a year of

I’m beginning to write the proposal for my third memoir. Here’s a brain dump of how that’s going, or rather, where it’s gone to get me to here:

It’s easy to KNOW 100% what you’ll write about when you’re suffering through it (Straight Up And Dirty). Or when you’ve already suffered through it once upon a stretch mark ago (Moose). It’s something else to find a story, an emotional arc, within an existing passion, without landing somewhere near the immersive “Year in the Life” memoir subgenre.

A year of: self-help; blind dates; crock pot cooking; mornings; magazine subscription advice; biblical living; saying yes; eating, praying, loving; volunteering; finding happiness; completing recipes; living without TV; living in mental institutions; Kaddish; magical thinking; friend-dates; farming; eating local; celibacy; food life. You get the idea.

It’s a gimmick. The time constraint of a year doesn’t add value to the content, except for a milk & water urgency toward the end, maybe. But, you know what? It’s a gimmick that works. It keeps things nice and tidy; you know what you’re in for, both the reader and writer.

I prefer to believe that suffering or dissatisfaction lead you to make changes in your life, and in retrospect, those changes happened within the framework of a year. Not that you said, “Shit, now what can I write about? I know! I’ll do a year of BLANK, and write about the journey.” The former seems like a marketing bookhook, designed simply to help frame and position a story that already exists, a story that needs to be told, while the latter feels more contrived, deliberate, manufactured. But in the end, I don’t know if it matters. A good book is a good book. And if it forces you out of your familiar, away from easy, I’m all for it.

I won’t get into the topic of this next memoir until I finish this proposal of mine, but I don’t know if it’s a “year of” book or not. What I do know is that it’s a story that needs to be told.



  1. So funny your take on the gimmick. I totally agree. What are you gonna write? Hint?

  2. Unfortunately, I’d rather read about your writing than actually write. Except comments. I like writing comments. Is there a book there…? An anthology of my comments on all the blogs I follow?? Get your agent on the phone, pronto!

    1. Barbara E., I’m with you. We could be the queens of comments, ignoring the snarky, bitchy ones and hopefully adding wisdom and calm to the proceedings.

      1. The Collected Wisdom of Queen Barbara & Queen 3 — I like it. I want someone about 25 years younger than me to play me in the movie version. Also, she has to have a smaller nose.

  3. In this twitter, Facebook, kindle reading environment we’ve dumbed down and need to get ourselves back up quick!

  4. Laugh and feel. That is my requirement for a good book. You do that with your writing. Hurry!

  5. If I see one more “A year of…” I’m gonna write one about how I didn’t read a book for a year. LOVE your writing!

  6. I love how much you are working on your writing through different mediums. A role model.

  7. Write a fictional book on the life of your mother in law after YOUR marriage. I loved how you wrote her in Straigh

  8. I totally agree. I used to see books as something to tell a story now I just feel marketed to. Dumbed down. Can’t wait for #3!

  9. Iloved your first two books and think it is much more about how you write rather than what. I’d read a book about cutting fire wood if you put your humor and voice to it. Good luck.

  10. Write about your life post straight up and dirty- ie the life of a married women with 2 kids in a new city – how life has changed, how you have changed…I read through your posts and you have lots of good material to talk about….the joy, sadness, disappointments etc.

    You express yourself very well.

    Good luck

  11. I totally agree. Eat Pray Love (I think I’m the only one who didn’t like it) was the gimmick of all gimmicks — wow look at me and what I did for a year! Never mind that I did it with my book advance!!

  12. The thing is, the “year of doing x” books are a total cliche now, but some of the ones that typify this sub-genre sort of defy that dumb cliche. For example I was really skeptical about Eat Pray Love because of all the hype, but I actually really liked the book, and I thought there was a lot of depth and nuance to it. It’s not the format that makes a bad book bad, I don’t think, and likewise if it comes from a kernel of something genuine, even a totally cliche book in concept can be amazing.

    1. Exactly. You don’t think having a cheating husband or leftover body issues from childhood aren’t cliched topics? They are. It’s not the subject, per se, or the time period…it’s the voice, It’s the writer that makes a story unique.

      There are only a finite number of stories to tell anyway (The love story, the family drama, the journey, etc) but it’s in the hands of the crafter to make a “boy meets girl” story interesting (or else “One Day” wouldn’t be such a runaway hit. God forbid we stop telling love stories all together because they are so totally cliched). Its the writer that makes a divorce tale interesting. Or [insert whatever tale that’s universal but also unique] interesting. I think it’s unfair to dismiss Eat, Pray, Love or any other book that just happens to have a “cliched” timeline because of that. dislike the story if you do, but don’t dislike it because they used a method that can be used well in good hands.

      Besides, doesn’t one of your writer buddies (Jen Lancaster) do this very thing you speak of. I’ll lose weight, then write a memoir. I’ll watch reality tv, then write a memoir. I’ll talk about my addiction to preppy clothes…in my memoir. She averages about a memoir a year, no?

      Memoirs themselves are sort of cliches at this point (my opinion, but also been written up a lot in the last several years). Would I love to read a memoir by Nelson Mandela* or Harper Lee. Absolutely. And I certainly wouldn’t deduct points before reading just because I think memoirs, especially ‘celebrity’ memoirs, are cliched.

      *Or more recent memoir, as Mandela has a few out there, I believe.

  13. “Eat Pray Love” was painful at best.

    And damn if won’t get a bucket of corn and munch it in the dark with the manfriend out of town for the weekend. Matinee pricing of course.

    Because Julia Roberts, also painful.

  14. I too would read anything you wrote. I’m soooo psyched to hear you’re working on a next book! Dying to hear more about the premise!

  15. Um, am I the only one who realizes that you’re not completely anti- a year of? Did someone miss the whole, “But, you know what? It’s a gimmick that works. It keeps things nice and tidy; you know what you’re in for, both the reader and writer.” Or did they miss where you wrote, “A good book is a good book.” Holy Lord, reading comprehension.

  16. yeah the one year is such an arbitrary time frame. but i guess we all do it. perhaps it has something to do with our birthdays, that each year we get older, we should in theory be more mature and have learned so much more about life…or something.

  17. I couldn’t agree more about Eat, Pray Love. It’s easy to travel the owrld and have amazing experiences when you already have a successful writing career to back you up. I feel the same way about Julie & Julia. So what, you are a 29 year old who isn’t where she thought she’d be by 30? Welcome to the club.

  18. Can’t wait!!! I’d read anything you wrote… I just love the way your brain works and enjoy your books, blogs, facebook posts, whatever. Love it all.

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