, many years. But I that one I know has much stronger autobiographical elements than The Chicken Sisters. The Chicken Sisters – it’s kind of like what Sarina said, there are things in there that I have done, like encourage my children to use the car as an amusement park so that I could have a conversation with someone, both sisters share some thoughts with me, but I’d even be hard put to tell you which one. Yeah, I probably identify with one slightly more than the other. But I could go back to How To Be a Happier Parent and it’s kind of like your first book, Jess. It’s got things in it that are personal, that are stories, but it took so long to write and also because it’s kind of geared towards parents of kids that are younger than mine are now. So I really tried to go back in time for the best stories. And I think actually in the end, my kids were disappointed by how little they were in it. They really expected it, like they opened it thinking now we’re gonna find out what mom really thinks of us and it’s just not the book that I wrote. But I will say that no matter what I write anywhere under any circumstances, my parents invariably call me up and say that never happened.
Jess Lahey 22:24
It’s funny because I thought about this recently because I talk with Sarina about the different kinds of romance books there are – like the second chance, and the friends to lovers kind of thing, and recently an ex-boyfriend of mine got divorced and so I started spooling through my head (even though I have no interest in dating this person, I’m very happily married) how a story might go if someone that was like a first love kind of thing got divorced and what if the person was single and was still interested? How would that romance novel go. And then I simultaneously realized, well, I can never write that book because there’s no way I could convince my husband that on some level, I wasn’t going there just a little bit in my brain. It’s what fed the initial idea for a story, but it’s not something that I actually want in my life. And that line would be really hard to convince the people close to you of, I think sometimes. The way you did with your mom, Sarina.
KJ Dell’Antonia 23:32
I think that it would be okay in your third or fourth book, because I think that by then, the assumption that you were writing fiction would be so established. Like, I don’t open up a Jen Weiner book and think, Well, clearly she’s unhappy with her husband because this person’s unhappy with her husband. Whereas if it were a debut novel, I might, I really probably don’t because I don’t think about it that way. But I feel like even your family’s expectations are probably different at that point. But I too would hesitate to write like somebody struggling in an unhappy marriage. Although one of my characters is struggling in this book, but there are two characters and my husband has read it and he still seems pretty secure. I didn’t get complaints.
Jess Lahey 24:31
I could see how that would be really problematic, though, for an insecure partner.
Sarina Bowen 24:35
Yeah, well, first, I must say it depends on if your partner reads your books, because I could write anything.
Jess Lahey 24:44
Has he read any of them?
Sarina Bowen 24:45
He read one. And, you know, I guess that was enough for him.
KJ Dell’Antonia 24:50
Mine didn’t read Happier Parent, but he wanted to read this one.
Sarina Bowen 24:53
You mentioned Jennifer Wiener and she had a book called Mrs. Everything that came out last summer that is based on her mother’s journey.
Jess Lahey 24:53
Sarina Bowen 24:53
KJ Dell’Antonia 24:53
Is her mother still with us?
Sarina Bowen 24:53
Yes. Actually I read this on Twitter.
KJ Dell’Antonia 24:55
So you know it’s true. If she tweeted it you do, I know, I’m just sorry.
Sarina Bowen 25:06
Well she is terrific on Twitter.
KJ Dell’Antonia 25:23
She is terrific on Twitter. She a reason to be on Twitter.
Sarina Bowen 25:28
She is – seriously, she’s a force of good on Twitter. And she told this quick story. The details aren’t all there for me still, but that her mother went by herself to a bookstore discussion (like a book club night, and this was the book) and she went and participated and didn’t tell anyone that she was that mother.
KJ Dell’Antonia 25:48
Oh, that is really funny.
Sarina Bowen 25:50
It is priceless.
Jess Lahey 25:52
That is a very, very cool story. If you’ve read (KJ and I have, I’m assuming you have Sarina) there’s a nonfiction book that she wrote a couple of years ago, she talks about her story, and her mom, and what they went through with her dad, and all of that. So that would be a really interesting story to explore. Well, the Lacey Crawford book that I was talking about, so much of this story that she tells exposes a lot of other people’s stories, and I haven’t had a chance to talk to her about it. I was gonna ask her about it, like how many of the names were different names? Did she change all of the names? Did she change some of the names? You know, it’s really easy to figure out a lot of the details around some of the people unless she changed all those details and you know what class she graduated from from St. Paul’s. I think you have to be really brave to do that. And I had a lot of thoughts after reading Notes On a Silencing. It’s a fantastic book. We’ve DM’d a few times about some of the elements of the book because I was just so blown away by what an incredible job she did with this book, it’s really, really good.
Sarina Bowen 27:06
Well, I’m reading it this month. Last night I talked to my book club into choosing it.
