How had I lived so long and gone to so many writing conferences without running into blogger/memoirist/TV script writer Stephanie Klein, the petite New Yorker with a head of wild copper-colored curls who was the keynote speaker at the 2017 DFW WritersConference in Dallas.
The popularity of her original blog, Greek Tragedy, focused on life after her divorce. Its popularity gained her the title “Internet Queen of Manhattan,” and led to the publication of her first book, Straight Up and Dirty: A Memoir, about moving on after divorce. It was followed by a second book, Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp. A third memoir, about her too improbable to be fake stint as a Girl Scout leader in Texas, is in the works.
In this post, and especially for the benefit of those who already heard her conference speech, I’ll also include quotes from the conference’s “Book to Film” class whose speaker, Dallas film executive Will Evans, invited her to join him, as well as from her role as a panelist on “What Makes a Publishable Memoir.” (No, I have not been stalking Klein. How could you even think that? These were purely serendipitous occurrences!)
So, how does a magna cum laude graduate of Barnard College, who married the “mensch-nest door” move on after her perfect marriage came to a bitter end? Wildly. And detailed in detail on her blog.
(The popular post about the guy who was into Pam cooking spray – “and not because he wanted to cook me an egg” – had to be taken off before her first book came out. Who, her publisher asked, would pay money to read about it if they could see it for free on the internet? When asked, she first told the questioner in the audience “there’s a book in the lobby, it’s in chapter one.” In response to later questioning, she would only admit that it involved one person going north while the other was intent on going south. With cooking spray. Hopefully, no gorgeous auburn locks were injured in the process.)
That’s the kind of bone-deep honesty that she recommends for memoirists. Well, that and what she called “the observational stuff. . . what the artist notices that makes the good story. Not the expected, not the cliché.
“Don’t ask permission to tell the stories you need to tell. People will connect with you because you’re authentic and real. And not because of how promiscuous you are. The minute you fear what other people will say is the minute you become inauthentic.”
(She then confessed that even she thinks it’s a little weird that she dedicated the first book to her father. In answer to his hope that she “took a little poetic license” in her telling, she can only say, “OK, Dad, whatever let’s you sleep at night.”)
Her second book, Moose (“and not just Moose, but Moooose” as she heard in her school hallways), is the source of her equation: tragedy + time = comedy. (She confessed to recently taking a course in writing comedy, “which left me constipated,” but insisted she doesn’t try to sound funny, and it’s not her fault that people find her writing hilarious.)
Still, she’s happy to take the cash, including payment for writing the pilot for a TV series based on Straight Up and Dirty. She did, however, turn down a request to do a reality show of her life, which includes a new husband and twin children. A camera in the house? “Sounds like a recipe for a second divorce!”
See Klein’s site for more, including book excerpts, and musings on relationships, food, beauty, and parenting, where “Mother,” she says, is a verb.
(Tomorrow: author J.C. Davis’s tips on crafting fabulous first sentences for our own books, and a contest for those who dare to craft the truly awful.)