David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

Tag: memoirist

Art of the Memoir: Alan Black on the Illusion of Chaos, Copernicus and the Straight Railway Track to the Grave

To commemorate the publication of the 10 year anniversary edition of my memoir Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, I have decided to do a series of interviews with memoirists I admire.  I’ve known Alan black for many years, and I’m not ashamed to say it publicly.  I met him when he was running literary events at The Edinburgh Castle, in the groin of San Francisco’s seed-filled Tenderloin.  In the name of full disclosure, we wrote a book together.

David Henry Sterry: Why in god’s name did you decide to write a memoir?

51Os1eNYbkL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_AB: I didn’t write it in His name. I wrote it I my own name. God had already published a couple of biographies, the Bible, the Koran and He even has a global rights deal out in the East with the Upanishads in India. I thought about using His name but then I figured Oprah would find out and I would be exposed as a fraud and I like to keep my fraudulence private like my flatulence.

DHS: What were the worst things about writing your memoir?

AB: Reversing the Copernican model of the solar system. The sun went around me. When you’re at the center, it can be uncomfortable. I felt I was inventing myself. My entire life work of having others define me was in peril. I had to take responsibility for my own story and during the process of writing the book, all I could think of was Jim Morrison yelling at the audience, “No one gets out of here alive!”

DHS: What were the best things about writing your memoir?

AB: Working with an exceptionally talented editor who kept me straight. When I tried to bullshit him by re-inserting a petulant and infantile chapter in the document, he cautioned me – “Now you’re being a sanctimonious asshole. Let’s just get back to being an asshole.” Pure quality! Refreshing and direct. That’s the editor you want.

DHS: Did writing your memoir help you make some order out of the chaos we call life?

AB: I don’t see life as chaos. I see it as a straight railway track to the grave. The good parts are being able to go back to the restaurant car for a good meal or sitting in the observation car watching the world go by. And you meet the finest people on trains unlike planes or hot air balloons.

DHS: How did you make a narrative out of the seemingly random events that happened to you?

AB: None of it was random. I’m a Calvinist. Everything is pre-destined. If you work in a supermarket, you get to understand this. Everything has a sell-by date. It arrives ready to expire. I worked at Safeway as a kid and they still owe me for a week’s wages, the fucking bastards! I never shop there. However, I did learn one think working there – chaos is an illusion.

The beauty of baking the bread in the morning in the store’s bakery was as close to heaven as a person can get. For dough always rises. And tomorrow it rises again.

DHS: How was the process of selling your memoir?

AB: My agent was spectacular, the female 007 of publishing. Within a few hours of it being in the hands of an editor, it was sold.

DHS: How did you go about promoting and marketing your memoir?

AB: I tried hard – went on the radio, performed readings from the book, Google bought a box, but real life held me back via time. Having to work as a bartender for a living kept me short of hours to sell myself as “the next big thing.” Yeah right! I was busy throwing drunks into the street, breaking up fights, dodging punches, slopping up geographic vomit spatters in the shape of Long Island and sprinkling Holy Water Jameson droplets on bilious sociopaths while delivering the benediction – “the power of Christ compels you!” I am available for exorcisms at reasonable rates. I have met some evil spirits.

AB: Did you have difficulty speaking in public about the intimate aspects of your memoir?

AB: No.

DHS: How did your family, friends and loved ones react to your memoir?

AB: I don’t think any of them read it. And if they did, they kept it quiet.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but you have any advice for people who want to write a memoir?

AB: I hate you for asking that question! Yes, write your memoir. It’s your story. What else is there?

 

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His new book Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition http://bit.ly/1ancjuE, has been translated into 10 languages.  He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.  https://davidhenrysterry.com/

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

 

Art of the Memoir: Tamim Ansary on Going Viral and the Importance of Not Knowing Where You’re Going

To commemorate the publication of the 10 year anniversary edition of my memoir Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, I have decided to do start The Memoir Project.  I’ll be doing a series of interviews with memoirists I admire.  I have known Tamim Ansary for what seems like a lifetime, but isn’t.  He runs the San Francisco Writers Workshop, and in that capacity he demonstrates every Tuesday night how much he knows about writing and books and people.  He’s been a professional writer for a very long time.  I’ve said publicly that he is the wisest men I know, and I stand by that statement.

