Monday, August 26, 2013

Reads for Writers: Beth Kephart Provides a Masterclass

From Kate's Writer's Crate…

As a reader, I always love finding books that appeal to me. As a writer, I am twice as pleased when the authors also provide masterclasses within their books.

            Masterclasses take place when performance artists and musicians work one-on-one with students. Writers don't generally have this option, but I have found some books to be masterclasses for characters, backstories, plots, settings, voice, and/or creativity.

        Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart is both a memoir of becoming a writer as well as an instructional book encouraging other writers to write memoirs. This is not a tell-all book, but a beautifully written show-all book.

        Kephart reveals how she became a National Book Award Finalist author. "A closet writer from early on with boxes filled with poems and submissions of short stories returned unpublished," she reads a memoir that changes her life in 1990, Road Song by Natalie Kusz.
        Enraptured with this book, she writes Kusz a letter through her publisher. In the reply… "I hadn't read memoir, hadn't written it, and then there was Kusz unveiling its mystery for me, explaining, by way of a thank-you, what a book like hers was designed to do. Writers are in the business of attempting to expose the human condition in such a way that our description resonates in the souls of other humans…Yes, I thought. I want to be in that business."
To get in that business, Kephart attends her first writing workshop while in Italy for a family vacation. "What I learned in Spoleto, what I chose to value or come to believe about myself, would shape the way I thought about stories made and lived every thereafter day of my life. It would make me want to find a way to pass the knowing down."
Kephart found her voice and a way to pass the knowing down. Author of eighteen other books, she illustrates this memoir with excerpts from memoirs she loves, views of other authors, and assignments from the writing students she now teaches. She sets the bar high for writers who want to get into this business, but also provides support, a few prompts, and numerous inspiring examples to help you along the way.
Her most important advice: read memoirs if you want to write memoirs. Kephart includes a 52-page in-depth appendix listing memoirs of note.
Handling the Truth is my favorite type of read. It stands on its own as a well-written book; it tells the story of a writer believing in herself; it includes insights, suggestions, and goals for other writers; and it recommends many other well-written books—a gift that keeps on giving!
Please recommend your favorite reads.

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