Showing posts with label Authors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Authors. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Review of The World is My Home: A Memoir by James Michener

Review of The World is My Home: A Memoir by James Michener
Photo of Bora Bora, a favorite place of James A. Michener, Image by WikiImages from Pixabay 



James Michener's World



James A. Michener has packed 85 of his 90 years of life and travel memories into the 577 pages of The World Is My Home. As I read his book, I felt I was there with him. He walked alone in some of the world's most beautiful places.  He traveled by air with heads of state. He ate garbage on Navy transport ships commanded by drunk captains, and he had dinner with Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt. 

By reading The World is My Home I feel I've become acquainted with James Michener. I better understand why he wrote what he did.  I was impressed not only with his skill as a writer and the breadth of his knowledge,  but also with his humility. 


The World Is My Home


 The World Is My Home is a weighty book. Within its pages you will probably find out almost anything you could want to know about James Michener, his life, his motivations, and his values. Although he felt at home anywhere in the world, he never became an expat.  He believed he needed to stay connected to his American roots to feel nourished and he didn't want to lose touch with America.

If you like stories, he tells many in this book. He also talks about his writing life and his numerous interests.  I am amazed at how much was packed into one life. I can hardly begin to scratch the surface here about the content of this encyclopedic memoir. But if you are interested in the cultures of the world, Navy life, aviation, true adventures, writing, art, music, how subjects for postage stamps are selected, travel, bull fighting, the publishing industry, United States politics behind the scenes, what it takes to be a writer, what a novelist's life is like, how much it costs a publisher to print a book, how much a best-selling author gets paid, and any number of other subjects, you will want to read this book.

Who Was James A. Michener?


One might ask, which one? Writer James A. Michener shared his name with many others. One even lived in the same town. But James really was not a Michener at all. He never knew who his parents were. He had no birth certificate. He had been taken in by a widow, Mabel Mitchener, and used her name, but her dead husband's sisters would always make sure James knew he was not a Mitchener. Until he was a young man he wondered who his parents really were, but finally accepted the fact he'd probably never know. He decided not to bother his head about it anymore.

James' Childhood


Mabel was poor. She took in laundry and sewing work to make a living. As a boy James never had what other boys his age seemed to. Once his “mother” explained why he couldn't have roller skates, a red wagon, a bicycle, or a baseball glove, he acted as though they did not exist and closed his mind to them. In spite of the poverty he lived in, though, he always felt loved.

To help out he started earning money when he was nine by harvesting chestnuts from the forest and selling them around town. When he was eleven he got his first real job with the Burpee Seed Company. It taught him to hate phlox. He worked from 7 am until 5 pm six days a week. Of this time he says: “I have sown phlox, thinned phlox, hoed phlox, gathered phlox, and heaven knows what else, and if my birthday were tomorrow and someone were to give me a bouquet of the horrid flowers, I would punch him in the nose.” He gave the $4.50 a week he earned to Mabel.

Phlox flower
Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay 


James always worked at some job. He was apprenticed to a plumber when he was still young and he was good at plumbing. He considered quitting school to become a plumber, but his Uncle Albert squashed that idea and made him quit. He said, 'James, you were not intended to be a plumber.'

Later James was a paperboy and loved it. He got to know where everyone in town lived and learned many secrets about his neighbors, as well. He delivered handbills for the theater on Saturdays in exchange for seeing the movies free. During this time he gained his first insights into the motion picture industry.

His next job was with the Willow Grove Amusement Park, a job which tested his character. It provided cheap rides, food, and four free concerts a day. The job also enabled him to make friends with Victor Herbert, John Philip Sousa, and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra who often played at the park.

Jim was a cashier for one of the rides and soon learned that management didn't care if he gave too little change for entrance fees. Stealing from customers in this way was known as 'honest cheating' and management expected and tolerated it. 'Dishonest stealing' was when cashiers stole from the company. James only tried that once, but reformed quickly when an older cashier was arrested. Soon James was removed from his regular job and asked  to substitute for suspect operators when they were absent or on breaks and report to management if he found anything fishy. Management knew he had cheated that once and then stopped cheating on his own.

