Sunday, February 11, 2018

Cheryl Reid

Cheryl Reid grew up in Decatur, Alabama. She studied art and writing at Agnes Scott College and earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University. She lives with her husband, three children, and a rescue dog called Django in Decatur, Georgia.

Reid's new book, her first novel, is As Good as True,.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I love books that employ imagery in specific and meaningful ways to deepen the narrative. So when I finished The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott, I was in awe. Throughout the novel, I felt as if I were in the room or on the street or on the train with the characters. The real treasure of the book is the weaving of narrative between and among characters. McDermott takes us close-up, offering internal glimpses into each character, their vulnerabilities and hopes, but also pulls out, so that each character can be seen through the others’ points of view. The novel has a cinematic feel, exploring each person’s desires and conflicts, and though a reader might not expect to find such deep longing, hope, bitterness and jealousy in a cast of nuns, a young widow and her daughter, McDermott paints a surprising and abundant landscape of their complicated lives. Her ability to delve intimately into her characters remind me of reading Chekhov’s stories.

I recently read Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002 by David Sedaris. The book felt like a “how to” for writers, and I enjoy books about the artistic process like Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings, King’s On Writing, or Baxter’s Burning Down the House. I love learning how different writers approach their work. In Sedaris’s diaries, you read about his day-to-day life and observations, but you also see how his artistic life unfolds. Some good lessons can be gleaned about the craft—write something every day (or almost every day), look at the world with a poet’s eye, and let nothing be lost. A fun assignment for a writing workshop would be to have the participants read Theft by Finding early on with the goal of keeping a diary like Sedaris for the duration.

Last fall, I read Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, and I so admire his complete originality. The stories within the novel are human and graceful, funny and heartbreaking. At once a play, a fictional narrative, and a historical collage of primary accounts, the story revolves around the death of Lincoln’s son Willie, and how each character experiences love and loss. The themes of human connection and love’s limits ground this transcendent story. The voices, worldly and other-worldly, are fine-tuned inside and out, creating an operatic experience that dares us to imagine what is possible in fiction.

I mostly read fiction because I’m greedy to study craft. But I do love a good journalistic non-fiction book, especially books that feel like novels. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is one such book: a heart-wrenching, dire, yet hopeful story that is at both outrageously beautiful and devastating. Right now I’m in the middle of David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI and what makes it so stunning are the beautifully selected and executed details that bolster the narrative.
Learn more about As Good as True by Cheryl Reid.

Coffee with a Canine: Cheryl Reid & Django.

The Page 69 Test: As Good as True.

--Marshal Zeringue