I sit in the bookstore and authors come visit and I listen to them spout wisdom and I write it down and share it with you. What fun! Of course, next time I think you should come to the bookstore and hear it for yourself. Because our authors are always kind and generous with sharing their expertise. They are gracious and grateful and quite often wise. It comes with the territory of caring about words and using them to communicate and to tell stories.
Last week, it was Andrea Jarrell who visited. I did not know Andrea before my writer friend Elizabeth Mosier told me about her new memoir, I’m the One Who Got Away. Would we like to host Andrea at our store, she asked? Any writer friend of yours is a writer friend of mine, I said. See? I’m wise as well.
Andrea’s beautifully-written memoir is just published and off to an astoundingly good start in terms of the review attention and acclaim it is getting. And yet, she must, as authors must these days, work and work to garner readers. She must travel and do readings and do the often exhausting author tour book promotion thing. But if she is at all tired from this, it showed not a whit at our event. She smiled and tossed her glossy strawberry blond hair and she gave every question deep thoughtful attention.
Some of the wisdom she shared:
She had been working as a marketing writer. She decided to think about her own writing as her brand. “I need to be my own client,” she realized. And she knew she needed to hook people in with her writing. “I couldn’t be indulgent because I needed people to keep reading.” In Bennington, where she got her MFA, her teacher Alice Mattison told her: “Think about the reader and not just what you want to write.” She did this while raising a family and continuing her work. Asked how to do this work/life balance thing she said: “Get up early.” Simple but smart advice. She was doing a lot but made writing her “dessert.” She did everything she had to do first but also decided to treat her own work with more importance.
First she wrote fiction. But she eventually realized that wasn’t what she wanted to do. Even so, as a memoirist, “it’s helpful sometimes when I’m writing about my own family to think of them as not my family.” She writes in her memoir of her relationship with her mother. Will her daughters someday tell their stories about her, she is asked? They might, she replies. That’s their right. She has come to accept that that may happen,
But for now, she is the one doing the telling, and sharing a story so well-told. Come by the store next time we have an author visit and hear all this wonderful stuff for yourself. And while you’re there, you can pick up your copy of Andrea Jarrell’s I’m the One Who Got Away. (Next author visits include Martha Cooley on November 18th and Erica Armstrong Dunbar on December 13th.)