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(Thanks to the Author for writing and sharing with us!)
What Do I Know?
by Susan Speranza
Writers are often given advice as to how to go about their craft. One of the more frequent recommendations is to write what you know. But what is it that a person knows? And out of all the things we know, how do we choose which ones to write about?
Some writers take this advice literally; they believe that writing about what they know means writing only about things they have firsthand experience with. So their writings mirror their lives until it seems that there’s no division between reality and fiction. This is a trap that new writers often fall into.
But we know so many different things, and we have so many different kinds of knowledge that writers are capable of creating such things as allegories and fantasies – illusory worlds and dramas – while still heeding the advice to write what you know.
Even though by day I’m a librarian and research is my job, I knew when I set out to write the Tale of Lucia Grandi that I didn’t want to rely totally on research. I wanted to tell all the stories I had heard growing up, and I wanted to do it convincingly as if I had lived them. That led me to write in the first person. However, I found I couldn’t escape research entirely because a lot of these stories, particularly the ones that involved earlier periods, I needed to have accurate information in order to make the story authentic. So I applied my knowledge of research to the setting, hoping to make it seem believable.
But my knowledge is not solely related to setting – time or place. I – like many people – also know a great array of emotion and it was this knowledge I wanted to draw upon while fashioning my characters.
So my advice to new writers is indeed write what you know, but figure out what exactly you do know and how you can use it to make your story come alive – because that’s your ultimate goal.
Tale of Lucia Grandi's Book Description
The Tale of Lucia Grande, the Early Years
When an old woman is asked to tell the story of her life, she tells is an intense and poignant tale about growing up in and surviving an irrational, warring suburban family during the 1950s and 60s. The narrative is told from Lucia’s perspective as the second child where she and her siblings are caught in the middle of a lifelong war between her mother, Ruth, an overbearing, unhappy homemaker, and her father, Leonard, a manipulative, sometimes violent New York City cop. Lucia is the silent, thoughtful eyewitness to her parents’ constant and sometimes life-threatening battle.
The story is told as a memoir; each chapter describes a particular incident in Lucia’s life which shows the constant struggle between her parents and the perverse effect it has on her and her siblings. From her complicated and unwanted birth, to her witnessing a suicide at age 3, to her stint as a runaway at age 14, the story progresses to the final crisis where as a young woman, she is turned out of her house and banished from her family forever.
This timeless story of one woman’s courageous attempt to come to terms with her past and the troubled family that dominated it is powerfully and poignantly told.
This novel recently made it to the Quarter final rounds in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Amazon reviewers called it great storytelling and the wrote that the prose “ flows with such beauty you are holding your breath to eagerly read each word!”
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