Friday, December 27, 2013


From the Modess booklet
ONE OF THE BOOKS I RECEIVED FOR CHRISTMAS was Tina Fey's Bossypants. Although it was published in 2011, I just started reading it. I expect I'll enjoy the rest of it as much as I've liked the first couple of chapters. If you haven't read it, it's funny, light, and best of all, contains what every good book should have no matter what its genre.

There are things we all know about writing, but we might not put them into words until we come face to face with them. They come from an innate understanding - a recognition of what works. Bossypants did this for me, reminding me that one of the things readers love is recognizing what they have in common with the protagonist.

In 'Growing Up and Liking It', Chapter Two, Tina writes about receiving her first period kit. Her mother gives it to her, tells her to read the booklet, and then flees, wimping out of giving her the 'talk' about becoming a woman. I found myself laughing out loud. Why? Because I remember experiencing much the same thing. The cover here is similar to the booklet I got, except my cover featured Grace Kelly clones looking at each other knowingly while they lounged around a piano listening to a boy play. I figured they were communicating telepathically - 'Yes, I too, don't know how to play the piano. I have my period at the moment, AND NO ONE KNOWS.' (Grace Kelly and house dresses were before my time. Love beads and frayed bell bottoms were more my thing.) Anyway, before we girls received our books, all the boys were sent out of the room to Mr. Carnaervon's class, the Vice Principal who terrified us, but who also took really cool films of Prairie Chickens doing mating dances. I have no idea what the boys learned, but I was creeped out/fascinated by a drawing of the female reproductive system. To this day, I think of it whenever I see my mother-in-law's dining room chairs, which feature a design on their backs that is similar.

But back to Tina Fey. Just a few lines into her Chapter Two, and I'm reliving all of the above. She's brilliant because she knows women will relate, and that men might also find her experiences funny and surprising.

Every good writer finds ways to connect with his or her reader. Commonality of experience and humor are two of them.

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