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What I Know About Writing

by M.E. Kerr

Age Range: 11 - 15

Pub Date: May 31st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-027996-6
Publisher: HarperCollins

paper 0-06-446207-2 Kerr (“Hello,” I Lied, 1997, etc.) wraps observations about writing in general, and her own work in particular, around five short stories, plus long extracts from four novels and her autobiography. Ten conventional tips for new writers open the book (“10. Cut! Cut! Cut! Your reader has a life”); it closes with an abbreviated section of cute quotes from children’s letters. In between, Kerr shows how stories can come out of meetings, personal or witnessed incidents, and sometimes seemingly from nowhere; points out recurrent themes in her work; and discusses the differences between creating novels and short stories. The excerpts, from Gentlehands (1978), Little Little (1981), Me Me Me Me Me (1983), I Stay Near You (1985) and Fell (1987), average about 30 pages each, long enough to capture the author’s distinctive sense of irony and to whet readers’ appetites for more; the shorter fiction, all of which has appeared in collections within the last ten years, includes studies in character, family relations, and love. Without any comment on Kerr’s forays into gay issues and other previously taboo topics, this book is not a true cross-section of her work: Still, it’s valuable as an introduction for those just becoming acquainted with her, and equally worthwhile as the author’s personal take on her art. (Memoir/anthology. 11-15)