Sometimes one sentence is all it takes to win—or break—a reader’s trust. This was brought home to me recently following the launch of my memoir, The Inventors. I had just gotten back from a two-coast, twenty-venue, overly ambitious book tour, one that left me with a bad back (all that driving), a deflated ego (reading to five people, including the store clerk), a renewed appreciation for the kindness of strangers (all those people who did show up), and the wistful yearning—assuming it...Forward
Notes on reading, writing, books & publishing
It was my cousin on the phone. The call I yearned for, and dreaded.
Yearned with that vulnerability of memoirists when praise is heard not simply for one’s book but also as a response to an unspoken plea: love me.
Dreaded because she had made it clear that she had hated my earlier memoir: “I nearly died when I read it.”
And this is what every memoirist fears: that our books will hurt someone so deeply that the wound will be fatal.
Love and death were the stakes in this phone call,...Forward
I told them not to read it. “This one isn’t for you,” I said. But of course they did anyway. The book came out in March, and they came to visit in May. As I drove to the airport and waited for their plane to touch down, unease gave way to dread. And the moment I spotted them walking past the security checkpoint, I could see it in their expressions.
“You read it,” I said.
“I learned some things,” my father answered.
And my mother, tearfully, asked, “Why didn’t you tell...Forward
A professional photographer who’d once worked for TIME Magazine (and who took that iconic photo of Obama WITHOUT his hand over his heart during the playing of the National Anthem in Indianola, Iowa), having a late dinner at Yoba’s, a restaurant in Rushville, Nebraska, about thirty miles east of where I live in Chadron, Nebraska, heard on the scanner that a motorcyclist out on the highway had hit a deer. Everyone at Yoba’s assumed the motorcyclist would be dead. On his way to Chadron, where...Forward
My husband has a habit of saying in public that I am “bad with money.” He’ll toss this out in conversation as though it’s common knowledge, expecting to be met with general agreement, not debate. If he were to write this in an essay in one of the college writing courses I teach, I’d scrawl, “unsupported assertion” in the margin, and send him back to collect research or delete the line. In the passing moments of daily life though, nobody asks for evidence.
I’ve stood at his side...Forward