Gail Godwin, famed novelist and short story writer, reminisces her pre-published hunger for literary recognition in her memoir Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir, released mid-January.

Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir

Raised as a native of mountainous North Carolina, Godwin wasn’t exposed to the publishing world until she attended the University of Iowa and earned her PhD in English Literature, after finishing her M.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While attending the workshop, she studied as a pupil to prominent literary figures, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Coover. She subsequently produced her first novel, The Perfectionists, which was published by Harper & Row, sparking her vibrant, 45-year career as a beloved author, as outlined in the memoir.

Since her first book, over the course of half of her lifetime, she has published two short story collections, two volumes of her journals, one non-fiction work and thirteen novels, five of which were New York Times Bestsellers.

Godwin’s literary confidence is scattered throughout the memoir. The pages are saturated with honest humility, quoting fellow admired writers and describing experiences that seem unexaggerated and wrought with truth – a style uncommon in most memoirs.

Godwin interweaves characters from her fiction into her own experiences, considering them a major part of her life. She reminisces on her relationships with teachers, editors and fellow colleagues in a memorable way, describing her experiences vividly. And, in addition to discussing literary and professional breakthrough and what it’s like to live in the public eye after being published, Godwin includes many heart-tugging remembrances of her warm relationship with her mother.

Publishing’s tone is one that every writer with a desire to be recognized can relate to, and is most evident in a moving sentence, in which Godwin quotes the Anglo Saxon poem “The Wanderer”:

“I was ‘she who is solitarily situated’ on my night walks, marking to the beat of a doomed language.”

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