Last year, I had the opportunity to meet Joyce Maynard, renowned author of sixteen books of fiction and non-fiction. Most notably the bestselling memoir At Home in the World. She was a guest lecturer at a writer’s workshop I attended in Tucson. I vividly remember one piece of advice Joyce gave the group: That as writers it was up to us to tell the forbidden story.
As a memoir writer, I believe every bit of what Joyce had to say. I strive to keep her gem of literary gumption at the forefront of what I produce. Telling the truth with personal passion. Exploring every emotion with honesty. Delivering authenticity in everything I write and publish. Anything less would be misleading and manipulative.
On the final night of the workshop, Joyce stood in front of the group and read a chapter from her latest book, The Best of Us. It’s the story of the love she shared with her husband Jim and their profound journey before, during and after his battle with pancreatic cancer shattered their lives. I was fortunate to be one of fifty or so other writers in the room that night. All of us were captivated by the poetic poignancy of Joyce’s chosen words and the gift of hearing her tell her story in her own voice with her own inflections.
This past week I finally had the time to read The Best of Us cover to cover on my flight from Phoenix to Chicago and back. The book is a testament to the power of love and loss. An ode to capturing the fleeting, indelible moments (both sweet and bitter) that come with only the most rare once-in-lifetime relationships.
Thank you, Joyce, for telling your personal forbidden stories. For sparing no details about the loves and losses in your life. You give all writers something beautiful, truthful, grand and glorious to aspire to.