Random House Readers Circle
Right Curve
Sidebar topper
Divider
Divider
Divider
Divider

Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

Discussion Questions: Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Glitter and Glue When Kelly Corrigan traveled to Australia in 1992, the only job she could find was as a nanny. Instead of just carpools and babysitting, she walked into a household still grieving the recent loss of the children’s mother. To her surprise, she found herself deferring to the wisdom of her own mother, who once said that her father “may be the glitter, but I’m the glue” a pattern that would become more pronounced years later. This is a story about growing up and stepping up, but most of all, it’s about the great adventure of motherhood.

 
 

Take a look at the discussion questions below to guide your book club conversation.

1. As a young woman Kelly thinks, “Things happens when you leave the house,” and books a round-the-world trip to Australia. Do you think that these types of adventures are necessary to gain life experience? Does Kelly’s maxim change by the end of the book?

2. Milly and Martin respond differently to Kelly’s entry into their lives. Why do you think this is? When (if ever) do things begin to change with Milly?

3. Like the characters in the book My Ántonia, Kelly wants to be someone important to Evan. What does she mean by that? Based on what Kelly reveals about Evan at the end of her story, do you think she was successful? Why or why not?

4. During her time in Australia, Kelly realizes that it’s only when she’s away from her mother that she can appreciate her forthright, often unyielding nature and the role she played in Kelly’s childhood. Have you come to see anything more clearly about your own mother over time?

5. Kelly often hears her mother’s voice in her head, offering advice and reciting her maxims as she tries to care for Milly and Martin. Has something similar ever happened to you? Does your mother have rules to live by?

6. What is the significance of Walker the American? How does he influence Kelly’s understanding of life experience?

7. Do you think daughters’ relationships with their fathers are inherently different from their relationships with their -mothers? Does Kelly’s relationship with Greenie support this? What does the fact that Mary kept Kelly’s shoplifting a secret from her father suggest?

8. John Tanner is working hard and quietly to raise his kids when Kelly arrives. How does he change over the course of the book? How would you have tried to help him adjust to his new circumstances?

9. When Kelly works at her mom’s real estate agency, she is shocked to hear co-workers describe her mother as “the life of the office” (page 87). Why is this an important moment for Kelly? How is your perception of your own mother different from her friends’ and colleagues’ perceptions?

10. On page 146, Kelly explains the phenomenon called “Reader Response.” Did you find yourself interpreting Glitter and Glue through the lens of your own personal experiences? Is it possible to read any book without automatically subconsciously comparing it to your own life?

11. Kelly remembers many vivid moments from her stay with the Tanners, including her trip to the beach and Martin’s tantrum walking home from school. Why do you think Kelly still thinks about the Tanners? Why do you think she chose to write this story after her cancer scare?

12. Of all the ideas juxtaposed in these pages—mothers and fathers, adventure and life experience, stepping out and stepping up—which resonate the most with you? Why?

13. On page 47, we learn where the title Glitter and Glue comes from. What do you think of having one parent as the glitter and another as the glue? Is this what it was like in your own family? Was this always the case?

14. Kelly often says that, for her, Glitter and Glue is fundamentally about acceptance, which she calls “the Mt. Everest of emotions . . . hard to get there, hard to stay there.” She defines acceptance as the moment you “actually stop trying to change someone, not because you’ve given up but because you finally realize that their way of being in the world is the right way for them.” Have you experienced this level of acceptance, either as the person accepted or the person accepting?

15. Kelly also talks about the difference between like and love, something she learned through her relationship with her mom. She says she “used to think love was just a whole lot of like but now she sees that you can like people you might never be able to love and you can love people deeply that you don’t particularly like.” Do you have any relationships that fall into either of these categories?

Five Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self by Gail Caldwell

Friday, February 6th, 2015

New Life, No Instructions cover tpFive Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self by Gail Caldwell

The author of New Life, No Instructions gives advice for young women based on her own experiences. Her new memoir is about the surprising way life can begin again, at any age.

