Gentile reader, and you, Jews, come too. Follow Sue William Silverman, a one-woman cultural mash-up, on her exploration of identity among the mishmash of American idols and ideals that confuse most of us—or should. Pat Boone is our first stop. Now a Tea Party darling, Boone once shone as a squeaky-clean pop music icon of normality, an antidote for Silverman’s own confusing and dangerous home, where being a Jew in a Christian school wasn’t easy, and being the daughter of the Anti-Boone was unspeakable. And yet somehow Silverman found her way, a “gefilte fish swimming upstream,” and found her voice, which in this searching, bracing, hilarious, and moving book tries to make sense of that most troubling American condition: belonging, but to what?
Picking apricots on a kibbutz, tramping cross-country in a loathed Volkswagen camper, appearing in a made-for-television version of her own life: Silverman is a bobby-soxer, a baby boomer, a hippy, a lefty, and a rebel with something to say to those of us—most of us—still wondering what to make of ourselves.
Paperback: 248 pages (also available in e-formats)
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (March 1, 2014)
Twitter hashtag: #SueSilverman
The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White, Anglo-Saxon Jew is available as a print and e-book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, as well as at your local bookstore.
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White, Anglo-Saxon Jew, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Tuesday, April 8 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author:
Sue William Silverman is the author of three memoirs. Her first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, won the AWP award series in creative nonfiction. Her second, Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction (W. W. Norton), is also a Lifetime Television original movie. Her latest is The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew. Her poetry collection is Hieroglyphics in Neon, and Fearless Confessions: A Writers Guide to Memoir (University of Georgia Press) reveals all she knows about the art of memoir writing. She is associate editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, and teaches in the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has appeared on such national TV shows as The View, Anderson Cooper-360, and CNN Headline News.
Find out more about the author by visiting her online:
Sue Silverman’s website: http://www.suewilliamsilverman.com/
----------Interview by Jodi Webb
WOW: Your memoir was so interesting because it matched up two unlikely parts of your life: your love of Pat Boone and your struggle to fit into a community that wasn't exactly your ideal. It was such a fascinating choice. What made you combine these two divergent parts of your life into one memoir?
Sue: Growing up, I had a crush on Pat Boone, a pop-music idol. I loved his music, but, on a deeper level, I was drawn to his squeaky-clean, wholesome Christian image. In fact, I wanted him to adopt me. Because my Jewish father hurt me, abused me, Pat Boone, a family man with four beautiful daughters, became an image for me of the ideal father, someone who represented a kind of safety lacking in my own home.
On a practical level, as an adult living in West Michigan, I happened to see a newspaper article about Pat Boone giving a concert near my home. I bought a ticket. After the concert, held in a mega-church, I barged backstage to meet him.
In other words, this connection between the overtly Christian Pat Boone and my shaky Jewish identity already existed in real life, so it seemed fitting to combine them in my book. Thanks to serendipity—that I attended this concert and met him—I was given a way to make the exploration of that connection very personal and immediate in my writing. For that, I’m grateful.
As writers, we always need to seek these connections in our lives and explore them.
WOW: This is your third memoir and it is definitely a change from your earlier works. So how do you go about looking at your life and saying, this is the aspect I want to share? Were you planning to use a lighter tone or did it just develop that way?
Sue: After writing about the darkness of growing up in an incestuous family (my first memoir) and the subsequent sexual addiction (in my second), I was ready to write a book that wasn’t as dark.
In this way, I was lucky that this particular subject matter lent itself to a more ironic and, at times, playful quality. I mean, there’s an aspect of my attraction to Pat Boone that is extremely ironic—even absurd—although an absurdity that is (hopefully!) humorous and constructive.
Also, unlike my previous memoirs, The Pat Boone Fan Club is a collection of thematically related essays. This allowed me to use a wider range of voices and tones.
WOW: With three memoirs, a how-to book on memoir writing and countless memoir writing classes to your credit, I feel you're our memoir expert. What is the best piece of advice you could give to budding memoir writers?
Sue: Thank you! Here’s a suggestion I always give my new students: When you’re writing about your life, it’s important to look for the “story behind the story.” In other words, a memoir isn’t just a straight-forward narrative of what happened to you, as in “first this happened, then this next thing happened.”
