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Jottings
 
 

A Love Letter - Writers and Libraries

This month the Sharon Summer Book Signing, a fundraiser for the Hotchkiss Library of Sharon, was back after a two-year hiatus. When I was signing and selling copies of Word for Word: A Writer's Life among the crowd of readers and other authors under a big white tent, the event reminded me of my love of libraries.

It began early when the libraries I went to in elementary and high school were both former churches with lofty hushed spaces, making me believe there was something reverent about reading.


Once when I was wondering how to support my increasingly serious writing habit, I thought about becoming a librarian in order to spend my time in a quiet place among thousands of titles. I imagined that it would leave me at the end of a work day relishing books and desiring to write them.

 

Although I never mailed my application to librarian school, I continued to gravitate to libraries wherever I lived, borrowing books to read and for researching my own books. In Manhattan, they include large and small libraries, from the marble temple of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue to the New York Society Library, a subscription library in a brownstone with open stacks to explore and rooms to write in. 

 

In Connecticut, the little town libraries are now cultural centers offering books in all formats, talks about books, and much more. Happily, the historic Sharon library, which I can walk to from my house, is undergoing a transformation. By this time next year--and the 25th anniversary of the book signing--it will be better and more beautiful than ever.

 

With warm wishes,
Laurie 
 
News About Word for Word: A Writer's Life

 

A new review of Word for Word has come to my attention: "I so enjoyed Word for Word...I highlighted, wrote in the margins, and tabbed pages," wrote reviewer Regina Allen for the Story Circle Network. "Word for Word is a lovely book. Lisle writes as though she is a personal friend to the reader, sharing her deepest thoughts and secrets. Whether you are a writer or a woman who seeks a creative life in some other realm, or even a woman in search of her own true self, this book will be a comfort to you."


Click here to read the entire review.

 

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About Being Reviewed

Word For Word  Publication May  11,2021

     When a box of advance reading copies of Word for Word: A Writer's Life arrived recently, I felt a little trepidation about sending out the books before remembering others' attitudes toward reviews.

     Centuries ago, an English duchess, Margaret Cavendish, hoped that people would not think her "vain" for writing a memoir; it might not be important to them, she admitted, "but it is to the Authoress, because I write it for my own sake, not theirs."

     Georgia O'Keeffe was also defiant about reviews: "I make up my own mind about it—how good or bad or how indifferent it is. After that, critics can write what they please. I have already worked it out for myself, so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free."

 

     I'm neither indifferent like the duchess nor defiant like O'Keeffe. While working on my memoir was a little like writing a long letter to myself, I hope that what I learned might be meaningful to others.

 

     Before long, there were some very nice responses, including:

 

     "Word for Word is a beautifully told story about the growth of a woman writer…whose intellectual and spiritual debts are to women writers, feminism, and, more generally, to strong women…" Carol Ascher, author of Afterimages: A Family Memoir

 .

     "In fluid, evocative prose that is at once personal and political, Laurie Lisle turns her biographer's eye on her own life with a clear-eyed, honest gaze that probes, delights, and illuminates." Jennifer Browdy, author of The Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir.
 

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The Way I Wrote My Memoir

Word For Word: A Writer's Life  Publication May 11, 2021

      Writers cherish words, and I've saved my own and the words of others sent to me in letters throughout my life.

     

   When I decided to write a memoir, I went to look for my forty or so journals. 

     

      "I gathered them together, numbered them, and arranged them on a bookshelf--from the college spiral notebooks to the more recent hardback Moleskine volumes--and then opened the fragile first page of the 1963 journal," as I explained in Word for Word: A Writer's Life.  

     

     They helped me remember and then write the memoir.   

 

     The image above is a photo of the journals along with a teenage diary with a lock and a cartoon character on the cover saying "my year... and how I shot it."

 

     I took the journals with me everywhere. They're now a bit battered, and the paper is brittle and in some places torn, but the words remain legible.

 

 

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How I Chose A Cover For My Memoir

This is the cover of my forthcoming memoir, Word for Word: A Writer's Life.

 

When perusing old black-and-white photographs for possible use in the memoir, I discovered contact sheets taken when posing for an author photo for my first book, Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe.

 

I was surprised to see so many different expressions on my face in front of the camera that day. Eventually, images of that 37-year-old debut author—at a turning point in her personal and professional lives—best expressed the nature of the memoir.

 

The image on the cover is one of three contact sheets given to me by the photographer, Edward Spiro, so I could choose a headshot for the jacket cover of my biography of Georgia O'Keeffe.

 

Four decades later the designer of Word for Word, Paul Barrett, selected poses from the contact sheets to create a cover for the memoir.

 

 

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