Writing a first novel comes with a lot of reading, as well as research.
Five years ago, I began researching memoir writing. I wanted to write the story of my younger years, particularly those I spent in Australia. The richness of the research and my background in education resulted in a memoir writing class I teach at the local senior center. I still teach two eight week sessions each year between January and May. The class meets for two hours each Friday.
While my own story has been put on hold, my life has been enriched by the memoir classes and hearing other’s stories. It’s also been enriched by the wonderful stories I’ve encouraged my students to read. Some of those include:
- Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt (Simon and Schuster, 1996)
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Scribner 2005)
- Growing Up by Russell Baker (Signet, 1982)
- The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr (Penguin, 1998)
- This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff (Grove Press, 1989)
- Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert (Penquin Books, 2006)
RECOMMENDED HISTORICAL NOVELS
The historical novel I’m writing about my father, Webster Warren Bateman’s life in the 1920s and 30s titled Cat Skinner, is somewhat different from memoir. My novel is based on his life experiences. As the narrator (omniscient voice) in the story, I have to imagine my dad’s motivation, his emotion and his actions. Books that have helped steep me in the era of his youth include:
- The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Penguin 2013)
- Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (Algonquin 2006)
- Two Wheels North by Evelyn McDaniel Gibb (Oregon State University Press 2000)
- The Eleventh Man by Ivan Doig (Mariner Books 2009)
Those who are long time writers may feel I’m stating the obvious, but for those of us who are novices, the importance of reading great examples can’t be stressed enough. Read and write.