Jess Lahey 27:10
Oh, you did? Oh, good. I think you’ll really like it. I think you’ll really like it. It’s definitely her story and the events of the past couple years with St. Paul’s triggered sort of her going back into that story, sort of that idea of I thought I dealt with that, I thought I was okay with it, and then it re-emerged when people started suing St. Paul school recently. So it was another perspective. And because we live near there, it’s something that’s been in the news a lot for us. And so it was fascinating to read it from the perspective of someone who has gone through this with the school just you know, 30 years ago, 20 years ago, whatever it was. So anyway, I think you’ll really like it. She does a delightful job. And she had written a fiction book as well, the admissions book, KJ, I believe you read, right?
KJ Dell’Antonia 27:58
Yes, yeah. I’d have to pull up the title of it, I don’t remember. But I remember that it was very, very, very funny. And I liked it, it was about college essays. It was about someone who helped with college essays, and it was definitely a good read. So I’m not surprised this would be good.
Jess Lahey 28:16
She’s a delightful writer, really good writer.
KJ Dell’Antonia 28:20
We’ve been just talking about all kinds of people who hop around genres. Writers worry that you can’t, but I don’t know, I think it’s great. I definitely go to read the nonfiction of novelists that I like and will try the novel of a nonfiction writer that I like, so everyone else should totally do that, if you like my nonfiction.
Jess Lahey 28:50
I’ve been doing this outline of this novel that I’m thinking about writing – a different one from the one that I thought I was going to write and I’m curious to see what my writing looks like in fiction because I just don’t do it. So I don’t have a sense for what my writing is going to look like when I’m telling a more creative story. It’s going to be an adventure for me. And whether or not it ever ends up on a bookshelf anywhere, I’m really interested to see what my writing looks like in a different format, in a different genre, and a different sort of sense.
Sarina Bowen 29:22
I can’t wait.
Jess Lahey 29:24
Yeah, I’m excited.
KJ Dell’Antonia 29:25
So we’ve been talking a lot about what we’ve been reading. But let’s get into the details of what we’ve really been reading this week after a small break. Listeners, you know we’re about to get into what we’ve been reading, and we’ve been reading some good stuff. But have you ever thought about how those books get so good? Or maybe thought you could be a part of making an author’s novel, memoir, or nonfiction as good as it could possibly be and get paid for the work. Author accelerator has a book coach training program that students describe as truly life changing. They dig into the mechanics, process, and emotion of coaching but they don’t stop there. Their program also helps you turn coaching into a profitable business that fits into your life. Find out more at authoraccelerator.com.
Jess Lahey 30:32
Well you guys know what I’ve been reading. I read the Lacey Crawford, I’ve been having to devour these nonfiction books for some nonfiction book reviews that I am writing. And I’m experiencing that thing when you (I haven’t had this happen in a while because I don’t belong to a book club) get assigned a book, I’m immediately less interested in it than something that I’m allowed to read just because I want to read it. It’s sort of that like high school English class phenomenon that I’m always resisting or trying to push back against as a teacher. So I feel like a student in high school again, it’s like, but I don’t want to read it. I didn’t pick this book.
Sarina Bowen 31:26
I feel obligated to point out that you’re probably getting paid for this. So you know, suck it up, Buttercup.
Jess Lahey 31:31
Exactly. And it’s so hard. I’m so grateful to be getting paid for any writing right now that believe me, I am thrilled as I can be about reading these delightful books.
KJ Dell’Antonia 31:44
Well speaking of not wanting to read things, I have been reading I think I might have mentioned this, but it’s probably in a future podcast because of the weird way that we’ve been recording lately. Sorry, behind the scenes glimpse everyone. Anyway, I’ve been reading Rodham By Curtis Sittenfeld, and I picked it up with excitement and read about the first 50 pages. Rodham is the story of what if Hillary never married Bill, basically. And I got really glommed down on is this real, how about this? How about this? Is this real? Did they really eat those donuts? And I just didn’t know if I could keep going. But I went on Instagram and I was like, I’m reading this and I didn’t really say that because it seemed sort of negative. But I was like, I’m getting really glommed down in the details. And everyone’s like, just keep going, just keep going. So I did. And man, I’m glad I did because it is so good. And it is a tour de chutzpah that Curtis Sittenfeld managed to bring this thing off. I can’t even imagine writing, I mean we were talking about sort of fictionalizing your own mother, but fictionalizing this totally famous person that we all admire and look up to. I’m just in awe of both the willingness to do that and also the way she pulled it off. Every detail. I mean, just everything drops so perfectly. It’s really structured brilliantly. I just can’t recommend it enough.
Jess Lahey 33:22
I feel like we’ve gone on this journey with you. Because early on in a text, you’re like, Oh, this is just not working for me, and then in another podcast you sort of hinted at the fact that it was turning and so now we’re on the other side of that and I feel like we’ve gone on this journey with you. It’s a little bit like I remember hearing Helen Mirren interviewed about playing the Queen or playing someone who’s currently alive and how much more of a challenge that is than playing an imaginary person. I can’t imagine having just saying yes, this is what I’m going to do next, I’m going to select a person that exists.
