Frat House Reads | Dispatches From The Frat House

Category: Frat House Reads

Fast-Draft Your Memoir | Frat House Reads

Fast-Draft Your Memoir | Frat House Reads

My favorite nonfiction books are about writing — the craft, process, style, and the authors’ stories about their writerly ways. All of these books are dear to me, but there are some that rise above the rest, some that would be on my Favorites Shelf.

Fast-Draft Your Memoir by Rachael Herron tops all of them. No joke.

Let me start by saying that this book is absolutely not exclusive to writing memoir. This gem of a book is slam-full of writing process advice that pertains to any genre. I can not sing its praises highly enough (nor would I want to subject you to my singing… I like you too much to punish your ears with such a heinous assault).

Rachael Herron instructs in such an easy, funny, conversational style that I didn’t realize how much I was learning while reading. I highlighted the heck out of this book… my Clippings and Readwise accounts should have enough to keep them busy for quite a while! I read through nearly the entire book in one night, and have since read it again more closely and taken copious notes.

Rachael walks the reader through the entire writing process, from getting ideas, tackling self-doubt, and getting words on the page consistently, all the way to editing and publishing. The exercises are fun and highly informative, and the advice is practical and truly easy to implement. I now feel empowered and well-informed enough to even vanquish my mortal writing enemy… Editing. You’re going down, Editing.

For the first time, the thought of actually publishing a book feels doable. (Oh, I’ve written plenty, but editing and publishing knock me on my arse every time.)

Additionally, Rachael Herron distributes a writing newsletter and has a writing podcast called How Do You Write, in which she talks about practical writing advice with various authors. Both are wonderful weekly writerly treats.

If you’re even considering writing anything, regardless of the genre, regardless of your doubts and fears, grab this book. Seriously. My entire outlook on writing has been dramatically shifted because of it.

 

When We Were Worthy – Frat House Reads

When We Were Worthy – Frat House Reads

Being a part of the planner community has given me so many wonderful things, and becoming acquainted with author Marybeth Whalen is definitely one of them! I read her book titled The Things We Wish Were True last March, and I was hooked. I couldn’t wait for the release of When We Were Worthy.

For me, one of the hallmarks of a Really Good Book is that the characters stick with me, months and even years after I’ve finished reading the book. If I find myself in any given situation and randomly think, “I wonder what so-and-so-character would think/do about this,” then that book was a winner for me. Marybeth writes what I call “Stealth Characters”… they sneak into my subconscious unnoticed while I’m reading the book, and then they randomly pop into my head sometimes months later.

When We Were Worthy takes place in a small town in Georgia, where a car accident upends the lives of the entire community. The narrative shifts focus amongst four women who are involved with and affected by this accident in various ways. I personally enjoy books that employ multiple narrators, and I never found the shift between points of view jarring or distracting.

As the story unwinds in four different-yet-related directions, little glimpses at what might have happened or what might happen next are sprinkled throughout and kept my attention. More than once, I thought I had things figured out, and in one case I was correct. In one case, I was way off (I love it when that happens!).

Book Review: The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie

Book Review: The Sewing Machine by Natalie Fergie

It’s been ages since I posted a book review (yet another reason I wish there were 48 hours in a day), so you have to know that, if I post one, the book is way worth sharing.

The Sewing Machine has all of the things that I love in a story: multiple story lines, multiple generations, and enough intrigue to keep me turning the pages. Natalie has done all of this, and more, in The Sewing Machine, and that’s where the whole wonderful story starts… with a sewing machine.

Add to all of that handcrafting, women’s roles in the last several generations, being set in Edinburgh, and even a guest appearance by a Filofax, and I’m all in.

Let’s start with the synopsis from the book itself:

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents.  His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams. 

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.

There are three main storylines set in three different time periods within the last 100 years. Each chapter moves from one storyline to the next, which I never found jarring or confusing at all. Starting with the Singer Strike is genius; the scope of this strike is still impressive today as it involved a large number of the 11,000 employees who unified regardless of gender, vocation, or religious differences and brought one of the largest multinational companies in the world at the time to a standstill. This amazing stage is where we are introduced to Jean, whom I absolutely adore as a character. To me, Jean is Everywoman. She works hard, won’t stand for her father’s tyrannical ways, and makes the best of each challenge presented to her by rolling up her sleeves and digging in.

Jean’s actions filter down the generations to the present day, where we meet Fred. Much as Jean’s had been, Fred’s life is thrown into a tumult. We see Fred’s insight into navigating these changes through his private blog, which is another thread running throughout this story… record keeping. Fred’s life hits a point where everything falls apart at once, and he starts to pick up the pieces with the help of his memories of his grandparents.

There’s a whole bunch that happens in between those two time periods that I won’t talk about because it will give too much away, but I will say that I found reading about one time period just as interesting as any other in the story. I was just as interested in seeing what happened with the characters in the 1950s as I was in figuring out what was going on with the characters in the 1980s. And the way it all comes together in the end? (Insert Contented Reader’s sigh here.) Perfect, in my opinion.

This book was a rare treat, and I relished every word. Natalie has a way of writing that feels peaceful and captivating at the same time. It boggles my mind to figure out how she did it, but she pulled it off with beautifully.

Here in the States, you can find The Sewing Machine on Kindle. **EDITED TO ADD: if you’d prefer a physical copy, it is also available from the Book Depository!** It was published by Unbound, which is a fantastic resource for authors. For my readers in the UK (lucky you!), you can get a physical copy (did you see that beautiful cover?) from Blackwell’s Edinburgh at 0131 622 8222 or The Big Green Bookshop at 0208 881 6767 (I believe both will ship it for free).


Natalie Fergie is a textile enthusiast, and has spent the last ten years running a one woman dyeing business, sending parcels of colourful and unique yarn and thread all over the world. Before this she had a 27 year career as nurse and latterly, as a Health Visitor.

Natalie lives near Edinburgh with her husband, and a dog called Boris. Her sons have flown the nest.

The Singer 99k which was the inspiration for novel has had at least four previous owners, possibly more. It was bought for £20 from someone who lived in Clydebank, just a stone’s throw from the site of the factory where it was made a hundred years earlier.

It’s quite possible that there are another eight sewing machines in her house.


This is just one stop on Natalie’s Book Review Blog Tour… please check out all of the others!

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