Highly recommended for both experienced and aspiring authors and for avid readers who want to learn the back stories of the...

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SCRATCH

WRITERS, MONEY, AND THE ART OF MAKING A LIVING

The founder of the online journal Scratch, loaded with information about how authors labor to earn a livelihood, collects essays and interviews that appeared online and supplements those with original offerings.

In this well-organized, fascinating anthology, a host of fiction and nonfiction authors share practical tips and emotional intelligence. Among the best-known authors included are Susan Orlean, Cheryl Strayed, Jonathan Franzen, Roxane Gay, Jennifer Weiner, Richard Rodriguez, and Nick Hornby, all of whose contributions are worthy. Yet many of the most compelling essays come from lesser-known writers, some of whom have yet to publish a book. One such standout is Sarah Smarsh, a former grant writer and current magazine writer who splits her time between her native Kansas and her new home in Texas and whose first book will be published in 2017. Smarsh specializes in writing about poverty, especially the poverty of relatively uneducated whites; in her essay, she reflects on making the jump from her family's poverty to higher education and, eventually, a promising writing career. In “The Best Work in Literature,” anthology editor Martin, the managing editor of Zoetrope: All Story, grapples with similar issues, sharing anecdotes about trying to pay the rent and eat properly in an economy that pays poorly for published writing. Each contributor deals directly or indirectly with the often unhappy intersection of commerce and art in the contemporary American economy. For every commercial success story—e.g., Strayed, Weiner, Franzen, or Alexander Chee—there are countless failures. At times, what can best be termed as "luck" arrives, as in the essay by Nina MacLaughlin, who explains how a piece she reluctantly agreed to write for no pay led to a book contract.

Highly recommended for both experienced and aspiring authors and for avid readers who want to learn the back stories of the contributors.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3457-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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