David Henry Sterry: Why in god’s name did you decide to write a memoir?

ansaryTamim Ansary: Well, that’s a complicated question since I’ve written three. The first one, West of Kabul, East of New York,   I wrote in response to a historical moment. The events of 9/11 had highlighted to rift between the Islamic world and the West, which took most Americans by surprise. I knew all about this issue because I was born in Afghanistan of an Afghan father and an American mother, I had grown up in but grown old in America, and so my whole life had straddled this crack in the culture of the planet. I felt like I was the guy perched on the fence who could see the people on both sides even though they couldn’t see each other. I thought writing about my bicultural life might do some good in the world. The second memoir I wrote was actually someone else’s. I wrote it for an Afghan girl named Farah Ahmadi who  had stepped on a land mine when she was in second grade, had lived the horrors of the long war in Afghanistan, and had confronted them with flabbergasting dignity and courage. The exact circumstances of my writing that memoir are peculiar, but I thought her life was an embodiment of both tragedy and resilience that people should know about.  So these memoirs were attempts to engage with the world of politics and history. But my latest memoir is a very different sort of project. This is a more philosophical examination of “life story,” a phrase we often use without pausing to consider the implications; because the quesiton is, does a life have a story, a narrative arc, in the same way as a novel? A beginning, middle and end that adds up to meaning of some sort?  Several years ago, I was telling someone about a trip I had taken, I happened to tell it all one sitting, and when I was done, it struck me that any journey to any place far away and difficult to reach has a narrative arc if consider it as a whole.  I wondered if I could capture the “story-like arc” of one-whole-life by recounting a selection of iconic journeys. The result is Road Trips. The journeys I chose for this book took place when I was 10,  19,  24,  31,  50, and 52: so the movement is through time as much as space.   This memoir is not hooked to news events or public issues, it tells a private story, and it’s a story I believe all of us have some version of: that odyssey from young to old and the things that happen along the way: falling in love, falling out of love,  breaking up, breaking down, drifting, drowning, searching for solid ground… and finding it…maybe… The details are different for each person but underneath the welter of particulars is, I think, some single story that can be made visible only through the details of a specific life. Mine is the only life I know well enough to use as such a lens, and so I wrote this book. But I’m hoping this book will get readers ruminating on the story-like elements of their own lives even if, as is likely, their lives and mine don’t share a single particular detail. Because my premise here is that the narrative is there in every life; it’s there, you just have to look for it.

DHS: What were the worst things about writing your memoir?

TA: The worst thing, I guess, is getting flak from people whom I mentioned in the memoirs, people whose feelings I hurt, people who didn’t seem themselves the way I portrayed them, people who were disturbed, in some cases, to experience themselves as a side chaaracters in someone else’s life, not as the protagonist which is everybody’s internal identitication of him- or herself.  And there’s another disturbing thing, which is bound to happen when you write a memoir, especially if you’re doing it right, and especially if the focus is on your own life, not on some public event you observed. This is the discovery of narratives you’ve been carrying in your head all your life which are distorted, even false.

DHS: What were the best things about writing your memoir?

TA: I’ll start where my answer to your last question ended.  Gaining discomifting new perspectives on the things you’ve seen, done, and felt is also the good thing about writing a memoir. One can never have too many epiphanies.  And in the case of Road Trips, writing it brought epiphanies not just about my own little life but about the life we’re living on this planet, the implications of permanence and change, culture and identity, memory and time, fiction and reality–I mean writing a memoir, if you share my premise about life as story, does immerse you in the most fundamental issue of them all: everything feels so real when it’s happening, but when you look back, all you see is story. So was any of it real in the first place? And if,like me, you decide it was and you feel a connection to what is real, there is no better feeling.

 

DHS: Did writing your memoir help you make some order out of the chaos we call life?

TA: Asked and answered, your honor? Well, the true answer is yes and no. A memoir helps you make sense of things. Then life keeps happening and it all grows muddy again.  You look back and the meaning of it all changed, even stuff you wrote about earlier and thought you nailed completely. The train never stops moving and the same landscape keeps looking different as you move.

DHS: How did you make a narrative out of the seemingly random events that happened to you?

TA: Well, random is a part of life, but so is intention.  We’re never just knocking about like particles in Brownian motion. We’re always trying to push our story forward, through the random flotsam and jetsom of the world.   Some of that flotsam are obstacles and so they inherently become part of our story; some turn out to be tools but only if we figure out that we can use them, and so those are part of the story too. Some don’t fit into the story either way, so we ignore them, forget them. My premise is that when you write a memoir, you don’t “make a narrative,” you find the narrative. Intentions and obstacles are the indispensable elements of story and those exist in real life at every moment for every person.