Originally published on Oprah.com

 
 
 
 
 
 

1. Your father was saying something that you couldn’t hear.

My dad was a tough, sometimes domineering Texas patriarch, and his idea of protecting his two adolescent daughters was to scare hell out of the boys in the ’hood. Granted, it was the Texas Panhandle in the 1950s: When a kid came to my or my sister’s window late at night, Wild Bill would do a patrol around the block with an unloaded rifle on his shoulder.

Why couldn’t he just tell us to watch our backs, or say how much he loved us? Now I know that he was telling us, but too often the greatest generation translated love into laconic shows of strength. I wish he could have said, “You are the most precious cargo in the world and I will do anything to keep you safe,” which might have helped me learn to say it to myself.

2. Live inside your body.

You have muscles and brain cells that are poised for amazing possibilities—childbirth and mountain climbing and dancing until 3 a.m. You can learn calculus or walk across half of Spain and your body and brain will barely flinch. Then you can sleep it off and start again. You will be able to do this for many, many years, particularly if you forgo stupid drugs and too much booze and seven helpings of cheesecake and walking in front of speeding vehicles, or, for that matter, getting into them.

3. Walk tall, even—especially—when you are afraid, or cowed, or insecure.

If you assume you are too good to be taken advantage of, the bullies of the world will usually believe you, and move on.
This skill involves daily practice, like sports or meditation, and, as my gun-toting, poker-playing dad would say, a little bluff at the right time. I had a creepy guy twice my size acting inappropriately in an airplane aisle recently—he reached his hand around my waist—and without thinking, I looked him in the eye, moved toward him with my hand up, and said, “Sir, you’re going to need to step back, now.”

I think I’ve been watching too much Matthew McConaughey in True Detective. But hey, the man got out of my way, fast.

4. Everything—I mean everything—matters.

The friend’s kid brother you were nice to when no one else was; the parking place you got into a screaming match over; the bearable, or awful, breakup you had. What matters is not the parking place, but the way you react: the kindness you display, and the mercy and the poise to be your own best self when you can. Everything matters because it morphs into this giant thing called history, or experience, and eventually life itself. Even the murderous Hound in Game of Thrones tells Arya, “A man’s got to have a code.” Find yours and live by it.

5. Remember the gulping-air surprise of being alive.

Love, color, music, the beauty of the planet—all these things will serve you later, decades later, when you are walking down a street in St. Louis, or a beach on Cape Cod, and you hear a song that sends you spinning. You hear “Night-swimming” and want to weep because it takes you back to Point Reyes in California, or a sunset over Mount Bonnell in Texas. Your memory is the motherboard. Feed it the experience and it will always give it back.

P.S. You will note that I have left out much counsel about the bad times in life. That’s because they will always be there, the worry and sorrow and little hells that we can do nothing about. No prep book for those. Do the good stuff, see above, and it will cushion the rest.

Reader’s Guide: A Q&A between Gail Caldwell, author of NEW LIFE, NO INSTRUCTIONS, and her Editor

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Caldwell_New Life No InstructionsBeloved and Pulitzer prize-winning author Gail Caldwell sits down to chat with her longtime editor, Kate Medina, about her latest New Life, No Instructions.

Kate Medina: Authors sometimes say that while writing their books, they learn something new about themselves or their characters; since you are a “character” in your book, did you learn new things about yourself, or others, or about the portion of your life discussed in New Life, No Instructions?


Gail Caldwell: Oh God yes. I think most writers write to find out what they think, or who they are. A friend was reading the book in its last draft, and said she was struck by how hopeful I seemed. I think of myself as determined, rather than hopeful, but writing the book made me realize those traits are often pretty good substitutes for one another. I also realized, for the hundredth time, how cool my mom was.

KM: You wrote, “Most of all I told this story because I wanted to say something about hope and the absence of it, and how we keep going anyway.” This reflects something people often feel, but don’t know how to express. Would you say a little more about this? Was this your goal of writing the book from the very beginning, or did this emerge as the book came into being? 


