Tag Archives: memoir writing

The Monday Book: MALLED by Caitlin Kelly

malled.pngWhile transferring our memoir section between bookstore shelves, this cover caught my eye so I packed it along on my last business trip. This book is informative but not narrative. Lots and lots of information, not a lot of storytelling.

Kelly is a journalist who has worked for some great papers, but her financial situation in this print downturn forced her to get a second job. So she what writers do when you’re in a situation you’re not sure you want to be in: redeem it by writing about it.

The info is intense, but it pops out in a journalistic style, and the narrative isn’t a story, but a human interest article. While I’m glad I read MALLED it’s not a book driven by character or plot; it’s statistics changed into a word flow so as not to scare us. I’m not a stats person and I would never have gotten this info had it not been for Kelley’s careful compiling and trying to make it work for word people. Kudos to her for this!

MALLED is a nice weekend read, but it will probably make you angry. Retail work is scut work, as all of us who got Christmas jobs or summer mall work know. There’s not much more to say than, avoid it if you can. Which Kelly does pretty well.

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Filed under Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

Why Writing is Like Crocheting (or Knitting) II

Today’s blog is dedicated to all the needleworkers out there, keeping the world warm and held together.

yarnStarting is the hardest part, isn’t it? The blank page {shudder} – nothing is scarier. And part of it is knowing that the foundation row has to be right. How often have we made an afghan that’s gorgeous, except down at the bottom it’s too tight and curls and won’t lie flat. Or worse, worked our way up and found on row 20 that the reason for this ever-increasing mistake is a tiny error back on row 2–and you have to go back and fix it, or nothing will turn out right.

Which is debilitating, as you stare at that massive tangle of ideas that might or might not be one single and whole thread, the piece of yarn that’s all gnarled up together so you can’t even see the beginning and ending of it. Your heart sinks as you take up the mass of loops and knots all stuck together, and yet, there’s this tiny piece of you that wants to get in there and tackle the thing, rise to the challenge, subdue it, turn order into chaos… and that’s pretty much the opening process, isn’t it? Every story has a beginning, the entry point A, and an ending, the exit point Z, so you try to find yours in all those crazy ideas tied together in your head, and they wind so tightly together that they seem like one thing.

But then you find either point–the beginning or the end–and start moving, forward or backward, patiently, one hand on the thread and one pushing through the tangle, moving, sifting, unwinding, over and under and back up again with gentle movements–although every once in awhile you just give the whole thing a good hard yank accompanied by a correctly-conjugated F word, and go get yourself a glass of something. Then you come back and sit down and think some more, slow, patient, finding the thread that runs through the middle of all those knotted bits.

And before you know it, you have a plan: a ball of thread to work with, a pattern to follow, and some time to get going. And time makes time, which people who do yarn work understand: it doesn’t take away your time, it gives it back. You write and write, and then you hit a mistake, a bit where the pattern doesn’t seem to read right, a character who dances sideways with a big raspberry, and you get frustrated and put it down and go away.

It’s amazing how a night off provides clarity, because when you make yourself take it up again yarn bombthe next day, well of course, here it is, a mistake in the pattern, or a doubled stitch, a word out of season, an idea in the wrong place, easily fixed, what were all the hysterics for? And on you go.

And on, and on, and then suddenly you look down and the thing that was a tangled mess that became a pattern and a plan has become under your steadily moving fingers a cohesive whole, a recognizable garment, a story to be reckoned with. You didn’t think you were getting anywhere and then BAM you’re putting on the edging, binding the whole ending back to the beginning. It’s colorful, and vibrant, and right.

rainbow-crochet-coatAnd satisfying. So very, very satisfying.

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