Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pamela Redmond Satran

Pamela Redmond Satran is the author of the New York Times bestseller How Not To Act Old, based on her blog of the same name, as well as of five novels and the coauthor of ten baby name guides. She is also a developer of the website and the cowriter of The Glamour List.

Among the topics covered in How Not To Act Old, the book:
-- How not to facebook old
-- How to grind without totally embarrassing yourself
-- What to say to get out of holding the baby
-- Why you should never bring donuts to work
-- How to die cool, if you absolutely must
Late last month I asked Satran what she was reading. Her reply:
Methland by Nick Reding – As gripping and terrifying as a horror novel, though I never read horror novels, Methland is a non-fiction book about the destruction of a small town in Iowa by the meth epidemic. I’m working on a new web project, a kind of serialized novel based on a television show I invented a few years ago, that’s set in the Meth Belt of Middle America. One of my characters is a meth addict and another is on his way there. I am totally fascinated by this and find myself relishing this dark true-life read especially while I’m writing so much humor stuff. The only daunting thing is that the truth is so much more outrageous and otherworldly than anything I could invent.

Julia Child’s My Life in France – This was sent to me as a review copy, and I grabbed it one day as I was heading out the door to the lake. I hadn’t yet seen Julie & Julia, had not read that book, and had never been especially interested in Julia Child. But I found this book unexpectedly transporting as the tale of a middle-aged woman’s discovery of herself, of her true calling, and of ambition. Even now, there’s so little that celebrates over-40 professional women and since images of age and of old and young have been much on my mind because of How Not To Act Old, I found this particularly illuminating. I was especially impressed that Child was able to recall and recount all this for her nephew when she was in her 90s.

When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson – I’ve really loved this series of Kate Atkinson detective novels, set in England and Scotland, but what I didn’t expect when I read this on a plane from Paris to New York was that it would revolutionize my thinking about a novel I’ve been working on for three years now. She’s so wonderful at inhabiting her very different characters’ points of view in a very intimate third person voice, that it gave me a window into what I needed to do with my own novel. She also has the very rare and enviable ability to be extremely funny while writing about very dark things. I started a fresh draft after reading this novel that’s much closer to each of my three main characters’ viewpoints and is much improved, thanks to Atkinson’s influence.

Perfection, by Julie Metz – This memoir of a wife who discovers her husband’s many affairs after he drops unexpectedly dead was one of the summer’s big beach reads, which is exactly where I devoured it in less than two days. I’ve been thinking of doing a marriage memoir of my own, so I was reading it with part of my brain meditating such questions as whether I’d be willing to reveal as much as Metz did, and if my story was intrinsically as juicy as hers. But – and this is great testament to an author from a fellow writer – ultimately I was able to get out of thoughts about my own theoretical project and be transported by her book.

Bird in Hand by Christina Baker Kline – Christina, Alice Elliott Dark, Benilde Little, and I have for many years had a novelists’ group in which we talk about craft, business, and occasionally trade manuscripts. Christina’s just-published novel is a wonderful examination of four people and the relationships they make and break with each other over many years. Having read this book in a couple of drafts and reading it again now reminds me that writing fiction means changing the details and events and changing them again until you arrive at the most compelling possible story.
Visit Pamela Redmond Satran's website.

--Marshal Zeringue