GC: I had a vague notion of this idea in my mind from the start—particularly because I was so struck, in hindsight, by that image of the child (me, trying to walk after polio) trying to get up again and again. One of the earliest lines I wrote was about that: “We are engineered to rise up, in every developmental sense.” And I suppose on a larger scale, I think that life is so hard—often so silently, humdrum hard for so many people. And yet they move through the day with tremendous courage. Hard not to laud that.

KM: People love the title, which came from a line in the book about what happens after what seems like a miracle. Would you say more about what the title means to you?

GC: I wrote that line in the context of the people supposedly “cured” at religious shrines—the pilgrims to Lourdes and Fatima, for instance: Miracle, new life, no instructions. It’s such an odd notion, to think that with a blink (or a visitation, or a surgery) life changes and you’re good to go. I suspect most miracles have a small-print addendum, or even caveat: PS. You have to learn how to make this work; you’re on your own now; good luck!

KM: One of the strongest themes, and discoveries in the book, is the strength of friends, and how your neighbors and friends became your family. You said that your travel for Thanksgiving was “to walk across the driveway.” Could you say more about this? 


GC: Ha! I was going to Nancy’s, a heroine in the book, who lives one house over. They’ve done studies recently showing that people with balconies and front porches are happier and more connected to the community. I don’t know that geography is destiny, but in my lucky case it’s been a deciding influence. I’m a single-woman-with-dog, and my neighborhood has parks and friends and grocery stores within shouting distance. If I fall on the ice, someone would pick me up pretty fast.

KM: You write in the book about relationships and what it means to create an alternative family, how there are many different ways to live your life without a traditional relationship path. Would you say something about your life as an independent woman?

GC: Each of these questions keeps feeding me back into the same waters! I always half-meant to get married but in retrospect I’m not sure I’d have been very good at it. I came of age during the women’s movement—I was 22 when I stumbled upon my first rally for Women’s Liberation, as it was called then—and I was wearing eyeliner and an anti-war armband. If life is a kaleidoscope of images, that’s one of mine—the young woman finding a different (and to me, thrilling) path. Consciously or unconsciously, I spent the next few decades finding communities where “traditional” was not an important word in the lexicon.

KM: Your mother is such a wonderful presence in the book, and in your life. What one thing—if one can ever say one thing about one’s mother—would you say about yours?

GC: My mother was strong as hell and did not suffer fools. Eight years after her death, I am still figuring out how smart she was. I also think (see above) she was sort of proud of me for going it alone.

For more from Gail Caldwell be sure to visit her website and connect with her on Facebook.

Featured Excerpt: NEW LIFE, NO INSTRUCTIONS by Gail Caldwell

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Happy Friday! Today we’d like to feature The Pulitzer Prize winning and New York Times Bestselling author, Gail Caldwell. Her new memoir, New Life, No Instructions, goes on sale April 1st, but we have a sneak preview for you today.

Enjoy this excerpt from the opening pages of her book!

New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell (an excerpt) by Random House Publishing Group

Stay connected with Gail on her Facebook page.

Reader’s Guide: WITH OR WITHOUT YOU by Domenica Ruta

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

Ruta_With or Without You “A luminous, layered accomplishment.”—The New York Times Book Review

With or Without You is the story of Domenica Ruta’s unconventional coming of age—a darkly hilarious chronicle of a misfit ’90s youth and the necessary and painful act of breaking away, and of overcoming her own addictions and demons in the process. In a brilliant stylistic feat, Ruta has written a powerful, inspiring, compulsively readable, and finally redemptive story about loving and leaving. We have discussion questions for you and your book club to enjoy.

Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Ruta begins her book with a scene from her childhood, when Kathi takes her along with her when she goes to destroy someone’s car. Why do you think Ruta chose to begin her book with that scene? What does it tell you about Kathi? How are the themes that it sets out subsequently explored throughout the rest of the book?

2. The dedication of With or Without You is “For Her.” Why do you think that is her dedication?

3. In her late twenties, Domenica worked for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “If only all battered wives could be so conveniently sympathetic,” Ruta writes. “The real picture is something more complicated, a prism that captures the full spectrum of good and evil and shatters it into fractured pieces of color and light” (p. 43). How does With or Without You explore this theme?

