Write Part of My Memoir in November, Day 5: Curse You, Mary Karr!

Write Part of My Memoir

Welcome to Day 5 of my memoir challenge, one less onerous than I’d anticipated — so far. What does my surprise that this pledge hasn’t inflicted more pain say about my penchant for masochism? 

Then again, maybe I met my masochism quota by buying Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir.

Over the years, I’ve cherished many memoirs, including Karr’s The Liar’s Club. But when I began writing Getting Naked for Money with Kickstarter-spurred deadline intensity, I decided to avoid the genre. I didn’t want to feel intimidated if a memoir was really good, depressed by its success if it was really bad.* What can I say? My writerly ego is a delicate flower.

I bought the Art of Memoir, then, as a kind of how to book, hoping it would help with logistics  — with structure, maybe, and dialogue conventions. It’s not a memoir, I rationalized. I had nothing to worry about.


The book may or may not address those questions. I haven’t gotten very far into it because Karr’s writing stopped me cold.  I became fixated on the language, unable to see beyond it to meaning — not because it wasn’t lucid, but because I wasn’t.

I went back to my book feeling defeated, inadequate.

Then I took another look. I realized that not all of Karr’s literary wizardry, her word magic, is mysterious. She uses lots of active verbs and colloquialisms. I could do that. I dove in and ripped apart some prose, vowing to attack more when I finish a draft.

So while I’m no wiser about structure and pseudonyms, my memoir has already improved. That’s Mary Karr, instantly waking my fighting instincts, she’s that bracing. Damn her.


*I made an exception for All Dogs to Kevin by veterinarian Jessica Vogelsang when it came out this summer because she is a friend. I knew the book would be excellent because her blog is excellent and I also knew I would be glad for her success. Hey, when my friends succeed, it reflects well on me.


Tags: , ,

About the Author

Edie Jarolim is a writer and editor living in Tucson, Arizona. Sign up on this blog to get updates about her humorous tell-all/memoir, GETTING NAKED FOR MONEY: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.

1 Enlightened Reply

Trackback  •  Comments RSS

  1. It is amazing how helpful it can be to writing to read really good stuff!

Post a Reply