Rather, the goal of memoir writing is to discover why something happened to you. What does it mean? What are the metaphors that convey the experience? Writing memoir is like following a whisper into the depth of any given experience in order to convey a more universal meaning. So dig deep, emotionally, when you write your life story. I know this can be scary! But it’s also enlightening to discover those hidden meanings in our lives.
WOW: Have you done other types of writing? What made you decide that memoir writing was the type of writing you wanted to focus on?
Sue: I actually started out writing fiction, and have published some short stories and a poetry collection. I’ve also written a few novels—bad novels!!—that aren’t, thankfully, published. It wasn’t until I switched to writing creative nonfiction that I found my emotionally authentic voice. Ironically, it was a former therapist, not a writing instructor, who encouraged me to write my true story!
WOW: Memoirs are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, even Scholastic Children's Books is actively looking for memoirs for children (my son actually just bought one by a cartoonist). Why do you think memoirs are so popular?
Sue: I love that your son is reading a memoir! I’m delighted that this genre is available for young readers.
Reading about someone’s personal experience is very powerful. Being emotionally vulnerable on the page allows a reader to enter your world, albeit, yes, artistically rendered. A memoir, regardless of subject matter, conveys the human condition, addressing universal concerns, to which we all can relate.
I think aspects of society can be alienating, so immersing yourself in someone’s true narrative is a way to feel more connected. I receive hundreds of heartfelt e-mails from my readers thanking me, in effect, for telling their story, too. In this way, I feel as connected to my readers as they feel toward me.
WOW: Of your four books, three are by university presses and one by a large New York publisher. Can you tell us a little about the differences between the two types of publishers and if you prefer one type of publisher over the other?
Sue: My first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) award in creative nonfiction. The prize included publication with the University of Georgia Press. So no choice there!
After that publication, I happened to meet an editor at W. W. Norton at a writers’ conference. She asked me what I was working on. I told her I had a draft of a second memoir, Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction. She asked to read it and Norton bought it. I was very fortunate.
Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir came about because my first editor, at the University of Georgia Press, asked me if I’d consider writing a craft book. To be honest, I’d never considered writing one, but when you’ve got a publisher offering a contract for an unwritten book, you always say “yes”!
Now, with The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, I’m with the University of Nebraska Press. They have an American Lives Series (series editor Tobias Wolff) that I like a lot. I met the editor of the press at one of the annual AWP conferences, and she invited me to submit this book once it was completed. Nebraska’s interest and invitation to submit meant a lot to me. I admire the press, and I thought The Pat Boone Fan Club would be a good fit for this particular series. I’m delighted they thought so, too!
Oh, and my poetry collection, Hieroglyphics in Neon, is published with Orchises, a small, wonderful, independent press.
Frankly, I’ve been very lucky. All of my publishing experiences, with all these various editors, have been excellent. I’ve received good advice and attention from commercial, university, and “small” presses.
WOW: Do you think emerging writers would benefit more from approaching small presses or large publishing houses?
Sue: For many writers, both emerging and established, it can be a more comfortable publishing experience to work with a university or smaller independent press. There can be a more intimate working environment and, since they are non-profit, they tend to keep books in print longer.
The large for-profit New York publishers, generally speaking, let a book go out of print fairly quickly if it doesn’t make it big within a few months. But if you think you’ve got a book that’s going to be a big seller, sure, try New York. Obviously, the budgets those presses offer for advances and advertising are much larger than what university presses can afford.
If, on the other hand, you’re comfortable with less money and a smaller print run—and are more interested in knowing your book will stay in print—you might want to consider a university or small, independent press. It really comes down to your own comfort level.
Most importantly, become familiar with the books any given house publishes before you submit your own.
WOW: Could you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you write daily? When? Where?
Sue: I try to write every day, but it doesn’t always work out that way! When I’m in the middle of a writing project, I write as soon as I awake in the morning. In fact, overnight, I keep my laptop on the floor beside the bed and, first thing in the morning, I just plop it on my stomach and write for a few hours while the world is still quiet.
Later in the day, when I mix writing with answering e-mails (and a quick check on Facebook), I work at my desk in my home office.
