I’ve been worrying lately that no editor will want to publish the middle-grade novel I spent much of last year writing. It could definitely happen. It’s rough out there.
To make myself feel better, I’ve been re-reading favorite memoirs. Because (a) there’s nothing more comforting than re-reading a beloved book. You know exactly what world you’re sinking into; you know how everything’s going to turn out; you know you’re going to love it.
And (b) I’m trying to convince myself I could use that middle-grade novel as a starting point for a memoir someday, if I need to. Since it’s connected to my family background. (Very loosely connected, but shh—there’s no need to be negative.)
You want to know the very first memoir I pulled from my shelves to re-read? Abigail Thomas’s What Comes Next and How to Like It.
What Comes Next and How to Like It isn’t Thomas’s best memoir. That’s probably A Three Dog Life. Here’s Stephen King's take: "A Three Dog Life is, I think, the best memoir I have ever read. It’s sad, terrifying, and scorchingly honest. It’s also a testament to the power of love, suggesting that even when love isn’t enough…somehow, it is. This book is a punch to the heart. Read it."
I agree. Still, I chose What Comes Next and How to Like It this time around because of its structure. It’s written as a series of connected moments, reminiscent of journal entries, each at most a few pages long. Together they tell a cohesive story and enhance each other (a little like the brief scenes in Evan S. Connell’s novel Mrs. Bridge, another favorite). It’s the kind of format that feels manageable. I could make a list of moments and develop one each week, while also working on the middle-grade novel I’m co-authoring with Marcie Colleen.
I recognize that writing high-impact, poignant, wise, funny moments is near impossible. Thomas just makes it look easy, presumably through untold hours of work. But I have to seize hope and inspiration where I find it.
Speaking of hope and inspiration, look—just look—at how What Comes Next begins. These are the opening lines!
“… I’m mulling over the story I spent years writing and failed to turn into anything, trying not to be depressed. Nothing is wasted when you are a writer. The stuff that doesn’t work has to be written to make way for the stuff that might; often you need to take the long way round.”
I had zero recollection that the book started with that language. And it's so perfect for me right now! All those months of writing will not be for naught, even if no editor wants the book. I’m just taking the scenic route.
Do you have any favorite books you enjoy re-reading when you need a respite? Please let me know. I love hearing from you.
All the very best,