Quantcast

Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 210 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the perfect workbook for budding memoirists because it provides not only writing exercises but enough room to write inspirations down.  Users can even staple additional pages in the book if they need more room.

What I love about the workbook, other than that it is written by Beth Kephart, is that the illustrations could jog the brain into writing and the exercises vary from writing about a first memory to writing a poem about an event.  Born from her Juncture workshops, Kephart uses those experiences to offer writers exercises that will leave them inspired to tackle that memoir or other writing project they’ve been thinking about.  For example, in the writing about your first lie exercise, there are tips about finding the bigger story in the lie, as well as suggestions to think about the details to make them alluring and to think about who you were before the lie was told and who you were after it was told.

The workbook is broken down in to finding your voice, finding the true you, hunting for memory, navigating your world, using photographs to job memory or inspire, and many other topics.  I love how the exercises help you tease out details for your writing, and by the end of the workbook, you should be prepared to tackle that memoir or other work you’re looking to finish.  Always remember that the truth matters and that your memoir is not just about you!  Very sage advice.

If you’re looking for a workbook full of exercises to get you thinking outside the box, Tell the Truth. Make It Matter.: A Memoir Writing Workbook by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is the one, especially if you’re writing a memoir.  Using your imagination, you could also adapt the exercises to suit your fiction writing needs or just get writing in general, if you’re a little rusty.  Kephart has done it again.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart’s most recent book—This Is the Story of You—was published by Chronicle and is a Junior Library Guild and Scholastic Book Club selection, on the 2017 TAYSHAS list, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a Top Ten New Jersey Book.

Kephart will release two middle grade books with Caitlyn Dlouhy of Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country.

Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart, Illustrated by William Sulit

Source: Author Beth Kephart
Paperback, 188 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart, illustrated by her husband William Sulit, is a companion to her centennial novel, Dangerous Neighbors (my review), that provides a more in-depth look at the mysterious William.  William Quinn is adrift when his father is sent to prison and his brother is murdered in 1871 Bush Hill, Pennsylvania.  His ma, Essie, is drowning in her melancholy, barely able to rise to drink a spot of tea in the afternoons, while William is wandering about considering the ways he can fix things.  While attempting to find the right elixir to cure his mother using the classified ads in the Ledger, William also is crafting a plan to right the other wrongs that have befallen his family to return it to stability.

“He reaches in, lifts Ma into his arms.  He presses a kiss to her forehead then straightens to find the balance of her, catching the sight of them both in the mirror across the room — William sandy-haired and river-eyed, Ma rubbed away and sinking, the two of them together like a lowercase T.  Ma’s hair is yellow and loose, a curl fallen to the center of her forehead.  Her skin is pale, her hands just slightly blue.  She doesn’t weigh her right size.  She doesn’t resist.  When the sheet pulls away, her nightdress bunches at her knees.  It’s Ma’s feet that frighten William most of all — the color of bone and much too skinny to put any walking on.”  (page 13 ARC)

Through a mix of true history, careful attention to detail (as always, with Beth), and dynamic characterization, this young man becomes a beacon of honesty and integrity.  His goodness is tested, but he’s on the straight and narrow, despite the stacked circumstances and the pressure to cave in and become someone less than he is.  Kephart brings home the pressure of change and darkness with the thrumming of the machines, the locomotive commotion, and the constant mechanization of the city pounding in the background.  While the industrialization signifies a change and progress that can be beneficial and create opportunity, there also is the darker underbelly of those changes that must be dealt with — the corruption and the abuse of those willing to take advantage of their position and of others.  There is a keen juxtaposition of this in the characters of Officer Kernon and the Ledger’s editor Mr. Childs — one who abuses his position to get what he wants and the other who offers his aid in the form of mentoring and money to young men in need of guidance.

William is intuitive, he’s caring, and he has a gift for returning lost animals to their rightful homes, and this becomes a way for him to see hope in his future and to his mother, a hope that even Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent cannot offer.  Bush Hill comes to life in the hands of Kephart, who clearly loves her subject even the dark alleys and the unsavory places like Cherry Hill Penitentiary.  While William is less mysterious in this novel, there seems to be more to his story or at least there is more for him to see of the world, but readers will get the sense that he’s on the path he’s meant to follow and that he and his Ma will be OK.  Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, is splendid and will leave readers wanting even more.

