A writing memoir in the tradition of Anne Lamott’s classic Bird by Bird—but it’s for the young adult writer. It’s the book I wish someone had given me at fifteen, when I was editing my high school newspaper, writing short stories for speech, and dreaming of publishing a novel in the not-too-distant future. It’s the book I wish I’d been able to pluck off the shelf again at nineteen and twenty-five to remind myself that I was not alone and that the writing life was worth living.
Like YARN, my YA literary journal, TINAWM is a first of it’s kind. Before YARN, there were only a handful of places publishing short-form YA, and even fewer online, and even fewer publishing teens and adults side by side. Now there are more venues, and I’m proud to be part of that change. Before TINAWM there were only a handful of books about writing for young writers, and most of those were manuals—handy and full of smart tips and tricks for jumpstarting your writing. But there was no fellow writer putting his hand up and saying, “You want to know what it’s really like?” When I asked at my local indie bookstore if they knew of a writing memoir for teens, they said no, and that they always recommend books from the adult shelves to aspiring young writers.
But I’ve read a number of the books from those shelves, and I know that as excellent as many of those books are, they are not speaking directly to the concerns of the young writer. So TINAWM is for you—the writer in high school or middle school or college, who wants to know what to expect between your writing life now and becoming A Writer.
But! TINAWM is also for any writer who wants to know how to become A Writer and still keep their sanity/pay their rent/live their lives in a meaningfully literary way.
What we writers need most of all are allies, and fellow travelers on the long road of the writing life. I hope TINAWM can be that for you, no matter where you are on that road.
I am super happy to announce this excellent Reader’s Guide for This Is Not a Writing Manual, composed by Lourdes Keochgerien, YARN’s Editor-at-Large (who also does this reader guide thing for a living–so if you need one, find out more about her here). Lourdes did a wonderful job of reading the book and pinpointing the issues that would be important for young readers and writers to discuss. Her questions will help you formulate and articulate your own desires, passions, and tastes, even as you discuss craft issues like themes, revision, and workshopping.
I hope you’ll enjoy using these questions in your book clubs, writing groups, or even just as thought-provokers for your own reflection. I love to hear from you guys. Thanks for reading. And discussing.
“I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and read this book twenty years ago. It would have saved me a lot of time, grief, and paper. The good news is you can read it now.”
Allen Zadoff, author of Boy Nobody, and Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have
“A personal and invigorating memoir of the creative life, This is Not a Writing Manual offers wisdom, camaraderie, and inspiration for newbies and veterans alike.”
John Cusick, agent at Greenhouse Literary, managing fiction editor at Armchair/Shotgun, and author of Girl Parts and Cherry Money Baby
“This is Not a Writing Manual is a personal book in the best sense of the word. Kerri Majors’ advice is hard won. It comes from her own joys and disappointments, her hopes and unwavering dedication to writing. The book, as the title says, will not teach you how to write. What the book will do is take you, like a trusted friend, through some of the decisions you will need to make in order to be a writer. It’s practical and heartfelt wisdom will prepare you for the challenges and fulfillments of the writing life.”
Francisco Stork, author of complex and poignant YA novels like Marcelo in the Real World and Irises
“When I was a writing teacher, I met many talented, passionate young writers who wondered how to move forward. I sincerely wish I’d had Kerri Majors’ This is Not a Writing Manual to help them. Never prescriptive, always honest, this book is a genuine resource that grapples with the real work of writing—finding courage, finding time, and finding a way.”
Blythe Woolston, William C. Morris Debut Award winning author of The Freak Observer and Black Helicopters
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