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Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay Paperback – August 31, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Very savvy and smart and hugely entertaining.”
--ANNE LAMOTT, author of Bird by Bird

About the Author

ADAIR LARA wrote a twice-weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle for twelve years, taught in the MFA program at Mills College, and won the Associated Press Award for Best Columnist in California. She leads sold-out writing workshops in San Francisco, CA.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press; Revised ed. edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158008480X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580084802
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Patricia H. Kline on May 5, 2009
Format: Paperback
There is one big difference between this book and the other numberous books I own on this topic. The difference is that Adair deals with the number one problem with writers -- they will do anything they can to actually not write. As Adair says, "writing is scary. It always will be." This book shows the reader how to actually "apply butt to chair" and get started. One of her more helpful hints is the exercise to write 500 words a day. It doesn't have to be good but it does have to be 500 words and it does have to be every day. Writers write. Everyday. I love her exercises that help you get going. Each chapter has a Try This exercise -- for example:
Write about your closet. Write about the contents of your purse. Once you get started, you will be surprised that you most likely have gone over your 500 word goal. Of course Adair deals with all the elements of writing and refining essays and memoirs as well as sumbitting your work for publication.
Naked, Drunk and Writing, what more could you ask for.......
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Format: Paperback
I have been writing for many years and have read way too many books about writing when I should have been writing. Most books give you a few pointers that may or may not be helpful. This one is like sitting in a well taught class on essay and memoir. Lara answers the burning questions of all memoirists, and she does it in a voice and tone that make you believe she is your best friend from high school. Her advice is dead on, her tone encourages without forgetting that writing is hard damn work. This book shows you how to make that hard work result in something you'll be proud to submit to an editor. It's now sitting next to "Bird by Bird" on my writing shelf.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is definitely a book you cannot judge by its cover nor its title.
As a San Francisco Bay Area local, I enjoyed Adair Lara's columns in the Chronicle. Tuesday and Thursday started with a delicious dose of her wit and insight. So when I saw her name in my Vine list, I clicked on Send before even reading the book description.
Adair has written a guide to craft personal essays and memoirs, the relatively new literary category of creative non-fiction. She starts with clarifying what a personal essay entails. It has a goal, a struggle, an epiphany and a description of the changes that epiphany wrought. It is not about your ugly divorce but about how the ugly divorce freed you to become a divorce attorney. Do not be a victim: you will lose your readership.
She gives very practical advice that still leaves plenty of room for your own process and personality. Instead of insisting that the reader do exercises, she has little inserts entitled "Try this!" Her hints are in gray boxes for The Crafty Writer.
Among the techniques covered are the story arc and the beats of emotion through the story, expansion of sentences in the critical sections and the briefness necessary for the setup scenes.
Throughout the book, she includes quotes from her students, other writer friends, and published authors. The disadvantage of using her students is that we are left with a protagonist sitting in a wheelchair at the entrance to a hospital during a snow storm. The snow drifts up in the corners of the portico and under his feet. We never find out what happened and we don't know the author to track down the story. Adair, are you listening?
Speaking of her students, those who have taken her workshop and pushed their work in the real world have had success.
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1 Comment 22 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback
"An angle is a way to tell a story. It is to the essay what a premise is to a book, or a handle is to advertising, or a high concept is to a movie (dinosaurs brought back to life for a theme park!). It's a gimmick or twist or conceit that grabs the reader's attention long enough for you to say what you want to say. Think of the angle as the Christmas tree. Once you have that six-foot pine standing up next to the piano, it's pretty easy to see where the decorations go. Without the tree, what have you got? A lot of pretty balls on the floor."

This paragraph exemplifies the author's approach to "good" writing: never say things simply or directly, always gussy things up, find a "gimmick" or "twist" by which to "grab" the reader, trim the Christmas tree: the very things that define glib, mannered, and pretentious writing.

On the contrary: if a thing can be said simply and directly, so it should be said. Serious readers don't want gimmicks, and serious writers don't resort to them. Yes, they have distinct voices, but the distinctions are born of a dedication to precision, a sense of rhythm and timing, a horror of abstraction, cliché, and cant. Imagine someone telling Flaubert, "Hey, Gustave, gussy it up a bit, why don't you? You need an angle! Too direct, too direct!"

What's ironic in all this is that Adair Lara herself writes pretty well. The paragraph above wherein she urges conceits and contrivance upon her readers is itself void of such things. Yes, there are clever (if misguided) ideas supported with vivid analogies. But these are expressed by way of clear, simple, and direct sentences--not by gimmicks or twists. "You can't just come out and say what you have to say," Lara exhorts us. Yet that is what she herself does when writing well.
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