4. In a quietly momentous scene in the book, Domenica sees her sister lying on Carla’s stomach and whispers a single word. “It wasn’t until much later that I understood what had happened that day,” Ruta writes. “Inside me was someone new waiting to be born . . . someone who would devote her life to describing such moments in time” (p. 53). What does Ruta mean? Why is that moment so significant?

5. What do you consider Kathi’s biggest betrayal?

6. What would you consider Kathi’s best attribute?

7. What do Kathi and Domenica have in common?

8. The extended Ruta family is almost continuously burdened with debt. Explore the theme of debt, both literal and metaphoric, in the book. How do debts affect their relationships and hold them back?

9. Why does Domenica enjoy working in the dementia ward?

10. When Domenica is recovering, how does she find solace?

11. While in Austin, Domenica falls in love with another writer. “It was just as awful as my mother had said it would be,” Ruta writes. “It was even worse that she was right” (p. 145). What is Ruta referring to? What is the larger significance of Domenica’s realization?

12. Near the end of the book, Ruta wonders why she can’t have compassion for Kathi. Do you think that Kathi is deserving of Domenica’s compassion? Do you believe that Domenica does not have compassion for Kathi?

Reader’s Guide: GLITTER AND GLUE by Kelly Corrigan

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Corrigan_GlitterandGlue “In this endearing, funny, and thought-provoking memoir, Kelly Corrigan’s memories of long-ago adventures illuminate the changing relationships between mothers and children—as well as everything else that really matters.”—Gretchen Rubin, New York Times bestselling author of The Happiness Project

Questions and Topics for Discussion:

1. As a young woman, Kelly thinks, “Things happens when you leave the house,” and books a round-the-world trip to Australia. Do you think that these types of adventures are necessary to gain life experience? Does Kelly’s maxim change by the end of the book?

2. Milly and Martin respond differently to Kelly’s entry into their lives. Why do you think this is? When (if ever) do things begin to change with Milly?

3. Like the characters in the book My Ántonia, Kelly wants to be someone important to Evan. What does she mean by that? Based on what Kelly reveals about Evan at the end of her story, do you think she was successful? Why or why not?

4. During her time in Australia, Kelly realizes that it’s only when she’s away from her mother that she can truly appreciate her. Do you agree? Kelly hears her mother’s voice in her head, offering advice as she tries to care for Milly and Martin. Has something similar ever happened to you?

5. What is the significance of Walker the American? How does he influence Kelly’s understanding of life experience?

6. Are daughters’ relationships with their fathers inherently different from their relationships with their mothers? Does Kelly’s relationship with Greenie support this? What does the fact that Mary kept Kelly’s shoplifting a secret from her father suggest?

7. John Tanner is barely hanging on by a thread when Kelly arrives. How does he change over the course of the book?

8. When Kelly works at her mom’s real estate agency, she is shocked to hear co-workers describe her mother as “the life of the office” (page 87.) Why is this an important moment for Kelly?

9. On page 146, Kelly explains the phenomenon called “Reader Response.” Did you find yourself interpreting Glitter and Glue through the lens of your own personal experiences? How so?

10. Kelly remembers many vivid moments from her stay with the Tanners, including her trip to the beach and Martin’s tantrum walking home from school. Why does Kelly still remember these events so clearly twenty years later? Why do you think she chose to write this story after her cancer scare?

11. Of all the ideas juxtaposed in the pages—mothers and fathers, adventure and life experience, stepping out and stepping up—which resonate the most with you? Why?

12. On page 47, we learn where the title Glitter and Glue comes from. What do you think of having one parent as the glitter and another the glue? Is this what it was like in your family? Was this always the case?

Join the Conversation with Kelly on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #GlitterandGlue!

Discussion Questions: STILL POINTS NORTH by Leigh Newman

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Newman_Still Points NorthIf you and your book club have Leigh Newman’s beautiful memoir Still Points North in the reading queue then we have the discussion questions to accompany your next meeting.

1. In the beginning, the author describes events and objects as belonging to either an “Inside” or “Outside” world. What do these divisions represent? Do the two halves ever change or overlap?

