Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

24 books in 28 days

Filed in Books, Writing :: February 1, 2010

It's nearly thesis defense showtime.  If you've got 28 days, I've got 24 books to read and think about. 

The most recent draft of my memoir has been distributed to my committee members (3 brilliant writer/ scholar/teachers) and to the graduate school (the associate dean who read it called to tell me she liked it).  My MFA thesis defense is scheduled for March 2, four weeks from tomorrow.

During February, I'll be taking a break from editing to read and/or re-read the 24 books on my reading list, which I posted here if you want to take a look, in preparation for the defense.  I'll be thinking about memoir as a genre, how my book fits into it, which books influenced my writing and which I should should remember during my next revision.

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Penelope Trunk wrote a great post last week called "Being an expert takes time, not talent."  The whole thing is worth reading, but there are two points important to what I'm doing in February. 

The first is what it takes to be an expert: "[Y]ou need to work every single day at being great at that one thing if you want to be great."  I want to be an expert on memoir, particularly writing it, so for the past couple of years I've been reading and reading and writing and writing, and for the next month I'm going to focus every single day on reading and thinking about memoir.

The second point is the importance of teachers.  Unlike the voices Virginia Woolf warned against and I reminded myself to guard against in my last post, my teachers have encouraged me to be true to my vision and tell my story as fully and vividly as I possibly can.  Penelope Trunk writes about another function of teachers, and other ways to get what we need in order to become experts: "It turns out that the teacher isn't the important [thing] per se, but rather, what you need is immediate, helpful feedback.  And this is what you get when you have a blog.  So maybe I am still on my path to being an expert, and I'm just crowdsourcing my coaching."

When I read Trunk's post, I thought, well, I have a blog.  Maybe I could write here about the 24 books on my list in the 28 days before my defense.  24 books in 28 days.  I won't be writing reviews or summaries, but I'll be working toward being an expert in memoir, trying to see my work as fitting into the tradition of other memoirs, and the books themselves and the readers of this blog will be my teachers.

I hope you'll tell me in the comments where I'm getting it and where my thinking needs adjustment. 

Filed in Books, Writing