From Publishers Weekly
Adhering to Eudora Welty's adage that "writing is bad when ÿit isn't honest,' " creative writing teacher Carr (The Women in the Mirror) recalls her lifelong love of words, from her childhood storytelling days to years spent juggling teaching assignments, family obligations, and her fiction career. Beginning with her 1940s early childhood in a rural Wyoming oil camp--where her father worked for Standard Oil--and later in Texas, where she eventually got her B.A. and M.A. at Rice University (where a young James Dickey was teaching), the memoir is arranged as a series of page-long vignettes. The choppy format does a disservice to a fascinating life--which includes a grandmother whose own life was full of tall tales--but Carr's easy style smooths out most of the clunkiness. In addition to voicing her own strong ideas about fiction writing--particularly the notion that women should never write from inside the head of a female character (and the same for men)--she shares her personal experiences with numerous outstanding writers of the last half-century, including Toni Morrison, Raymond Carver, and Dickey. Carr has truly lived a writer's life and readers will appreciate her journey. (Nov.) (c)
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Carr grew up in a hardscrabble town in Wyoming next door to a Japanese internment camp and later moved to a small town in Texas, raised by a family that loved words, sometimes for stretching the truth in wild stories and sometimes to boost feelings of inadequacy. She took that love of words and a colorful background into a career writing and teaching writing. In the segregated South of the 1960s, Carr taught for a while at a black college, often mistaken for black herself, and made the acquaintance of Toni Morrison before she began her writing career. Carr is frank and funny in each single-page recollection of her family, friends, and colleagues as she recalls growing up, launching a career, marital difficulties and new chances, childrearing, and mostly the struggle to write. Her personal philosophy that writers cannot truly plumb the depths of characters who don’t match their sex, race, or ethnicity sometimes put her at odds with other writers, but she has held to it through short stories, novels, and nonfiction. A wonderful look at the writer’s life and word-loving in general. --Vanessa Bush