One Page at a Time (On a Writing Life)
by Pat Carr

Texas Tech University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-896-72716-8.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 11/29/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Creative Life

It was the cover of One Page at a Time that attracted me first. I love that vintage typewriter and the combination of mauve and green used in the cover design. Then it was the words, "one page at a time" that intrigued me. I know a book won't do the writing for me but I really appreciate how-to books for their encouragement, support, and writing prompts to keep me going. "One page at a time" seemed to be good advice. As it turns out, this isn't a how-to book. One Page at Time is Pat Carr's memoir about her writing life. The fact that each page is a personal essay is inspiring indeed.

Carr writes of her early beginnings growing up next door to a Japanese relocation camp in Wyoming in the 1940s; her love affairs; her marriages (there were two); her teaching—with lots of gossip about the writers she worked with such as Toni Morrison, Raymond Carver, and Barbara Kingsolver; her travels; and her publishing history. The single page episodes work very well. It's quite amazing how much can be revealed in a page—although I must say there isn't a lot of room for an emotional response to events on the part of the author, when there is only a one-page vignette.

Often Carr uses first names only so as not to disclose the identity of the person. In fact, at the end of the book, she says she did change a few names, omit a few and "leave out occasional surnames for anonymity." Some people, Carr said, "didn't merit a page, some were too important for a page, with some I had no conflict and hence no narrative resolution..." So many names does get confusing at times, especially when a first name is given before we find out who the person is. Carr's sister Honey is mentioned, for instance, before we learn her identity a few pages later. Other people from Carr's life appeared on the "periphery" of her story; those people include her four children who "actually make up the core of my being." I was glad to read that, as Carr mentions the births of her children in her one-page stories as if in passing. Sometimes we just can't write about the people who mean the most to us.

Point of view becomes a theme for Carr as she realizes that "the only way to reach the truth—and be an author worth reading—was to be a writer who mined personal events, who experienced settings, and who infused a narrative with her own point of view."

Pat Carr is the author of fifteen books, including The Women in the Mirror, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award. She has published more than a hundred short stories in the Southern Review, the Yale Review, Best American Short Stories and others. She has taught creative writing and literature in universities across the southern United States. She lives in northern Arkansas. Visit her website.

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