DHS: How was the process of selling your memoir?

TA: Selling the first one was easie macheesie because I had just written an email in reaction to the events of 9/11 to twenty or thirty of my friends explaining what I, as an Afghan, thought about the horror because I knew they’d all be asking and I thought it would be say it once to all twenty of them.  Those twenty each sent my email to dozens of their friends and by the next day the email had gone viral across the globe and by the weekend had reached tens of milliions–it was, in fact, one of the first examples of the viral phenomenon that the Internet has made possible. That 900 words email took no longer to write than to type. Don’t tell met here is an inherant contradiciton between random events and story: nothing could be as random and accidental as that email and yet it is certainly a story. Anyway, after the email went viral, my agent had no trouble getting publishers interested. The second one, Farah Ahmadi’s The Other Side of the Sky was an odd one. Good Morning America staged a contest for the most inspiring life. Various people sent in one-page descriptions of their life story and the one judged most inspiring got a bunch of cash and a book about them written by a professional writer.  Farah won the contest, and I was part of her prize.  The third one I’ve just completed, so I’m still n the process of selling it. The difficulty here is that memoirs usually sell on their news hook. They promise to take readers to places they have not been and could never go without this memoir. I promise just the opposite: I intend to take readers to places they too have been, not to startle them with how unique my life has been but to startle them with how unique theirs has been.  We’ll see if that concept sells.

DHS: How did you go about promoting and marketing your memoir?

TA: I’m not much of a guy for marketing and promotion much, so I just write ’em and hope the chips fall were they do me some good. The publisher did send me on an extensive book tour for West of Kabul, East of New York, bookstores mostly, and I read from my book and talked.  With Road Trips, I’ve been reading from it at literary events, bars, bookstore reading and whatnot while I’ve been writing it, to enthusiastic response, so perhaps I’ve been building an audience for it even while it has been in progress.

DHS: Did you have difficulty speaking in public about the intimate aspects of your memoir?

TA: I used to have difficulty speaking in public about anything—really, anything. Then 9/11 happened, that email went viral, and suddenly I was yanked onto various stages and in front of cameras and microphones facing crowds clamoring to know the stuff I happened to know about and the crisis was so intense, I had to tell what I knew, pour it out,  no time to remember that I was shy about speaking in public, I was babbling nonstop, scarcely even knowing what I was saying, for months. When it finally slowed down, I found I no longer had any difficulty speaking in public about anything. And that transformation ha endured. Still, I maintain some reserve. Anything I’ve written about, I’ll speak about. Why not? It’s already out there. Anything I’ve held back about in writing, I will maintain some reserve about in public too.   The thing is, I was out to tell my story. People whose paths have crossed mine have shown up in my story, but they have their own stories and  I try not to be the one that’s telling theirs.

DHS: How did your family, friends and loved ones react to your memoir?

TA: After I published West of Kabul, East of New York, my mother said “What do you mean I had brown hair? I was a blond!”  One of my cousins said how could I call a famous ancestor of ours “a landowner and a poet.” He was a saint! Another cousin observed that of the uncles I had mentioned, his father should have been named the most eminent.  An aunt wasmiffed that I had called another aunt Elizabeth-Taylor beautiful.  I have also gotten some pretty severe and wounding blowback from Road Trips. On the other hand, I think the first memoir helped me and my brother reconnect after a long estrangement.  If you’re going to write a memoir, you have to be ready for some flak. You’ll get it even from—perhaps most of all from—people you’ve scarcely mentioned.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but you have any advice for people who want to write a memoir?

TA: Well, I’ll say one thing about process: I think it’s a good idea to start without a plan and to do your first rush of remembering while you’re at the keyboard typing away, writing it down. I’d say, let the process of association take you where it will. I’d say, don’t pay attention to what you’re saying or what  you’ve just said, focus only on what you’re about to say.   Don’t push the string,  let yourself be pulled. Later you’ll see what you’ve got and at that point you’ll have to apply other skills to craft your work, but the first skill to cultivate is letting go and not caring or judging.  Association is the mechanism of memory, and memory is itself a narrative-creating machine.   We tend to think of memories as videotapes that we bring out of storage, but neural scientists tell us that memories are constructed in the act of remembering. They also say that more than half of what we think are perceptions are actually reactions to memory. When we reach for a doorknob we only perceive a flash of color and shape, memory supplies the fact that it is a doorknob and what a doorknob is and what we can do with one. Expand that perception and you realize that we’re always living as much in a story as in an immediately present world, in a narrative whose shape depends on what has happened before and what we expect or hope will happen later.S ettle in with this truth and you begin to see what a gigantic thing it is to write a memoir.

