Review: My First Novel — Tales of Woe and Glory edited by Alan Watt

Review by Kacy Muir

Alan Watt My First Novel cover pencil over words of the contributor namesFor us writers, there will always exist a source of anxiety. The way our words gather on the page, submission, rejection, and, of course, the in-between. The latter, for the most part, is where we spend much of our time—a purgatory: sometimes better, sometimes worse, but without cessation, a place where we continue to reach up.

But we are not alone, at least not according to My First Novel: Tales of Woe and Glory (Writers Tribe Books, 2013), a collection of stories that delve into the good, the bad, and the awesome of what it is to be a writer. Edited by author and screenwriter Alan Watt, the anthology features more than 20 writers of varying genres and backgrounds and their stories, as the title suggests, of woe and glory.

Watt’s collection includes a diverse range of voices (his included) that captivate and pull the reader in, not only due to skilled writing, but also in large part of the honesty behind each of the writers’ stories. Through each of the pieces, readers come to find that the ultimate goal of the collection is not to dissuade writers or enchant them into believing the writer’s life is easy, but rather for them to continue the pursuit, regardless of its challenges.

My First Novel, as a whole, is stunning, but there exists an impeccable few worth mention: “Write Until It’s Over” by Alan Watt; “Labor” by Cynthia Bond; “Ass Backwards and Clearly Impossible” by Merrill Markoe; and last but not least, “On Torch” by Cheryl Strayed. In the latter piece, Strayed, author Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, leaves readers with a lesson about ego. We learn that writing, more than anything is a fight against our sense of self, and only when we choose to write for ourselves, can we succeed. As she notes in her piece: “I wanted to write the best novel that has ever been written in the world, but I finally had to let go of that and simply write the best novel I could write.”

In the same vein as Strayed and her fellow contributors, the ability to remain open becomes the overarching theme of the book, tying well to the best piece of writing advice I was ever given: Write what you know. In later years, I would revise that to become: Write what you know. Write what you don’t know, too. That’s the thing — we spend so much of our time being comfortable and writing what we know and, sure, it might be good, but sometimes taking the risk to do what scares us the most — the ‘I don’t know bit’ — can often bring out the best. As Watt advises, the key then becomes to keep writing, keeping to what Samuel Beckett once said: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

My First Novel: Tales of Woe and Glory is that book you give to your best writer friend — the one who needs a little inspiration after they have completed their umpteenth revision, yet threaten to hold it over the bin. We complete the work understanding the power of never giving up. Instead, we fight the good fight like John Bender in The Breakfast Club, reaching, fist high in the air — knowing we finally got it right.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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