Friday, June 10, 2011

Caitlin Shetterly answers a few nosy questions

Caitlin Shetterly is the author of the new memoir, Made For You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home about her journey with her young family across the country twice, in search of the safety of a good job, adventure, and the American Dream. She will be at Water Street Bookstore on Tuesday, June 14th to talk about her new book (along with Melissa Coleman).

1. The Obvious Nightstand Question: I always have to know, what's on your nightstand/what are you reading?

I just finished Townie by Andre Dubus III, which is a searingly beautiful, moving, and can't-put-it-down read. I was so involved in Dubus' world I couldn't wait to get back to it every evening. Now my husband is reading it and he is just as hooked and moved as I was. Now I'm reading an older book by my friend Terry Tempest Williams, called An Unspoken Hunger. It's made up of beautiful essays--more like meditations, really-- about the environment and our responsibility to it.

2. This one is from @Bethazon (awesome librarian/culture geek on Twitter): Once you knew you had a much larger audience than close friends and family, did you feel any more pressure or responsibility when writing your blog? when recording your radio pieces? Would you change anything you did?

The only thing I changed, shortly after my first audio diary went viral on NPR, was that I took my son's name out of the blog. Other than that, I wrote every blog as if I were writing it for my husband--and, indeed, I read each one out loud to him before I published it. And he listened to every radio piece before it was finalized. In my writing life, I often have Dan read things--he has a great sense of my voice, he keeps me fair, he helps me write what I mean to say and he supports me, unconditionally--this is a gift. He read my book many times and then, finally, at the very end I read the whole thing out loud to him over 5 very long evenings (we have a young child) and I went hoarse, but we made the book better that way, because books are also meant to be read out loud.

3. I realize that no one writing a book about herself has any intention or editorial permission to write about every single bit of what's happened in her life. But I recently read a memoir in which I felt the author left out huge chunks of her life, and it ended up feeling less than honest to me. Reading your book, I felt like you could have elaborated on so many different aspects of your story (time in Paris, childhood, time in NYC) but didn't, without sacrificing any of the honesty or transparency. How did you do it? How did you know what to cut and what needed to be said? Does that make sense?

This makes perfect sense. This is important for books--you need to trust the writer. You know, as an actor, when I was in acting school in NYC, I was taught a technique of acting in which you speak from the true place of a character--whatever that might mean in that given moment. You work true moment to true moment. I've, for better or for worse, in my life, always been a person who has spoken from that place--whether I'm playing me, or someone else--I try to tell the truth from where I sit. And sometimes people don't like that and sometimes they do. But as a writer you have to remember that to tell a good story, you have to ask yourself that question from the movie about Johnny Cash, Walk the Line, "If you were lying it that gutter dying and you had time to sing one song..." what would it be? When I sit down to write, I start with that question and then I follow my heart.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Caitlin! I really want to go to the event on Tuesday, but I sadly have a prior engagement. I LOVED your book and have recommended it to many people at the library. Have fun at Water Street!

    (Thank you Stef for making this possible!)