Friday, July 29, 2011

Book Review: Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara

I have to admit, when I first saw the title of this book on Susan Johnston's Urban Muse blog (and later on Steph Auteri's Freelancedom), it certainly grabbed my attention.

So I was excited to pick up my very own copy at a writers' conference I attended in March. And I was even more excited when I realized that I'm teaching a memoir writing workshop and a college writing class (focusing largely on personal essays) this fall and hey, maybe I should read it and get a few pointers!

"Read" is a bit too gentle of a word. I've basically inhaled this book and can't wait to share the tips I've picked up with my students!

In this fun, easy-to-digest book, essayist, columnist, and author Adair Lara offers scads of helpful tips on getting your personal work published. She says that writing about your own life and putting yourself out there is definitely not easy, but it's sometimes necessary in order to be truthful. And, as I tell my own writing students, only you can talk about your own experience. The three other people that were in the room with you will all have their own take on the evening, but you need to write about what you remember.

Lara breaks down the pieces of an essay, discusses the importance of writing compelling scenes and bringing the reader right into the action, and expands on these tips to fit a personal memoir. She explains that a memoir is simply talking about something that happened to you and how you overcame it. And as you write, you need to ask yourself questions--What did I want?, How did I get around that obstacle?, and to keep asking those questions as you go along to keep yourself honest.

This is one of the few books I've read "for fun" and tabbed, underlined, and made notations in the margin so I remember what I want to include in my writing classes this fall. Don't let the somewhat suggestive title put you off--in the book she explains that the title refers to the feeling you get of exposing your innermost thoughts and feelings (a bit like being naked on the school bus) and the woozy, drunk feeling you get when you say the first thing that comes to mind.

What books on the craft of writing have impressed you lately?

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