Week Thirty: Kathy Benson

Kathy Benson - Week 30 - Photo

What’s your favorite book and why?

Usually when I write my Today Voice posts I try not to read my fellow writer’s answers to the writing prompts until after I finish mine. However, one other time in the past year reading Tuesday’s Voice first helped me to find my voice that week. Once again I happened to read Brian’s words earlier this week and it changed the way I viewed this prompt about our favorite books.

I don’t really have a favorite book and wasn’t sure which of my favorites to share about here. M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree were among those I considered. But I really like how Brian shared the way one of his favorite books changed the way he thinks about writing, especially his own work. It reminded me of a post that I wrote on my blog late last year about a “game changing” book that I had read. It opened my eyes and my mind to a genre that I really enjoy reading and might try to write myself someday.

The book is The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow, who sadly died in a car accident in February 2012 soon after it was published. As I shared in my review of The Magic Room back then, I thought it was a truly extraordinary book. To say that I loved it is an understatement. Reading The Magic Room reminded me of watching two of my favorite documentary style television shows: 60 Minutes and Real Sports. I love the way the correspondents and producers on those programs tell stories. Likewise, Jeffrey Zaslow has a gift for drawing readers in and getting us to care about the characters he writes about, in this case women of all ages, shapes, sizes and backgrounds who have one thing in common: they are engaged to be married and are in the market for a wedding dress.

In The Magic Room Zaslow tells about the journeys to the alter of a number of brides-to-be with fascinating research mixed in about the history of marriage and wedding traditions. He talks about how both have evolved over the past century and what that has meant for the family who runs “Becker’s Bridal” shop in a small town called Fowler, MI, outside of Detroit, which has been in business for four generations. The bridal shop carries more gowns in stock than the town has residents!

I found that the description of the Becker family, especially how each generation has been torn as to whether or not to try to keep their business going in Fowler was reminiscent of the fictitious Bailey family, who ran the Bailey Building & Loan in Bedford Falls in my favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.

A master storyteller, Zaslow had me hooked and in tears as I read his introduction to The Magic Room. I love his intention of writing a book for his three daughters, as a sort of “love letter” about his hopes and dreams for them, before they are of age to consider marrying and sharing their lives with another person someday. It is especially bittersweet to realize now that when he wrote it Zaslow didn’t know he would not live to see any of their wedding days. Reading this book was also very nostalgic for me, as it moved me to reflect on my own journey to the alter and my life since my husband Bob and I were married in September 2000.

As I later shared on my blog in November 2012, reflecting on what I learned about my own writing interests and ambitions from reading The Magic Room, in recent years I have dreamed of writing, and have been actually working on, a memoir about my journey through secondary infertility and loss. I have also talked about that here at The Today Voice. I often wonder if and when I were to get my book published and wanted to write something else, what would it be. Though I like reading fiction, at this point in my life writing fiction doesn’t appeal to me. But when I read The Magic Room and this piece about Narrative Nonfiction by Mr. Zaslow I discovered a genre that I might try to write someday. This was the comment that I left on Mr. Zaslow’s piece for BlogHer On Setting & Structure in Narrative Nonfiction.

Thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom here. I appreciate the creative ways you came up with to tell the stories in each of the books you have written and/or contributed to. I dream of (and intend to work at) getting my own writing published someday and can never get enough inspiration from other writers, like you, who know and practice their craft so well. As an aside, I would love to read a book like The Magic Room set in a maternity ward. I heard someone say recently, that they used to think airports were the happiest and saddest places on Earth until they thought about maternity wards. As someone who has experienced some of the best (all three of my children’s births) and worst (the death of my second child/first daughter less than 15 minutes after she was born) moments of my life in a maternity ward, I know that to be true.

Thank you for writing The Magic Room. I thought it was a truly extraordinary book.

Reading The Magic Room became a game changer for me as a writer when it opened my eyes to the Narrative Nonfiction genre, something I would love to explore and try to write in the future, whether the stories I share take place in a maternity ward or focus on something else. I am fascinated by the process a writer goes through to be able to tell a Narrative Nonfiction story. I think it is so interesting how Mr. Zaslow immersed himself in the lives of the people who his stories tell us about. I hope to have the opportunity to do that someday.

I also realize that as a blogger I can experiment with Narrative Nonfiction without having to get a book published. A great example of someone already do this is one of my friends and favorite bloggers, Jjraffe from Too Many Fish Too Fry with her Faces of Adoption/Loss/Infertility series. I love her approach to profiling real people, as opposed to sensational stories, whose family building journeys have not gone as they hoped, dreamed or planned.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

________________________________

Kathy Benson is a bereaved and blessed mom, writer and group fitness instructor trying to live mindfully and find joy in the journey after dealing with secondary infertility and loss for five years. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two living children.

Kathy blogs at Bereaved and Blessed. You can also follow Kathy on Twitter @BereavedBlessed and her Facebook page.

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2 thoughts on “Week Thirty: Kathy Benson

  1. Wonderful post Kathy. I’m going to check out this book. I’m so happy my post helped you write yours. Books are weird in how they connect with each of us. I’m glad you found one that connected with you in this way, it’s a wonderful thing!

  2. Thank you so much Brian. I look forward to hearing what you think of The Magic Room after you read it. I have learned from my experience that writing begets writing and I used to think that was a more personal statement. But this prompt has shown me that reading others’ writing can also beget writing (such as your post this week or the books that we both chose to share about). So thank you for your part in teaching me that.

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