Tamim Ansary writes memoir, fiction, history, essays, and blogs. His book West of Kabul, East of New York tell the story of a life straddling Afghanistan and America. He runs the 65-year-old San Francisco Writers Workshop as well intensive memoir workshops in his home.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His new book Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 10 languages.  He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.  https://davidhenrysterry.com/

 

 

Art of the Memoir: Sherril Jaffe on Daughters, Husbands & Defense Against the Chaos

To commemorate the publication of the 10 year anniversary edition of my memoir Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, I have decided to do a series of interviews with memoirists I admire.  I’ve known Sherril Jaffe for many years.  Not only is she a brilliant writer, she’s also an amazing teacher of writing.  She is a tenured professor at Sonoma State University, has won a 2001 PEN award and was a 2010 MacDowell Fellowship.  She is the author of many books, novels, short stories, poetry and yes, a memoir.

David Henry Sterry: Why in god’s name did you decide to write a memoir?

sherril-jaffeSherril Jaffe: When she was fifteen, my older daughter became rebellious and ran away from home.  My husband and I were terrified and mystified by her behavior.  Advice and blame came at us from every direction, and we didn’t know what to do, so finally I began to do what I have always done in order to process experience; I began to make narratives out of what was happening.  I thought if I could do this well enough that she would read it and understand my concerns for her and how much I loved her and she would stop acting in ways that created so much anxiety for me.  I was writing a letter to her and I was also managing my anxiety by giving form to it.  Toward the beginning of what became Ground Rules, my agent sold the book on proposal.  Selling the book validated my attempts to take the straw of each day and weave it into gold each night, to give form to the chaos we were experiencing.  If I could do this, I thought, I might be able to grasp what was happening so I could address it.  We were all suffering, and I wanted the suffering to end.  I was now writing a book, and books have ends. I had set up things so I would have help getting it right—acquiring an editor when I sold the book. Other people with teenager crises were relying on counselors.  I had tried that without success, so now I was banking on my editor.

I worked on the end of the book endlessly, tinkering and tinkering.  My editor was rigorous, however, and wouldn’t accept anything that didn’t really ring true. But then finally the true ending appeared—everything begins to turn around finally when the parents learn to see, respect, and support their daughter for who she actually is, rather than who they have wished, assumed or feared that she was.

I speak here of “the parents” instead of “me and my husband,” because as a fiction writer it is difficult for me to think of a character based on me as me.  I had sold the book as a memoir but I didn’t give much thought at the time as to what that really meant.  I was very afraid for my daughter and eager for this situation to resolve. Unusually for memoir writers, I was writing as the situation was unfolding.  The consensus of opinion is that the more distance you have on your material, the better chance you have of getting a proper handle on it, but I couldn’t afford the luxury of waiting for my material to age like a fine wine; my daughter’s life was on the line.  As I worked, I kept wishing I could peek ahead to the end of the book to see how things were coming to turn out.  I called what I was working on “The Uncertainty Principle” after Heisenberg’s discovery that the act of observation changes the measurement of what is being observed.  I could not take any of the draconian measures some were advising us to adopt with our daughter: all I could do to effect a change eisenberg’s fin our circumstances was to observe them as closely as possible, distill and transform them until their meaning was revealed and we were all saved.

DHS: What were the worst things about writing your memoir?

SJ: The worst thing about writing my memoir was that I did not know if there was going to be a happy ending.  Although I was the author, every time I attempted an ending that was one that I wanted but which wasn’t exactly true, it wouldn’t work artistically; my editor would catch it, and I would be sent back to the drawing board.  Meanwhile our struggle with our daughter resolved just as, in the book, the parents come to see and love their daughter for who she really is, and that is where the story ends.

DHS: What were the best things about writing your memoir?

