The writing industry has a plethora of conferences, workshops and mentors, all promising answers and connections to help build your writing career. Of course, all of this comes at a price – conferences from $400 to $3000, mentors at around $150 an hour – which wouldn’t be a problem if so many of those offering advice weren’t flim-flam carpetbaggers. I offer excerpts from one such guru on my bad side:
I fear that for the beginning of a novel, the (pages) don’t grab me, fascinate me, make me love the character enough to keep reading.
(Forgetting this mentor’s redundancy, she also completely misses the shooting that takes place on Page 3.)
She goes on: There’s a lot of “fucking” and too many exclamation points and then semi-colons.
(There are three of each over the first ten pages.)
My “comps” – comparative stories used as short-hand to help editors understand themes of a book quickly – are decried: Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (is) about a woman mourning her mother’s death. I’m not getting the connections here.
(A principle theme of my bad side is coping with being an orphan.)
The conclusion of my $150 analysis was this: Do you want to try a personal essay? That’s the first assignment I give my students that they publish most often.
Cheryl Strayed’s auto-biography Wild is a painfully honest account of how she processed the death of her mother and confronted her own shattered sense of self. Using her remarkable solo hike on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) as the central image, she confronts her fears, loss and short-comings with a relentlessly detailed and direct manner. I dreamed of my mother incessantly. In the dreams I was always with her when she died…I tied her to a tree in our front yard and poured gasoline over her head, then lit her on fire.
Strayed’s honesty is striking, tearing herself apart, not only reflecting on her loss but also her isolation and her sexuality. My hands running slowly up into his curly hair and down to his brawny back, holding his gorgeous male body against mine. There hasn’t been a time that I’ve done that that I haven’t remembered all over again how much I love men. Because of the consistently self-reflective approach, Strayed’s book does read long, conveying the relentless aspect of the trail she hiked and the problems she faced with perhaps excessive detail.
For a glimpse into the unforgiving style – and soul – of Ms. Strayed, her autobiographical essay, The Love of My Lifeis a stunning piece.
Also of note, Reese Witherspoon has optioned Wild, aiming to use it as a vehicle for herself one day. We’ll see.