2. Leigh’s childhood is split between two very different worlds. How do you think her life would have been different if she had only grown up in Alaska, or only in Baltimore? What did the combination of these experiences give her?

3. Leigh begins Part II “The Middle of the Woods” with the memory of swimming with a dolphin family. Why do you think she chose this story as a transition to the adult part of her memoir?

4. Acquiring Leonard the dog and a more homelike new apartment represent an important life change for Leigh. What do they signify? Have you had any similar markers of transitional moments in your life?

5. Despite the belief that opposites attract, Leigh and Lawrence seem to get along because of their similarities. What does Lawrence provide for Leigh and vice versa? How does their relationship change over time?

6. Leigh insists on catching a king salmon despite her admitted indifference to the fish. Why do you think this is? What does catching a king salmon mean for Leigh and her Great Alaskan life? Have you ever done something like this?

7. Leigh and her mother have a complex relationship. What does her mom’s commitment to finding the wedding dress help Leigh understand?

8. Why is the scene in the Parisian flower shop an important moment for Leigh? What does she learn?

9. On page 125 Leigh realizes, “That’s the thing about parents…you don’t have to see them all that much to imitate them.” In what ways do the characters in this memoir imitate their parents?

10. How does Leigh’s relationship with her father transform over the course of her life? What were the most influential moments? What has she learned about her father and herself by their conversation in Chapter 15?

11. Why is Nana such an important character to Leigh? How does she compare to Leigh’s other grandmother, Maybelle? Why are both important in shaping the author’s development?

12. On page 220, Leigh wonders “how long do you have to live somewhere for it to be home?” How would you answer her question?

13. Of all the themes in the memoir—wanderlust, travel, family, home, and love in all its permutations—which did you find the most compelling? Why?

Join the conversation with the author on Facebook and Twitter!

“[Leigh] Newman has crafted a vivid exploration of a broken family. . . . Her pain will resonate strongly with readers, and she vividly brings both Alaska and Maryland to life. . . . A natural for book clubs.”—Booklist

Reader’s Guide: A Conversation between Anna Quindlen and Meryl Streep

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Quindlen_Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake Happy on sale day to Anna Quindlen. Her candid memoir LOTS OF CANDLES, PLENTY OF CAKE is now available in paperback. Be sure to pick up a copy for exclusive Random House Reader’s Circle material including the full conversation between Anna Quindlen and Meryl Streep and discussion questions for you and your book club.

Join the conversation with Anna on Facebook!

A Conversation Between Meryl Streep and Anna Quindlen

Meryl Streep and Anna Quindlen have been friends for many years. In 1998 Meryl was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Kate Gulden in the film adaptation of Anna’s novel One True Thing. In 2011 Meryl was honored by the Kennedy Center and Anna wrote the program tribute. They sat down for a lunch of pasta and salad at Anna’s home in New York City. The following is an edited version of their conversation on November 27, 2012.

Meryl Streep: What do you say to people who say, “Anna’s vision of aging is too relentlessly upbeat”? This is related to my conversation with my older friends the other day, who are really much older than we are. How do you respond to the ones who go, “Well, it’s too rosy; Anna puts a happy spin on everything.” The reason I’m asking you this question is that I think, even in the direst circumstances, you have a choice of how to look at it. In the book, you do circle certain very profound and cavernous subjects—dying—but you don’t go deep into the spelunking of it.

Anna Quindlen: I think I made an attempt to speak to some of those deeper issues in the last two chapters of the book. But I consciously decided to look at life not from the perspective of the end of it but from the near-to-the-end of it. From the beginning of the book I’m clear: “I’m sixty, and sixty is somewhere different than it used to be.” I mean, fifty years ago, sixty was more or less the end. And now, it’s the beginning of a different stage of life. You know from your experience with your own parents—eighty-five, ninety, it ain’t necessarily pretty. But that’s not exactly what I wanted to tackle. I totally accept when people say I have a very optimistic take on things. I always have had; I probably always will have. And I do think I have a very different attitude about getting older, based on being the daughter of a woman who never got to get old. I think there’s something profound that watching someone you love die young does to you, and if you have half a brain, one of the things it does to you is to say—

MS: Grab life.

