Stephen King: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

I waited a really long time before reading this book. I stared at it on the Chapter’s website for months and finally one day after scouring the shelves for what felt like an eternity I bought the very last copy they had. Let me tell you something, it was the best decision I made that day maybe even that week. This book is amazing in so many ways but before I delve into all of the reasons why I’ll give you a brief breakdown of what the memoir/guide to writing is all about. The first half of the book discusses Stephen’s first foray into the world of writing. I don’t want to give away too much but I will say this; he is fastidious about never sugar coating anything. He says what he means and he means what he says and that’s one of the reasons I admire him so much as an author.  I raced through the first half  thoroughly enjoying reading snippets about his small town life and the triumphs and failures he experienced as a writer. The latter half of the book is technical but King does his best in trying to stay away from sounding like a “How to Write” guide.  I want you to read this memoir, regardless of whether you aspire to be a writer or not. There are some great life lessons entwined in each and every one of the witty anecdotes.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from his memoir:

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make long speeches. Just believing is usually enough” (p.74)

 

“…stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position” (p.78).

 

“…put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around” (pg. 101).

Notice something about all of these quotes? It’s not about being a better writer, selling the story and making millions. It’s about living your life, enjoying your craft and the realization that family, friends and love should fuel your passion not stifle it. I highly recommend this novel for anyone looking for a witty read but also for anyone who is looking to gain a new perspective on a craft they love.

A House in the Sky

At times when we peel back the skin of humanity we see an ugly creature, deformed and beyond recognition but other times sequestered beneath the many layers we find a soft and quiet beauty.

A House in the Sky is a memoir written by Amanda Lindhout and co author Sara Corbett. The memoir tells the story of Amanda and Nigel, a freelance journalist and her photographer friend who go to Somalia in search of what she refers to in her memoir as her “hurricane”. Amanda wants to be someone, do something worthwhile and her search for an elusive meaning to her life leads her and Nigel on a trip of and for their lives. On their third day in war town Somalia they are captured by a group of young Islamic extremists with one goal in mind, to kidnap two Westerners and hold them for ransom. The men are fundamentalist Muslims, they are terrorists but on another level they are just children. Amanda and Nigel endure an excruciating amount of terror at the hands of these young men, they are starved, abused, chained and all elemental freedoms are taken away. Despite this, Amanda humanizes these boys, taking the time out to acknowledge that despite the terror she endures at their hands, they are still just children who know of only war and anger. It is a strange thing to read a story filled with so much resentment and yet to find words of hope and love between the dark moments. The times where you want to shut the book and walk away, Amanda draws you back with a tender scene between her and one of her captors. Something as small as a smile, an acknowledgement, a gift of fruit, you begin to understand how much these minute acts mean to her in the larger frame of the horror that she is living through.

A constant source of criticism aimed at Amanda both before and after the release of this memoir was she shouldn’t have gone to Somalia in the first place. Is it really enough to say that you stepped into a war-ravaged country simply out of reckless ambition? Was her naivety to blame? Did she really think she was invincible? Was it her fault that Nigel was in this situation with her? Whatever the answers to these questions may be there is a heartbreaking sense of honestly in her story that is hard to ignore.

A House in the Sky is Amanda’s representation of the power of resilience, love and hope. Her house in the sky made it possible for her to bear the time she spent in captivity without giving up on humanity. It is a beautiful depiction of the elasticity of the human mind.