Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award: Writing, Silver Medal
Part memoir, part handbook, part survey of the contemporary literary scene, Joan Frank’s Because You Have To: A Writing Life is a collection of essays that, taken together, provide a walking tour of the writing life. Frank’s aim is to form a coherent vision, one that may provide some communion about realities of the writer's vocation that have struck her as rarely revealed.
Frank offers what she has learned as a writer not only to other writers, but to those to whom good writing matters. Her insights about "thinking on paper" are never dogmatic or pontifical; rather, they are cordial and intellectually welcoming.
Original, witty, and practical, Frank ably steers us through the journey of her own life as a writer, as well as through the careers and work of other writers. Her subjects range widely, from the “boot camp” conditioning of marketing work to squaring off with rejection and envy; from sustaining belief in art’s necessity to the baffling subjectivity of literary perception and the magical books that nourish writers. Frank’s personal journey is wonderfully told, so that what in these essays is particular becomes useful and universal.
Joan Frank is the author of two story collections—In Envy Country (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010), winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize and the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, and Boys Keep Being Born—and three novels: Make It Stay, The Great Far Away, and Miss Kansas City, which won the Michigan Literary Fiction Award. She lives in northern California.
"Wittily, elegantly, disputatiously, passionately, Joan Frank lays bare the paradox-ridden psychology of the artistic vocation. She has a wised-up and intimate knowledge of the writing life's curriculum: doubt, fear, anticipation, rejection, recovery. Here is a writer speaking from the heart. Because You Have To delivers hard-won recognitions with an almost disconcerting fluency." —David Huddle, author of La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl and Nothing Can Make Me Do This
"Reading this book made me feel good about being a writer. There is no glorification of the art here; there is good sense and a talent for describing the paradoxes inherent in the writing life. Frank’s book is an unsentimental, refreshing tribute to the trials and to the happy satisfaction of making sentences that come out right, one after another, until by golly you have written a book. Because you had to.” —San Francisco Chronicle
"The struggle to write becomes the struggle to wrest clear-headedness from the anxious bread-and-butter strivings and obligations that demand our attention throughout the day. As the author of three novels . . ., two short story collections, and an earlier volume of essays, Joan Frank is one of the clearest-headed writers working. Because You Have To shows us how she gets the work done." —Bob Wake, coffeespew.org
"Joan Frank puts the fruits of her prolific writing career onto the page in her latest work, Because You Have To: A Writing Life . . . The Santa Rosa-based writer has produced two short story collections—including In Envy Country, winner of the Richard Sullivan Prize in Fiction—and three novels. In this writing memoir, Frank tackles the topics of rejection ('Rejection, then, is like the wake of a boat: proof of motion'), the dubious benefit of travel to the imagination, the art of writing character, envy, and 'death' of the book as we know it. Frank's sentences are highly stylized and don't shy away from making intellectual demands. . . . [I]t's an essay collection that's sure to inspire picking up the pen and writing with the same fervor, wisdom, and dedication as its author." —Bohemian.com
“In her new book . . . Frank gives readers a sense of what it is really like to be a serious writer . . . . It is a slim book (just 200 pages), and an absorbing one. Anyone who is a writer or who wants to be one, as well as anyone who loves reading, will enjoy and learn from this book.” —StephanieVandickReads
“Frank has two books out this year, one, a short novel of friendship and long marriage (Make It Stay) and, the other, a book of both instruction and inspiration for how to endure a long career as a writer (Because You Have To). The usual Frank frankness enlivens both volumes, along with prose that can be, simultaneously, lyrical and biting. The novel and the nonfiction book are charming examples of an author who can both show and tell.” —Notre Dame Review
“[Frank] offers non-nostalgic yet intimate insights into her writing life—not for conventional pedagogy, but to share tools about a journey that brings thoughts, stories, ideas, and feelings communicative to a world out there through pen and paper.” —Cerise Press
“This isn’t a Dummies guide or a ‘Secrets to Success’ book; it’s more like therapy for those who wield a pen or a keyboard to survive. . . This is for the minds that cannot turn off, with moleskin journals of caffeine-fueled rants and burning forearms from pen-scrawled manifestos in flipbook notepads. This is for writers.” —North Bay Bohemian
"On every page of these stunning essays, Frank lays bare the hardest truths of being a writer, and on every page she confesses her hopeless, passionate love for the pursuit. The artist’s conundrum has rarely been so eloquently voiced. Part erudite treatise, part love letter, Because You Have To is certain to find myriad ardent admirers of its own." — Robin Black, author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This
"Once in a blue moon a book on writing comes along that reads as though it's speaking directly to you. Because You Have To is just that: an honest and wise and brave account of what it means to be a writer in this odd new century. I recommend to you this rare thing, a book packed full of useful information that is also a work of art." —John McNally, author of After the Workshop