AQ: Yes. Wake up, even in the darkest days, saying, “Boy, is this better than the alternative.” There’s this wonderful quote from Carolyn Heilbrun in the book where she says something like, “Since we did not wish to die, surely we must have wished to grow old.” And sometimes our antipathy toward aging seems to me to deny the alternative.

MS: When I read what you write, I keep thinking, Oh, here’s somebody who’s writing what I think. And she’s doing the work for me. It’s sort of, I think, why people undervalue in some ways what women write. Because they speak not just for themselves, but they speak for the rest of us who can’t say these things. You’re speaking something true. And that made me think about the point in the book when Quin says: “Well, Mom, your subject was motherhood.” And that propels somebody to think in a different way, too. It just does. Having children is an optimistic act.

AQ: Absolutely. But I also think that for us as women—women growing older—having children can affect how we
see ourselves. Especially having female children. I may be outing you here, but I mention in the book that I have a very well-known friend who says that the way to make herself invisible is to walk down the street with her daughters, who are young and beautiful—and you and I both know who that is.

MS: My friend Jane called me: “Anna wrote about you!”

AQ: So having those daughters, who are young while we’re getting older, takes us in one of two directions. Sometimes it takes you toward resentment: “I am not that anymore.” Sort of a grasping resentment that leads some women to dress much younger than they should.

MS: Forgive me, but I always thought—and you wrote this, so we agree—but I think that’s the problem of girls who grew up and their card was “pretty.” So when “pretty” goes away, that’s the central tragedy, and that is the thing that rankles with their own daughters. When the pretty goes away just as it’s emerging in the daughters.

AQ: That’s true, that’s true. But I think if you process life as you’ve been living it, which is really a hat trick if you manage to do it, one of the things you see with your girls is that they’re going through the stuff that you went through in your twenties that you never want to go through again. All that stuff that you can see clearly now, so that you think, Oh my God, I can’t believe I wasted a nanosecond of my precious life thinking, Does my hair look okay? and, Is my stomach flat enough? And of course when they’re twenty-three or twenty-four, their hair looks great and their stomachs are flat enough! But I do think having kids gives you a kind of perspective on aging that’s different from that of my friends who don’t have kids.

MS: I do, too. And that’s maybe the group you’re not speaking to. Do you know what I mean? That’s hard. People look to you. They look to you, as sort of an emblematic figure of our generation, to speak for all of us. But you only know what you know.

AQ: You can’t be all things to all people.

MS: But do you feel the burden of that? Do you feel that clamoring? Because it exists from people that—what’s the word? See, I’m not a writer—but even the women for whom you’re not speaking, who have not shared your experiences, want you to speak for them. Because, just because. You’re one of the few who is willing to stand up. You’re willing to stand up and say stuff about living, and what it costs, and what you pay down, and what you don’t ever get back. You know, all that stuff. You’re willing to talk about it. And that’s just a really brave thing. It is.

A Letter to Book Clubs from Leigh Newman, author of STILL POINTS NORTH

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Newman_Still Points North

Dear Book Club Readers,

Growing up as a girl in Alaska, I had a dad with his own motto, one that came in handy every time our floatplane almost fell out of the sky or we ran into grizzly. “One day,” my father would say, “That bear by the cooler will make a pretty funny story.”

As with so many other things, Dad was correct. All those narrow escapes did make pretty funny stories, as well as scary and sad and drastically joyful stories—mostly because they were also about how much I loved my parents and how much they loved me, even as our family fell apart right on the spongy, mosquito-swarmed tundra.

My life changed after my mom and I left the state and I began commuting 5,000 miles between her and Dad. But what’s so wonderful about the wilderness is that you take it with you wherever you go. Nobody just forgets the ragged, unflagging desire to survive. It exists in all of us and in every kind of place and situation. It gets us off the ground every time people don’t come through or just go away, every time the house burns down or the wedding gets called off, every time we have stand there with a smile made of broken diamonds while somebody explains, “Hey, you are not going to get what you so badly wanted—sorry.”

