Thursday, November 26, 2015

Current Reading: Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir

I’m an optimist about this: her new writing craft book from Harper Collins....

I don’t think anyone’s better credentialed to write this than the author of The Liars’ Club and 2 other worthy memoirs. Mary Karr is also a professor of literature at Syracuse University where she teaches the art of memoir to graduate students.

Only about 10 pages in, and already I find this nugget worth carrying home:

"Any time you try to collapse the distance between your delusions about the past and what really happened, there’s suffering involved."  -Mary Karr

Read along with me?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Words to Think and Write By... from Author Ursula K. LeGuin

Ryan Petty

Author-itative Quotations 1 & 2

I particularly like these passages found in the essay, “A Matter of Trust,” from the book, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination by Ursula K. LeGuin:

I have enormous respect for my art as an art and my craft as a craft, for skill, for experience, for hard thought, for painstaking work. I hold those things in reverence. I respect commas far more than I do congressmen.


People who say that commas don’t matter may be talking about therapy or self-expression or other good things, but they’re not talking about writing. They may be talking about getting started, leaping over timidity, breaking through emotional logjams; but they’re still not talking about writing. If you want to be a dancer, find out how to use your feet. If you want to be a writer, find out where the comma goes.

A wonderful essay and there’s so much more you can discover by reading it in full.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Kent Haruf - a Favorite Author

By Ryan petty

Our Souls at Night, his final book

I stood in a line at our public library for several months waiting to read this book. Maybe it was the anticipation, but when it was my turn, I found it brilliant, vivid storytelling with the ache of authenticity and presence and no small bit of wonder.

Kent died late last year.

The New York Times published an obituary on December 2, 2014, probably the only one they’ve ever published for a resident of Salida, Colorado.

Kent Haruf was by day a college professor at Southern Illinois University but spent summers writing in the small town of Salida he called home.

As surely as any science fiction writer, Kent invented a special world and held it in his steady gaze and  populated it with stories. His world was the made-up town of Holt, Colorado, on the high plains an hour or two northeast of Denver.

Each story, in the 4 books of his I’ve read, takes place in Holt but involves different characters leading lives that only lightly intersect. There are cross references enough between the books for consistency’s sake (so that the world of Holt holds together) but it’s like you’re looking into the heart of a prism through each of several different facets and you can feel the prism vibrate with an energy you cannot explain.

For his third book, Plainsong, Kent Haruf was nominated for a National Book Award.

And it became and remained for many weeks a bestseller.

He wrote and published 6 novels in all and I’ve read 4 of them, so far. I think each of them is a work of art for the thoughtfulness of each of its word choices and the accumulation of each of its sentences and the way each book grabbed me with character-revelations that remain etched indelibly in my mind.

All 4 of the books have been about Holt. Not just in Holt but about it as though it were itself another character.

I don’t know yet if this will be true of the other 2 novels (and I don’t want to be told or to read synopses - I’d rather find out by reading the books themselves).

Over the next few months I plan to read both of them - slowly to make them last.

The Kent Haruf books I’ve read:

Plainsong (1999)
Eventide (2004)
Benediction (2013)
Our Souls at Night (2015)

The two I’m looking forward to:

The Ties that Bind
Where You Once Belonged

He also collaborated with photographer Peter Brown on a work of nonfiction: West of Last Chance (2008).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dan Poynter - Father of Self-Publishing - In Memoriam

His Book - The Self-Publishing Manual - Kicked-off a Movement in 1979

I write about Dan Poynter and his self-published, self-publishing books this morning at

May he rest in peace.