SJ: Since I was writing my memoir— though not in letter format—as a letter to my daughter, it gave me a way to try to reach out to her who had become so mysteriously distant, so I felt I was doing what I could to keep her safe and to stay connected with her.

DHS: Did writing your memoir help you make some order out of the chaos we call life?

SJ: Indeed, it was my only defense against the chaos.  I was also trying to shape the narrative as I went toward a happy ending, trying to make happiness the inevitable outcome of the story, for there are endless possibilities in chaos.

DHS:  How did you make a narrative out of the seemingly random events that happened to you?

SJ: There was no problem, since I believed the book was simply being delivered to me, chapter by chapter, and that though the events transpiring seemed random, the work of bringing the book into being was the act of discovering in what way the events were actually not random at all.

DHS:  How was the process of selling your memoir?

SJ: I had recently signed up with an agent I loved, so I was not surprised that she sold the book on proposal in short order. There was some suspense as to what the offer would be, and I was disappointed that it was only $15,000, but, on the other hand, knew that $15,000 was the inevitable figure, for at that time I had a magical calendar, and the picture for that month was a painting by Charlie Demuth of a target with one five in the bull’s eye, one in a middle ring and another on the outer band. They offered me five thousand upon signing, five more when I handed in the manuscript and a final five upon publication.

DHS:  How did you go about promoting and marketing your memoir?

SJ: Very poorly!  However, I don’t think it was entirely my fault.  The publisher rejected my title, “The Uncertainty Principle” and made me call the memoir “Ground Rules,” and so the public misunderstood what the book promised. The public expected this to be a guide to controlling teenagers by doing concrete things, like grounding them, for example, not a testament to living with uncertainty.

DHS:  Did you have difficulty speaking in public about the intimate aspects of your memoir?

SJ: No; I have never had a problem speaking in public about anything; my problems came from people speaking to me in private—people I didn’t even know feeling it was okay to give me their opinions about me and my daughter.  I was used to people giving me a critical response to my writing but not to me, personally. This was a shock. I vowed to never again write another memoir.

DHS:  How did your family, friends and loved ones react to your memoir?

SJ: I know now that it was very hard on my daughter, being in the public eye, like that, and I very much regret any pain I may have caused her.  But the plain fact is, the story was written with great love, solely with the intention of keeping her safe by daring to look closely at the terrible reality of life, for nothing looked at squarely can hurt you. And our troubles did end—whether because of the effect of the book on reality or because, like a virus, they had run their course.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but you have any advice for people who want to write a memoir?

SJ: Yes.  My advice is, watch out, unless you are an extrovert and the point for you is to have everybody talking about you, passing judgments about you and projecting onto you. It feels good when you are admired, of course, but I’m a writer, not a model; I would rather it was my work, not my person, that was getting the attention.  I felt invaded, and it made me queasy when readers I had never met believed they were intimate with me.

 

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His new book Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 10 languages.  He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

 

Art of the Memoir: NPR Interview Alan Black & David Henry Sterry Break It Down

Alan Black, San Francisco literary legend, and author of Kick the Balls, wrote The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatic’s Guide with David Henry Sterry and lived to tell the tale. Sterry is the author of the memoir Chicken, which is now out in a 10 year anniversary edition.  Nancy Wiegman puts Alan and David through their paces as they break down telling and selling the story of your life. http://kchofm.podbean.com/2010/05/24/david-sterry-and-alan-black/
premium_author_bio chronology 431

Chicken: 10 Year Anniversary Edition: “I Loved this Book”

“I loved this book. It is a hilarious and fascinating look into the shadowy world of sex for hire, but also a deeply moving, empathetic, finely written portrait of a young man coming of age, struggling with both emotional and physical survival. Colorful, bizarre characters, and an authentic narrative voice had me hooked from page 1. It is not for the feint of heart as it is graphic sexually – but i did not feel gratuitously so. i found the descriptions interesting in an almost Kinsey report way – all the odd things people do privately that they have no idea others are doing is poignant. For any one who has had to battle addiction or courageously face their own demons this book is right on target. It also makes it so painfully clear how easy it is for young people to fall through the cracks – david is a lucky survivor of his tale and a truly articulate, comic but powerful writer.”

