Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer

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Beacon Press, 1997 - Biography & Autobiography - 166 pages
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Voice Lessons is a book about writing from a woman with a remarkable story to tell and an utterly distinctive voice in which to tell it. Nancy Mairs's essays have been called "triumphs... of will, style, candor, thought and even form" (Los Angeles Times). She has won acclaim for her autobiographical writing on themes from living with depression to renewing a marriage, from sex to religion. In Voice Lessons, Mairs's subjects are literary, but as always her approach is personal, revealing, and inspiring. Mairs first shares her sharply drawn story on how "finding a voice" as an essayist transformed her life when she was a graduate student, wife, and mother in her late thirties. In a tribute to the liberating power of literature and feminist ideas, she shows how the words of other writers made possible a new career, a new life in difficult times. Voice Lessons goes on to explore other women's writing and to outline a singular kind of literary life. Always grounding her writing in personal experience, always making ideas concrete, Mairs gives us essays on writing and the body, the challenges of autobiography, the revelatory power of Virginia Woolf and Alice Walker, the literature of personal disaster, and the art of dealing with rejection. Articulate, witty, incisive, and inspirational, Voice Lessons is a book for writers and aspiring writers, and for everyone who loves women's writing.

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Voice lessons: on becoming a (woman) writer

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In her distinctive way, Mairs (Carnal Acts, LJ 9/1/90; Ordinary Time, LJ 4/1/93) tells her story on becoming a writer by intertwining theory, writing, life, intellect, and wit. She shares her ... Read full review


Voice Lessons
Body at Work
In Search of In Search of
The Literature of Personal
The Writers Thin Skin
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About the author (1997)

Nancy Mairs was born Nancy Pedrick Smith in Long Beach, California on July 23, 1943. She received a bachelor's degree from Wheaton College in 1964. She worked as a publications editor for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge and the International Tax Program at Harvard Law School. She received an M.F.A. in poetry in 1975 and a doctorate in English in 1983 from the University of Arizona. Her dissertation was published as Plaintext: Deciphering a Woman's Life in 1986. In her late 20s, she suffered from agoraphobia and depression and once attempted suicide. Soon afterward, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She wrote several memoirs including Remembering the Bone-House: An Erotics of Place and Space, Carnal Acts, Ordinary Time: Cycles in Marriage, Faith and Renewal, Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled, and A Dynamic God: Living an Unconventional Catholic Faith. She also published two collections of poetry entitled Instead It Is Winter and In All the Rooms of the Yellow House. In 2001, she wrote A Troubled Guest: Life and Death Stories. She died on December 3, 2016 at the age of 73.

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