KJ Dell’Antonia 34:07
Let me just say that if a dude had done this, and it was called McCain, he’d be winning prizes. And she should be. But I haven’t seen it in a lot of places. And I think it’s really well done. But I have another one, I have something else that I’ve been reading. I also just finished I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness from Austin Channing Brown. And that one was interesting, both because it’s Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness and that is a perspective that I don’t get enough of, but also because it was really about her experience in working within Christian church and within Christian centered organizations, which is also a world that I know nothing about. And I guess it also might sort of fall into that category of – I kind of hesitate, because my experience of Christian organizations is just not something I’m super interested in. So sometimes when you’re reading along in a memoir and it skews off into a religion that is not something that is yours you kind of feel like, well, this isn’t really for me because that stuff’s not for me. But I obviously kept going with it because it had all this other great stuff in it. And I was glad, it was really interesting to experience both of those worlds that I am not a part of. If you’re looking for something to read along those lines, and especially if you are a part of a lot of Christian organizations, I’ll bet it would be really, really juicy from that perspective. I didn’t have any real way of knowing like, Oh, is that really true? Do people really you know, behave that way or say those things or sort of pretend to be interested and then sort of step back? But anyway, I recommend.
Jess Lahey 36:17
I will definitely put it on my list. I love hearing about books that you guys are loving. I get so many cool recommendations.
Sarina Bowen 37:03
Well, yesterday I received via FedEx two pool floats that I bought because they’re exactly like KJ’s. And I plunked one of them right into the pool and I got in there with my paperback copy of Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane, which is marketed as a romance novel with a really cute illustrated cover but wow, she is terrific. The writing is fabulous. There’s a little prologue section from high school that is so perfectly high school that I have chills. I read three chapters in my pool float feeling I figured out the secret to life, basically. And I can’t wait to flop myself back in there later today and and keep going.
Jess Lahey 37:58
When you put in Don’t You Forget About Me of course Simple Minds comes up. I think I got a copy of that book in the mail. So I may just have to go downstairs and find it on my shelf. That’s exciting.
KJ Dell’Antonia 38:18
I have her first one. You might have her first one. This one’s pretty recent. This one’s just come out, right?
Sarina Bowen 38:27
No, this is an earlier one.
KJ Dell’Antonia 38:30
Okay. I don’t think this is the one I have.
Jess Lahey 38:33
It’s funny because you remember when we were talking a bunch of episodes back about cover art and how a lot of you know like rom-coms/women’s fiction are all with these drawings of people with ambiguous faces. I have found that I have a bunch of them in a wish list for audiobooks and I can’t tell them apart. They are all just primary color people and especially the ones that have a dog, like a couple of them people have dogs and I think the trend for this sort of primary color faceless drawings of people may have gotten to the saturation point I think, because I’m starting to confuse them.
Sarina Bowen 39:13
Well, it’s not going away anytime soon because stock photography needed a big bad refresh before COVID and certainly hasn’t improved from half a year of lockdown. So those illustrators, they have some job security right now, let me tell you.
Jess Lahey 39:33
I will say that in terms of stock photography, you provide endless entertainment for some of the things that exist out there as stock photography, and moments when you say like, why would anyone ever need a picture of a man without a shirt on, and a seal holding a basket of apples? Alright, well I’m glad I got to talk about the whole feeling about the memoir stuff, because this makes me feel better. One of my favorite comments about writing memoir, and it comes from Abigail Thomas, and it’s the one about you know, dig deep and be honest or don’t bother. And I try to remember that as a mantra when I’m writing stuff that’s highly personal, like this new book, The Addiction Inoculation. And I don’t think I can do justice to that topic without being really personal, but boy it gets scary when it goes out in the world. You know that it’s out there in the hands of people, not just like readers I admire, but people whose lives are part of the book as well. It’s nerve racking.
KJ Dell’Antonia 41:16
I’ve got a few things to say. If you’re not in our Facebook group, come get into our Facebook group and let’s have a convo about this one – who’s feeling exposed and like what’s going on. If you’re doing memoir, if you’ve got fiction that makes people feel like it’s about you, I will try to remember to throw up a conversation starter. If I don’t somebody else do it and let’s get in that #AmWriting Facebook group and do that.
Jess Lahey 41:50
That’s exactly what I was going to say too, because we actually put out some tax tips just recently. And that came from a question that came up in the #AmWriting Facebook group so it’s a good place to be. Well, if you would like to get stuff like the tax tips, you can go ahead and sign up for our list over at Substack at the #AmWriting page.
KJ Dell’Antonia 42:27
You can do that at amwritingpodcast.com. Okay, that sounds great. Go there, it’ll send you to all the other stuff and I am working on getting all of our great top fives and minisodes into the regular website as opposed to the Substack website.
Jess Lahey 42:46
Yep, I’m actually going to be recording as soon as we’re done today. I’m going to be recording a new minisode to go out up on the website in a little bit. So there’s all kinds of extra content that’s up there. But until next week, everyone keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game. This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid.