For a moment, I considered skipping the blog entry for June. The truth of the matter is that I haven’t done anything worth reporting. I can’t think of what to write. My brain has been in something of a fog, likely due to lack of sleep. (I’ve been staying up too late watching stuff.)
And then I listened to an audiobook that has me reeling. So that’s what I’m going to talk about.
It’s no secret that I’ve become a fan of Rachael Herron‘s podcast, How Do You Write? I’ve read both of her thrillers, Stolen Things and Hush Little Baby, under the name RH Herron. Both are worth the read. Even better, the listen, as they are narrated by the amazing XE Sands, who is also the narrator of the Bookburners podcast book.
But the book I want to talk about is A Life in Stitches, a memoir.
I know, right? Darren Blake, listening to memoir?
It’s not unprecedented. I’ve read both of Lauren Graham’s, as well as Jennette McCurdy’s. Not to mention On Writing, by Stephen King. I also have others on the horizon by Drew Barrymore and Simu Liu. Turns out that if I like a person, I’m interested in reading a memoir by that person.
So it’s not such a stretch that I might like a memoir by the ever-awesome Rachael Herron. The part that threw me was its premise. A Life in Stitches talks about elements of her life through the lens of various knitting projects over the years.
A memoir about knitting.
To be honest, when she mentioned that she had gotten the rights back for this book and was planning to self-publish a 10th anniversary edition, I was ready to skip it. When she put out a sample from it, it seemed very knitty, and I was ready to skip it.
And then I listened to a different sample, and although there were knitting elements, the story being told grabbed me.
So I gave it a shot.
When you are a fan of someone, there are moments when you feel you know that person. In the case of Rachael Herron, and the emotions she poured into this memoir, it’s even more true, especially when you’re listening to her narrate her own book.
Her writing invites you in for a hug and doesn’t let you go. Her soft voice punctuates perfectly the emotion held in these essays about her life. The loss of people she’s loved. Finding her people. And her person. The way I listen to audiobooks (walking home from a bus stop, usually) means I was crying in public. A lot. (I’m a crier. I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I do not like crying in public.) I felt every fractured piece of her heart.
I also laughed in public. A lot. Her triumphs felt like they were mine. (I do not claim them, though.) The love she shares with the people in her life, the kindness she shows to perfect strangers. Her voice, both vocal and written, reflects it all back at the reader and listener.
And I felt every minute of it. She writes like she’s a close personal friend, and I will likely never even get to meet her.
If you enjoy a good memoir or a good thriller, if you’re interested in writing, or if you like quirky romance or women’s fiction, give her a shot. She writes all of these things, and the things I’ve read by her I have loved.
(Full disclosure: a limited number of paragraphs in this segment were repurposed from my Goodreads review of the book. I counted the words toward my goal, because they were written in 2023 and not previously counted.)
WRITING IN PUBLIC
All right, kids, say it with me. No new words except the ones for this blog entry. Turns out that my plans to write after the last entry did not come to pass. Who’s surprised? No one? Yeah, me neither.
This time out, I want to talk about a soundtrack. More accurately, I want to talk about ten of them.
As of the day this releases, the Paramount+ series Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies has wrapped its first season. I still have an episode to go as I write this a week early.
Funny thing about this show: For whatever reason, even though I knew it took place a few years before Grease — a Broadway and then movie musical — I expected a straight-up dramatic thing. I was even willing not to bother watching beyond the first episode. I am actually not sure what my brain was doing. When I fired up the first episode (and there were already four or five online by then), I was genuinely shocked when characters started singing and dancing.
It’s Grease. Of course they sing and dance.
Thirty (yes, that’s 30) songs have been written for this new show, and some of them are magnificently catchy, including a re-imagining of Frankie Valle’s titular “Grease” in the first.
The four main characters all have amazing voices, and each has had at least one good showcase that I love. (Nancy’s true showcase is not one I love, but she gets one later with Cynthia that is quite nice.)
Jane’s “I Want More” is mellow at the beginning and then ramps up and drives its point home.
Olivia leads “Pointing Fingers” — a song that needs to play in every political debate. If you’ve seen the show, you know.
Nancy and Cynthia manage a great duet with “Crushing Me”, an upbeat dissection of each girl’s respective love woes of the episode.
And Cynthia has “New Cool” in the premiere, this prequel’s answer to “Greased Lightning” — without the innuendo and profanity.
Other songs of note: Musical Producer Justin Tranter pulls a Frankie Avalon with “Brutal Honesty,” in which they tell Nancy how it is. Unlike Didi Conn’s Frenchy, Nancy doesn’t acknowledge the reality of the angelic character.
Buddy sings “Pulling Strings” and laments his rich father’s influence on his life in an attempt to control his own destiny.
Last but not least is the awesome Hazel, whose introductory song is “Same Sky.” She’s the new girl, misses her old life and her own friends, but she’s comforted by the idea that when she looks up it’s the same sky she’s always had. I love this song and this character. She has an amazing singing voice, and I can’t wait to see how her story resolves in the final episode.
While I don’t necessarily expect this show to get a second season, I really hope it does, because the music is right up there with the original Grease. And like all good musicals, the music is a wonderful emphasis on the story. It’s a bit anachronistic in places, but I can listen to each song and remember exactly what’s going on in the story at the moment.
And yeah. I’ve been listening to the music a LOT.
I’ll admit it. This entry was nothing but a love-fest for things I’m enjoying lately. Rachael Herron’s memoir, music from a streaming show. I could start in on the Masterminds trilogy by Gordon Korman, but I’m only about halfway through the second book on that one. The only thing I’m not doing, it seems, is creating my own awful stories.
But I’m a step or two closer to starting revisions on Best Enemies Forever. Sudowrite wrote me a letter to tell me how to use it to help me revise things. Kind of shocking, actually. As a half-joke I wrote it a short letter asking how to revise existing things with the AI tool, and what it generated back at me was actually a reply letter.
As in, “Dear Sudowrite” was answered with “Dear Writer.”
I hope you’re having a wonderful-ish 2023. May your projects bring you fulfillment and happiness, whatever they may be.
As always, try to be the love you want to see in the world.