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of 14 books, including the National Book Award finalist A Slant of Sun; the Book Sense pick Ghosts in the Garden; the autobiography of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, Flow; the acclaimed business fable Zenobia; and the critically acclaimed novels for young adults, Undercover and House of Dance. A third YA novel, Nothing but Ghosts, is due out in June 2009. And a fourth young adult novel, The Heart Is Not a Size, will be released in March 2010. “The Longest Distance,” a short story, appears in the May 2009 HarperTeen anthology, No Such Thing as the Real World.

Kephart is a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize, among other honors. Kephart’s essays are frequently anthologized, she has judged numerous competitions, and she has taught workshops at many institutions, to all ages. Kephart teaches the advanced nonfiction workshop at the University of Pennsylvania. You can visit her blog and my interview with her.

My other Beth Kephart reviews:

Mailbox Monday #219

Even though my Mailbox Mondays have been on hiatus for the most part this month, I wanted to share all the books I’ve received, some of which already were reviewed.

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. May’s host is 4 the LOVE of BOOKS.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received for review:

1.  Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris, which came unexpectedly from Little & Brown and may be passed along to someone else.

From the unique perspective of David Sedaris comes a new book of essays taking his readers on a bizarre and stimulating world tour. From the perils of French dentistry to the eating habits of the Australian kookaburra, from the squat-style toilets of Beijing to the particular wilderness of a North Carolina Costco, we learn about the absurdity and delight of a curious traveler’s experiences. Whether railing against the habits of litterers in the English countryside or marveling over a disembodied human arm in a taxidermist’s shop, Sedaris takes us on side-splitting adventures that are not to be forgotten.

2.  Pain, Parties, Work by Elizabeth Winder for review with TLC Book Tours.

In May of 1953, a twenty-one-year-old Plath arrived in New York City, the guest editor of Mademoiselle’s annual College Issue. She lived at the Barbizon Hotel, attended the ballet, went to a Yankee game, and danced at the West Side Tennis Club. She was supposed to be having the time of her life. But what would follow was, in Plath’s words, twenty-six days of pain, parties, and work, that ultimately changed the course of her life.

 

3.  Three-Ring Rascals: The Show Must Go On! by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise from Anna.

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls!

Step right up and hear the amazing tale of Sir Sidney’s Circus.

Listen to how Sir Sidney, a kindly old circus owner, needed a rest.

Read and weep when Sir Sidney leaves the circus in the hands of a big mean baddie.

Shriek with terror as Barnabas Brambles cracks his whip at Elsa the elephant.

Cry in horror when Mr. Brambles tries to sell Leo the lion to a zoo.

Hide your eyes as the Famous Flying Banana Brothers perform death-defying feats to get the circus train to the show on time!

Can they do it? Will they make it? They better, because THE SHOW MUST GO ON!

Black and white line drawings throughout.

4.  The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein for review with TLC Book Tours (2 copies — one will be passed on to someone).

In this evocative and thrilling epic novel, fifteen-year-old Yoshi Kobayashi, child of Japan’s New Empire, daughter of an ardent expansionist and a mother with a haunting past, is on her way home on a March night when American bombers shower her city with napalm—an attack that leaves one hundred thousand dead within hours and half the city in ashen ruins. In the days that follow, Yoshi’s old life will blur beyond recognition, leading her to a new world marked by destruction and shaped by those considered the enemy: Cam, a downed bomber pilot taken prisoner by the Imperial Japanese Army; Anton, a gifted architect who helped modernize Tokyo’s prewar skyline but is now charged with destroying it; and Billy, an Occupation soldier who arrives in the blackened city with a dark secret of his own. Directly or indirectly, each will shape Yoshi’s journey as she seeks safety, love, and redemption.

5.  Emily & Herman by John J. Healey, which I received for review from Arcade Publishing.

The manuscript of this novel was discovered by John J. Healey in a box left by his grandfather, Professor Vincent P. Healey, after his death. This engaging work of fiction is a romantic account in which four iconic figures of American Letters play a leading role.