I also teach at the low-residency MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. So when I receive my students’ monthly packets, they get my full attention. No writing, then. But I love to teach, so I find that to be a good balance.
WOW: How do you develop book projects? Do you just decide on a topic and begin writing or do you look at your daily writing and a theme or piece jumps out at you as a possible book project?
Sue: The first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, about growing up in my incestuous family, was kind of a given. My childhood weighed so heavily on me that I reached the point where I had to write it. I had to get the experience “out of me” and onto paper.
Then, because my struggle with sexual addiction was a direct result of the incest, Love Sick seemed to be the obvious second book.
The Pat Boone Fan Club didn’t begin as a book. Initially, there was just the title essay, which I published as a stand-alone piece. Then, I simply continued to write essays on a seemingly wide range of subjects, all of which I thought were stand-alone essays, and so were published individually. I was a few years into this project when I realized all the essays, in one way or another, were about a life-long spiritual crisis and search for identity (a result of the incest). It was then I thought I could craft these essays into a thematically congruent book. To do so, I revised the already written essays to more clearly align with the theme and then went on to write new sections specifically for the book. That’s how The Pat Boone Fan Club evolved!
WOW: What are you working on now?
Sue: I am, in fact, working on yet another memoir! I’ve got a very rough first draft that only now seems to be taking shape. It, like The Pat Boone Fan Club, is more ironic than dark, but I’m not sure I’ve totally nailed down the theme yet. I think it’s (more or less) about my encounters with the medical health-care establishment—given that I have an amorphous fear of dying and a tendency to be a hypochondriac! Well, it’s about more than that, too, but that’s probably as much as I know right now. Hopefully it’ll all come together!
WOW: And we'll all be anxiously waiting to see how it comes together!
----------Blog Tour Dates
Monday, March 31(today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview with Sue Silverman and a chance to win The Pat Boone Fan Club!
Wednesday, April 2 @ Caroline Clemmons
Ever wonder what inspires writers? Learn what made Sue William Silverman, author of The Pat Boone Fan Club, want to write.
Thursday, April 3 @ Choices
Ready for a shocker? Then stop by to read Writing Taboo Topics: Incest, Sexual Addiction, and – gasp?! – Pat Boone!! by Sue William Silverman, author of the memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club.
Saturday, April 12 @ Vickie S. Miller
Stop by for a review of Sue Silverman's latest memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club and a chance to win your own copy.
Monday, April 14 @ The New Book Review
Don't miss a review of Sue William Silverman's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club.
Wednesday, April 16 @ Words by Webb
Learn more about Sue Silverman’s obsession with Pat Boone and share your own musical obsessions.
Monday, April 21 @ National Association of Memoir Writers
Don't miss a review of Sue Silverman's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club by the memoir experts: the National Association of Memoir Writers.
Wednesday, April 23 @ CMash Reads
Do you wear a mask? Find out by reading Sue William Silverman's The Mask that Reveals: Discovering the authentic person among the many roles we play; or, fake it ‘til you make it. And don't miss a chance to win her memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club.
Thursday, April 24 @ Memory Writers Network
Jerry Waxler gives us his thoughts on The Pat Boone Fan Club by Sue Silverman and an interview with author Sue Silverman.
Friday, April 25 @ All Things Audry
Learn How Pop Culture Shapes the Self from memoir writer Sue William Silverman.
Monday, April 28 @ Memoir Writer’s Journal
Stop by to learn about The Baby Boomer Syndrome: Serial Personalities…or how many memoirs does it take to discover you? in a guest post by memoir writer Sue William Silverman.
Tuesday, April 29 @ Thoughts in Progress
Memoirist Sue William Silverman writes about everyone's favorite topic: love. Don't miss April Love: What the first romance reveals and enter the last giveaway to win Sue's memoir The Pat Boone Fan Club.
Friday, May 2 @ National Association of Memoir Writers
Do you wonder what makes writers tick? Well, you can hear the tick-tock of memoirist Sue Silverman in today's interview.
Sunday, May 4 @ Vickie S. Miller
Follow memoirist Sue Silverman on "The Crooked Path: The Journey Out of a Damaged Childhood".
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