Another of Dad’s mottos was “Don’t lose altitude.” By this, he meant, “Keep climbing that mountain, honey.” I kept climbing. So many of us do. The only problem is with weepy ding-dong on our back, the one who feels so hugely and vastly alone, even as we march onward with our fast little rigid steps.

Lately, I’m beginning to think of competency as a mother-of-pearl shell that can leave you caught in your own luminous ability to keep going no matter what.

As you read Still Points North, I’d be honored if you’d happen to think of those moments in your life where either the shell broke or you collapsed under its glittering weight—and you had finally to choose: strong or weak; stay or leave; me or my past; me or my future; me or the other-me who might never ever be unless I do the thing I’m most afraid of doing. Which is almost always to risk being both hopeless and hopeful at the same time.

Then, if you’ll send me an email (alaskaleigh@gmail.com) and tell me the story of your choice, even if you’re still making it. I’m still making mine, and I’ll probably go on making it every day of my life.

Thank you so much for making time for this book.

Warmly,

Leigh Newman

A letter to book clubs from LAY THE FAVORITE author Beth Raymer

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Lay the FavoriteLay the Favorite is the true story of Beth Raymer’s years in the high-stakes, high-anxiety world of sports betting—a period that saw the fall of the local bookie and the birth of the freewheeling, unregulated offshore sports book, and with it the elevation of sports betting in popular culture. As the business exploded, Beth  emerged with her integrity intact—wiser, sharper, and nobody’s fool. A keen and compassionate observer of the adrenaline-addicted roguish types who become her mentors, her enemies, and her family, Beth depicts her insanely colorful world teeming with pathos and ecstasy. In this letter to readers, Beth shares some of the emotions she went through in putting her very personal history in writing.

Dear Reader,

Following the publication of my memoir, Lay the Favorite, I gave a reading at a bookstore in Pittsburgh. I stood behind a podium and shared stories of my journey from stripper to managing (and modeling for) adult websites, to working for gamblers and bookies. When the evening was over, I packed up my belongings. A young woman approached me. By the tension in her smile, I could tell she was nervous. After some small talk, she came clean.

“When I was twenty-three, I was a total stripper, too!” She whispered.

The woman, who was now married and living in the suburbs, was a voracious reader and had recently signed up for a writing class. She desperately wanted to tell her story but was paranoid of what others would think of her. She couldn’t bring herself to save her writing “to cloud… or even junk drive!”

Her question to me was: “How do you deal with being judged?”

© D.V. DeVincentis

© D.V. DeVincentis

Though I had a lot of fun, and made a lot of money, working in the subcultures that attracted me, I was never particularly proud of the ways I made a living. I certainly never told my family about it (they only found out about my “back-story” when they read my book). However, the shame I felt never stopped me from writing about my personal experience. I wanted to be a writer and the only way to be a writer is to make oneself vulnerable. If anything, my shame fueled my desire to put my most intimate thoughts and experiences on the page. It was the only way I knew to connect with the reader. After all, from their perspective, what’s the purpose in spending 240 pages with a character if she doesn’t let you in on her mistakes, her shortcomings, and the secrets she holds so dear?

I was raised Catholic. I am from a small town in Ohio. Was I judged? Yes.

This is something I’ve come to understand: with memoirs, more so than with novels, readers and reviewers tend to judge the writer’s personality, which somehow takes precedence over the story and the writing. Therefore, there’s something very high-stakes about giving a first-person account.

But as the old saying goes: fortune favors the bold. The way I felt the first time I held my book and, later, saw my life portrayed on the big screen, was worth all the sneers and personal attacks that came my way.

So, dear reader, I ask you this: What’s your secret? What keeps you from sharing it? Would you be willing to confess, if you got a book deal?

I hope that you will enjoy Lay the Favorite and find much to discuss in your book club. I can be in touch via e-mail or Skype.

Thank you,
Beth Raymer

Shoe
Bertelsmann Media Worldwide