My new book “Midlife Solo” is now available.

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The Art of Time in Memoir

Excitement on this bleak, rainy day: the 2012 catalogue arrived from Syracuse University Press. And listed there is the paperback of my book, with a few of the good reviews. Quelle joie! Kvell with me. Here’s the link:

That’s the boring old author’s bio, by the way. I’m rewriting it as we speak.
Yesterday’s excitement, the writerly kind – reading a wonderful book called “The Art of Time in Memoir” by Sven Birkerts. There are so many little Post-its now stuck in this library book that it’s bristling; I’ll go through and type out all the wise bits I want to save. His thesis affected me deeply. He writes that memoir must have a double track – the experience THEN that the writer is bringing to life, and the current voice NOW, guiding the reader through, making sense of it all. I realized that my memoir, as it stood, was all the first part, none of the second – because I was writing it all in the voice of the actual teenager in 1964, not the adult. The usual questions haunted me: Who is telling this story? Where? Why? I’d known there was a problem but hadn’t known exactly what it was or how to address it.
As I wracked my brains, I did what I always do in times of stress – I called a friend. This time, my brilliant friend Patsy on Gabriola Island, who has edited a number of my essays and read and critiqued countless manuscripts. As she always does, she cut through my confusion, quoting from Michael Ondaatje’s new book that she’s reading right now, in which he writes as an adult using the simplified language of his 11-year old protagonist.
“What is the question at the heart of your story?” she said. “Let the question lead you. Your book is about an adult looking for meaning in the past. You’re discovering as you tell. That quest lets the reader in.
“Let the reader be comfortable,” she said, “knowing they’re not following a 13-year old, but a grown-up recreating and making discoveries, with sensual details and flashbacks advancing the story.”
Whew! For a heart-stopping minute there, I looked at my 194 page manuscript and thought, Do I have to toss all this? But no – I need a Foreword. A Prologue, setting up the voice and explaining my quest. And then just a few modifications, I hope, to the voice I’ve been using. I immediately cut the first five pages and put them somewhere else. Now the book begins quite differently, with a different journey.
This is the fun stuff of my business – scary as it is to suddenly say, Have I been going down the wrong road all this time? Can I ditch this and still keep the core intact? Dangerous fun, for a writer. We sure know how to have a good time.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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