To buy, click here.

chicken 10 year 10-10-13

Art of the Memoir: Josh Hanagarne, the World’s Strongest Librarian, on Tourette Syndrome, Choosing Stories & Being Strong at the Library

To commemorate the publication of the 10 year anniversary edition of my memoir Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, I’m doing a series of interviews with memoirists I admire. I’ve read lots of great things about the world’s strongest librarian, so I thought I’d track him down and see what he has to say about writing, memoirs, and being strong at the library.

To see piece on Huffington Post click here.

41AjkdnWr5L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_ josh-hanagarne

David Henry Sterry: Why in god’s name did you decide to write a memoir?

Josh Hanagarne: I didn’t do it in god’s name, but here’s an answer: I’ve always liked to write, but I wasn’t trying to become a writer. I had started a blog called World’s Strongest Librarian, just for fun. I was writing about Tourette Syndrome, strength training, books, and a few other things, and there were a few readers (friends and family).  Two months in, the author Seth Godin wrote me an email and said “You should be writing a book! I’m sending your blog to my agent!” Forty eight hours later, I had a literary agent for no reason, and when she said “So what’s the book?” I said, “What book?” And that’s how it started.

DHS: What were the worst things about writing your memoir?

JH: Spending a lot of time thinking about parts of myself that I don’t like. You really get to know yourself when you write a memoir. When you start turning over those rocks, you don’t get to choose what you find underneath them.

DHS: What were the best things about writing your memoir?

JH: Making myself laugh every time I sat down to write. Paying tribute to things I love. Honoring the people who have helped me have the life I have.

DHS: Did writing your memoir help you make some order out of the chaos we call life?

JH: Nope. If anything, it made me throw up my hands and say “It all really is chaos.”

DHS: How did you make a narrative out of the seemingly random events that happened to you?

JH: A memoir is not a life, it’s an aspect of a life. The stories are the illustrations of themes. Once you decide which themes you’re trying to illustrate, choosing stories becomes much easier.

DHS:  How was the process of selling your memoir?

JH: Long! It took three proposals. The first two went nowhere and took almost four years. The third proposal was the one that sold and it got picked up immediately. By that time I had figured out what the book would be and it was an easy sell.

DHS: How did you go about promoting and marketing your memoir?

JH: My primary driver is speaking. I still work at the library, but I’m giving over twenty talks in October alone. I blog. I’m on Twitter.

DHS: Did you have difficulty speaking in public about the intimate aspects of your memoir?

JH: No. Speaking is what I enjoy most, and it’s by far what I’m the best at.

DHS: How did your family, friends and loved ones react to your memoir?

JH: With incredible support. Although my mom says that I made her out to be way nicer than she actually is. She’s wrong.

DHS: I hate to ask you this, but you have any advice for people who want to write a memoir?

JH: Yep. Two things.

  1. Write. No matter what you’re doing, if words aren’t appearing on the page, you’re not writing yet. Don’t worry about people’s reactions during the first draft. Just get it down.
  2. Read The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith. It was the last book about writing memoir that I’ll ever read. And it’s short, if that tells you anything about Marion’s approach.

Josh Hanagarne believes in curiosity, questions, and strength, and that things are never so bad that they can’t improve. At first glance, Josh seems an improbable librarian. He stands 6’7″, competes in strongman contests, and was diagnosed in high school with Tourette Syndrome. But books were his first love: Josh’s earliest memories involve fantastic adventures between the pages of Gulliver’s Travels and a passionate infatuation with Fern from Charlotte’s Web. Everything in Josh’s life–from his Mormon upbringing to finally finding love to learning to control his tics through lifting–circles back to a close connection to books. His upcoming book, The World’s Strongest Librarian, illuminates the mysteries of Tourette Syndrome as well as the very different worlds of strongman training and modern libraries. Currently, Josh is a librarian at the Salt Lake City Public Library and lives with his wife, Janette, and their son, Max, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, activist, and book doctor.  His new book Chicken Self:-Portrait of a Man for Rent, 10 Year Anniversary Edition, has been translated into 10 languages.  He’s also written Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money and Sex, which appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  He is a finalist for the Henry Miller Award.  He has appeared on, acted with, written for, been employed as, worked and/or presented at: Will Smith, a marriage counselor, Disney screenwriter, Stanford University, National Public Radio, Milton Berle, Huffington Post, a sodajerk, Michael Caine, the Taco Bell chihuahua, Penthouse, the London Times, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a human guinea pig and Zippy the Chimp.  He can be found at www.davidhenrysterry.com.  https://davidhenrysterry.com/

 

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén