by Jerry Waxler
Scanning the memoir shelves at Barnes and Noble, I picked up a book I never heard of called Publish This Book by Stephen Markley. The subtitle tickled my imagination, “The Unbelievable True Story of How I Wrote, Sold and Published This Very Book.” Interesting! I kept reading the cover copy. The author is 24, a surprising age for a memoir writer. I flipped it open to sample the style, and liked what I saw. So I bought it.
Many new memoirs languish on my reading pile for months. Markley’s book, with its promise of irony, suffered no such fate. I began reading it almost immediately. And unlike many other memoirs that I set aside after 10 or 20 pages, “Publish this Book” never stalled out.
I loved the style and sense of humor (I laughed out loud quite a few times), and kept finding fabulous observations about the human condition and the project of writing a memoir. I made it all the way to the end, where there was one more test to go. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely! I was delighted with the experience, and felt it was a worthwhile read.
Almost four decades ago, I too struggled to make the transition from child to adult, a nerve wracking period filled with confusion and bad choices. Much of my life since then, I have been trying to make sense of the chaos of college during the Vietnam War and the post-college hippie detour. Many years of therapy helped, but my best leap towards understanding came when I turned my life into a story. I find that reading and writing memoirs is the best way to make sense of a life. And even though “Publish this Book” takes place now, in the twenty-first century, it provides fascinating glimpses into the mind of a young man trying to become an adult.
In addition to helping me understand my youth, the book provided a window into today’s world. It’s crazy out there, and instead of Vietnam, there are many other obstacles. “Publish this Book” helps me see this world through younger eyes.
And finally, I imagine college kids themselves would appreciate it. After all, Markley recently emerged from those hallowed halls himself. If I was that age, I would be interested in knowing what to expect. I looked on Amazon to see what other readers thought. Several reviewers liked it as much as I did. The reviews were sort of “positive flames” ranting about how great the book is.
I’ve decided this book ought to be the next Big Thing and the author Stephen Markley ought to become a cult hero, as embedded in our cultural canon as J.D. Salinger or Kurt Vonnegut, who captured the anxiety of being young and trying to grow up. So I had to hurry and interview Markley before he became too famous. It turned out he is as prolific and generous with his interviews as he is with his book. Read my six part interview with Stephen Markley, starting here.
More memoir writing resources
To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.
To order my short, step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.