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.