Sunday, June 28, 2009

Testimony by Anita Shreve - A Book Review

Anita Shreve's latest novel, Testimony, takes place at an elite boarding school in New England. It takes up one of Shreve's favorite plot devices: the disastrous results of a bad decision. In this case, the plot centers around the after-effects of a filmed drunken orgy involving a freshman girl and 3 senior basketball players.

The novel is told in a kaleidoscope of voices, all characters affected in some way by the ensuing scandal. This narrative method is particularly effective at demonstrating the destructive ripple effect of four people's actions on the community. Shreve was effective in giving each character a very different voice and in laying out the story clearly with all the different points of view.

Shreve took on a very complex project with Testimony, and delivered another signature gripping read. Testimony was at once shocking, terrifying, and beautifully written. Each character really came to life, whether it was the vacuous freshman girl at the heart of the scandal or the devastated mother of one of the perpetrators.

According to the interview at the end of the book, Shreve initially planned on delivering the entire story from the viewpoint of the headmaster but shifted to the different voices when she realized that he was missing key points of information. Ironically, his character was the one whose motives and emotions were least clear to me.

I thoroughly enjoyed Testimony. This is one Anita Shreve novel you do not want to miss.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Lost Prompt

I'm watching the Lost finale and I just heard a great line. As soon as I heard it I realized it is also a great prompt.

"What's done is done."

What does that phrase spark in your writing? Two pages. Go.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mothers in Law Writing Prompt

Another writing prompt.

What about that other mother in your life? Your mother in law. Is she a monster? A peach? Give me 10 minutes on your MIL.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Spidery Places

I've been consumed with Ayelet Waldman's newest book, Bad Mother, all weekend.

Her words have inspired this prompt:
“Turn over a rock and explore the spidery places beneath.” Give me a bad mothering moment, a moment you’re not proud of, a moment you felt like a monster. You won’t read it aloud, but trust me, after writing it down, you won’t feel as ashamed.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Beginning Today, Writing Prompts

I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't posted to Chefdruck Writes since February. The weeks go by too quickly and although I'm writing all the time, on my blog, in my notebook, and to the myriad of other sites I contribute to, I've neglected this blog.

Starting today, I'm going to post some writing prompts here. Prompts I'm using in my notebook. Prompts that have gotten my juices flowing. I hope they will get yours going too.

In honor of mother's day:
"Tell me about a time you felt like a good mother."

In the words of the greatest writing instructor, Natalie Goldberg, "Go. 10 minutes."

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Irreplaceable, a Novel by Stephen Lovely

Have you signed the organ donor form on the back of your license? I couldn't even tell you if I have or not. I've thought about it many times, but shy away from taking that step when I envision scalpels cutting into my comatose body while my family cries at my bedside. After I write this review, I'm going to go make sure I signed the form because I believe that my useless organs should go to help someone who needs them. But thinking about such a scenario is so hard that I've most likely avoided committing to it until now.

Reading Irreplaceable has spurred me to act. Stephen Lovely's novel, Irreplaceable, takes the reader deep into the aftermath of organ donation. The novel opens with a young woman enjoying a vigorous bike ride, looking forward to getting home to her husband. She never makes it home as she is run over by an SUV at the crest of a hill. Although she was only in the book for a few pages, her vitality as she pumps the pedals of the bike remained with me until the last page.

The rest of the novel follows the lives of everyone the accident touched: Isabel's husband, her mother, but also the family of the woman who received Isabel's heart. Nothing is black and white in Irreplaceable. The grief of Isabel's relatives is counter-balanced by the desperation of Janet's death-sentence if she did not receive that heart.

The situation is so tragic that it is sometimes difficult to keep on reading Irreplaceable. This is a book that really made me think and appreciate my good health. I'm very glad I read it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kelly Corrigan, Great Writer, Inspirational Speaker

Tonight I attended an incredibly inspirational event with Kelly Corrigan, author of the Middle Place. I read and reviewed the Middle Place a year ago, before it was so popular, before it was on the NY Times non-fiction bestseller list. I loved the Middle Place. Although the topic sounds grim, a memoir where both the author and her father are battling cancer, the book is actually full of hope and life.

Kelly Corrigan in person is just like she writes. Honest, down to earth, funny and incredibly likeable. She read two chapters from the Middle Place and it made me want to run home and read it all over again. Although I remembered how moved I was by it, I had forgotten how incredibly well written I found it, and how amazing Corrigan is at painting the details.

What I most enjoyed about tonight was hearing about Corrigan's process and how the Middle Place came to be. When she was diagnosed, she started writing essays about her cancer. She shared them online at Circus of Cancer and was encouraged by the response. Her sister in law really pushed her to turn them into a book. Corrigan never thought it would be published, and certainly never imagined that it would reach the NY Times Bestseller list.

I walked up to her after her speech and asked her how she is able to write so honestly, how is she able to put aside her fear of offending people. She answered that the only reason she was able to do it for the first book was that she never thought it would be published and that she's now really struggling with that fear with her second book. She added, "that's why I don't feel like a real writer."

I was amazed that someone who writes so incredibly beautifully, someone whose book has become so popular on its own merit, from word of mouth, can still so clearly be plagued with self-doubt. Her honesty made made me realize that success is within all our grasps, and that even when we're at the top of our game, we'll still feel very vulnerable.

The trick is to start writing, and keep writing. Who knows where it could lead?