Samuel J. Tanner 3 minute read

Unexpected Memoirs

I've finished a draft of my third memoir.

Three memoirs? I must have a bad case of narcissism. My word count? The final book is sitting at 110,000. All told, the trilogy totals about 250,000 words. Oof. That's lots of writing about myself. Add in these blogs, and God knows what the total is.

These blogs were meant to be strategic. I began writing them a few years ago. I was publishing the first memoir. Shot Across the River Styx was an unruly piece of magical realism, suicidal ruminations, and personal narrative. Talk about confusing. Agents were uninterested. How would I share such a piece? Pull myself up by the bootstraps. Teddy Roosevelt style.

My friend Ben Ptacek and I did a little research, and learned about the business of marketing books. I read things. I talked to people. One of the things I learned? Writers start blogs as a way to push their material. I didn't want to push anything on anybody. But I did want to share my work. So I started blogging.

Some of these blogs are thoughtful. Some of them are not. But I've been dutiful. I've blogged weekly for nearly three years now. Mama. That's discipline.

Has the strategic, entrepreneurial work of writing these blogs paid off? Hell no. Book sales have tanked. This financial endeavor has been an abyssmal failure. Send money soon, Ma. My bank account is in shambles.

However, the spiritual work of my entreprise has been rewarding. These blogs give me space to process the enormity of existence. And the books they've meant to support? Shot Across the River Styx is messy, but it feels like a funeral ceremony that had to be held. Determined Weeds was a euglogy for Mom, and I needed to give it. Finally, Playing with Sharp Objects is a telling of my time in schools. And there is great symmetry within these works. The illustrations by Michael Swearingen are perfect. The form and content in the books speak to each other. My team had complete creative control of what the books would look like, what they would be. How many authors get to say that?

Ultimately, I had stories to tell. And some people have read these works. A few have even contacted me to tell me the books were important to them. That's important to me. A friend once told me that I needed to get the weepy memoirs out of my system before trying my hand at fiction. I've almost finished weeping. The project is close to being finished. Something else will come out next, I'm sure.

These blogs have helped me practice storytelling. My trilogy of unexpected memoirs taught me about writing. Are these books good or bad? Quality is a subjective thing, I think. I feel like these books were what they had to be. And I'm proud to be coming to the end of the work.

So buy Shot Across the River Styx. Determined Weeds, too. And look forward to Playing with Sharp Objects. We're likely a couple of months away from having the final copy of Sharp Objects in our hands. But it's coming. You can get a paperback of the first two books. They're cheap, and worth your time. Get an E-Book, too. What could it hurt? Donate to our cause. Making sense of what we are, so that we can continue making our way in enormous, complicated universes. Growing up. Go to Amazon, buy the books, and give them a shot. Are they amateur? Of course. But they're what they needed to be, and they're worth a read.