In the summer of 1851 Herman Melville was finishing Moby Dick on his family farm in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. Surrounded by his mother, sisters and pregnant wife, it was a calm and productive season until his neighbor Nathaniel Hawthorne lured him to Amherst. There they met twenty-year-old Emily Dickinson and her brother Austin. On a whim the two distinguished authors invited the Dickinson siblings to accompany them on a trip to Boston and New York. In Manhattan they met journalist Walt Whitman and William Johnson, a runaway slave, and it was there, despite their efforts to control it, that Emily and Herman fell in love.

This, for the first time, is their story.

6.  Why Photographers Commit Suicide by Mary McCray from the poet for review.

Why Photographers Commit Suicide explores, in small narratives and lyrical poems, the American idea of Manifest Destiny, particularly as it relates to the next frontier—space exploration. Mary McCray examines the scientific, psychological and spiritual frontiers enmeshed in our very human longing for space, including our dream of a space station on Mars. These poems survey what we gain and what we lose as we progress towards tomorrow, and how we can begin to understand the universal melancholy we seem to cherish for what we leave behind, the lives we have already lived. McCray unearths our feelings about what it means to move ahead and stake out new territory, and what it means to be home.

7.  The Fact of the Matter by Sally Keith, which I purchased from Novel Places.

Moving from the mundane to the profound, first through observation of fact and matter, then shifting perspective, engaging a deeper sense of self, these poems re-imagine things great and small, making us care deeply about the world around us. In this cultivated and intricately crafted collection, Sally Keith shows the self as a crucible of force—that which compels us to exert ourselves upon the world, and meanwhile renders us vulnerable to it. Force by which a line unfurls—as in Robert Smithson’s colossal Spiral Jetty—or leads with forward motion—a train hurdling along the west-reaching railroad; Edweard Muybridge’s photographic reels charting animal and human locomotion. With poems remarkable in their clarity, captivating in their matter-of-factness, Keith examines the impossible and inevitable privacy of being a person in the world, meanwhile negotiating an inexorable pull toward the places we call home—one we alternately try and fail to resist.

8.  Trace by Eric Pankey, which I purchased from Novel Places.

His arresting ninth collection of poems, Eric Pankey’s Trace locates itself at a threshold between faith and doubt—between the visible and the invisible, the say-able and the ineffable, the physical and the metaphysical. Also a map of the poet’s journey into a deep depression, these poems confront one man’s struggle to overcome depression’s smothering weight and presence. And with remarkable clarity and complexity, Trace charts the poet’s attempt to be inspired, to breathe again, to give breath and life to words. Ever solemn, ever existential, Pankey’s poems find us at our most vulnerable, the moment when we as humans—believers and nonbelievers alike—must ultimately pause to question the uncertain fate of our souls.

9.  Miss Plastique by Lynn Levin, which I received from the poet for review.

Miss Plastique, the fourth full-length poetry collection by Lynn Levin, invites the reader into a world of female bravado in which Miss Plastique and her many selves rant, fret, joke, fall in love, dress up, and do their hair. Poems in this collection first appeared in Boulevard, Artful Dodge, Hunger Mountain, Connecticut Review, Knockout, Nerve Cowboy, and other places. Lynn Levin, a poet known for her eclecticism, humor, and range of poetic styles, is the author of the previous poetry collections Fair Creatures of an Hour, a Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist in poetry; Imaginarium, a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Award; and A Few Questions about Paradise (all from Loonfeather Press). Her craft of poetry book, Poems for the Writing: Prompts for Poets (with Valerie Fox) is forthcoming from Texture Press in 2013. Lynn Levin is also a writer and literary translator. She has received nine Pushcart Prize nominations, two grants from the Leeway Foundation, and Garrison Keillor has read her work on his radio show The Writer’s Almanac. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Levin has lived in the Philadelphia area since 1980. She is the 1999 Bucks County, Pa. poet laureate and currently teaches at Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania. Advance praise for Miss Plastique: Miss Plastique is a busy girl: giving it to her enemy in stiletto heels, giving it up to an Elvis impersonator, thumbing a ride across Texas. She has turned from the mirror and can’t look back. She’s sexy and seductive and refuses to be pinned down; she’s silk so fluid you could drink her-read her instead, but watch she doesn’t explode in your hands. -Meg Kearney, author of Home By Now

10. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart, illustrated by William Sulit, a surprise from my dear author friend.

Flavored by the oddities of historic personalities and facts, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent is set in Bush Hill, Philadelphia, 1871—home to the Baldwin Locomotive Works and a massive, gothic prison. Acclaimed writer Beth Kephart captures the rhythms and smells of an extraordinary era as William Quinn and his Ma, Essie, grapple with life among terrible accidents, miraculous escapes, and shams masquerading as truth.

11.  Antonia Lively Breaks the Silence by David Samuel Levinson, unexpectedly from the publisher Algonquin.

Catherine Strayed is living a quiet, un-
remarkable life in a secluded college town following the mysterious death of her husband, a promising writer whose death may have been an accident, a suicide, or perhaps even a murder. When her former mentor (and onetime lover)—a powerful critic who singlehandedly destroyed her late husband’s chance for success—takes a teaching job at the college, Catherine’s world threatens to collapse. For with him has come his latest protégé, an exotic young woman named Antonia Lively. Antonia’s debut  novel has become a literary sensation—but it is, in fact, an almost factual retelling of 
a terrible crime that she relates without 
any concern for the impact its publication will have on the lives of those involved.  As Antonia insinuates herself into Catherine’s life, mysterious and frightening things start to happen, because unbeknownst to Catherine, the younger woman intends to plunder her own dark, regrettable past—and the unsolved death of her husband—for her next literary triumph.

12. Beautiful Decay by Sylvia Lewis, which came unexpectedly from Running Press, though may be appropriate for some near-teenager I know….

Things have a way of falling apart around Ellie Miller. Literally. With a touch that rots, she keeps everyone at a distance—for others’ safety as much as her own comfort.

When newcomer Nate MacPherson makes it his mission to get close to Ellie, she does her best to steer clear. But as Nate reveals an unusual ability of his own, Ellie recognizes a kindred spirit who could accept her for who she is . . . if she lets him.

As family secrets unravel, Ellie will have to discover the beauty within her reach in order to save the ones she loves.

13.  The Look of Love by Bella Andre from Meryl Moss Media unexpectedly — this will likely be passed on to someone else.

Chloe Peterson has vowed never to make the mistake of trusting a man again. Her reasons are as vivid as the bruises on her cheek. So when her car skids off a wet country road straight into a ditch, she’s convinced the gorgeous guy who rescues her must be too good to be true.

As a successful international photographer, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women. He’s satisfied with his life—until he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley.

With every loving look—and every sinfully sweet caress—the attraction between them sizzles, and Chloe can’t help but wonder if she’s met the man who may be the exception to her rule….

14.  A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb from HarperCollins for review.

In Half Forgotten Song, fourteen-year-old Mitzy Hatcher’s lonely life on the wild Dorset coast is changed forever when renowned artist Charles Aubrey arrives to summer there with his exotic mistress and daughters.  Mitzy develops a bond with the Aubrey household, gradually becoming Charles’s muse. Over the next three summers, a powerful love is kindled in her that grows from childish infatuation to something far more complex.  Years later, a young man in an art gallery looks at a hastily drawn portrait and wonders at its intensity. The questions he asks lead him to a Dorset village and to the truth about those fevered summers in the 1930s.

15.  The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas from HarperCollins/William Morrow for review.

Beautiful and mysterious, The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas follows a priceless violin across generations—from WWII to Stalinist Russia to the gilded international concert halls of today—and reveals the loss, love, and secrets of the families who owned it.   In 1939 Berlin, 14-year-old Simon Horowitz’s world is stirred by his father’s 1742 Guarneri del Gesu violin. When Nazis march across Europe and Simon is sent to Dachau, he finds unexpected kindness, and a chance to live.   In the present day, orchestra conductor Rafael Gomez finds himself inspired by Daniel Horowitz, a 14-year-old violin virtuoso who refuses to play. When Rafael learns that the boy’s family once owned a precious violin believed to have been lost forever, Rafael seizes the power of history and discovers a family story like no other.

What did you receive?