Attitude Toward Wealth


Because Jim grew up poor, one might think that he'd want to become rich someday, but he was not ambitious in that way. He was content with enough to support himself and a wife. When his books won prizes and became best sellers, he was pleased, but he still lived simply and gave away what he didn't think he needed for his expenses. He used his wealth to help others. He donated most of the royalties from his books. He felt he had a debt to pay back for the free public education he had received all the way through graduate school. He wanted to assist other young people who needed financial help to get an education.

Jim didn't like to negotiate book deals or discuss print run sizes. He left that to his agent. He wasn't arrogant or greedy,  and was content to let his agent look after him financially. 

Life Purpose


One night toward the end of World War II, James came close to being in a plane crash after leaving his duties in the Fiji Islands and exploring Bora Bora. (One reason he'd been sent there was to find out why none of the enlisted men wanted to leave when it was time to go home. You'll have to read the book to find the answer to that.) He was on his way back to headquarters in French New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific. When it was time to make a sunset landing at the Tontouta Air Base, the sky got dark and visibility was low. It took three tries to finally make a safe landing. He had known the third attempt to land would be the final one. It was a close call.

Later that night he went back to the airstrip to walk and to calm his nerves. He thought about what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He didn't come to a conclusion as to what work he wanted to do, but he decided 'I'm going to erase envy and cheap thoughts. I'm going to concentrate my life on the biggest ideals and ideas I can handle. I'm going to associate myself with people who know more than I do. I'm going to tackle objectives of moment.' He also decided that he would support the things he believed in.

It was at this point in his life he began to listen more carefully as other transients with travel orders told stories in the hotels. He looked for those with unusual experiences. He learned “what the Pacific adventure meant in human terms.” Although many complained, he believed that later, when they got back home, the ones who complained most would want to explain to others what their time in service had been like. He knew the Pacific better than almost anyone. He believed he could tell their stories more accurately than anyone else. From these stories came his first book, Tales of the South Pacific, which won a Pulitzer Prize. As you probably know, it was turned into a popular musical, South Pacific.




Michener did not like calling himself an author. He considered himself a writer. He believed good writing was “trying to use ordinary words to achieve extraordinary results.” Words fascinated him. I was happy to see he shared my appreciation for Rodale's Synonym Finder.



Should You Read This Book?


I would recommend this book to any writer who wants to learn more about writing and traditional publishing. Among other things, James was an editor at Macmillan for many years and he shares what he knows about the industry from the point of view of both writer and editor. Almost half the book is about writing.

If you are interested in travel, this book will show you most of the world. It also shows you military life during World War II.

If you are interested in art or music, you will find that James was, too. He started collecting art in postcard form early in his youth. His uncle brought him his first Victrola and some records when he was about seven. He became an opera fan and later branched out into other classical music.

If you are interested in politics, you can learn a lot from Michener. At one point in his life he ran for Congress and he takes us behind the scenes of a campaign. He didn't win, but he did get appointments to committees and we learn much about the workings of government from him. One of his committees selected who would be honored with a postage stamp. I was amazed at how controversial that was. There was pressure to honor Elvis right after his death, which was against the rule of waiting until someone had been dead for ten years. Lillian Gilbreth's family (remember Cheaper by the Dozen?) also put pressure on the committee to honor her. I enjoyed these stories.

Why Michener Wrote This Book


Jim was 85 when he wrote this book. He knew he was getting to the end of his life but he still still had the qualities that made him want to write when he was 45: "a passionate desire to communicate, to organize experience," and to tell stories.

In his own words, here's his reason for writing The World Is My Home: "I want the reader to see in careful detail the kind of ordinary human being who becomes a writer and then to see the complex and contradictory motivation that enables him to remain one."

I believe he achieved that goal. Don't miss this informative and entertaining book. Get it now while you are thinking about it. You will be glad you did. 










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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Social Media For Writers Reviewed

Authors Need To Market Their Work

writers market
Writer Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
One of the gifts that I just received for Christmas was the book Social Media For Writers. My daughter thought it might be helpful for me to brush up on the skills needed to be successful with the use of Social Media in regards to my marketing strategy in order to sell my books. 

If you are a regular reader of Review This, you are probably aware that I published my first Cozy Mystery novel in October of 2017. Then in November I published my second book in the series. It isn't like in the past when if you were lucky enough to find a publisher for your books who offered you a contract. Back then if you were a writer with a large publishing firm, they did a lot of the marketing for you. A lot of us have gone the self-publishing route which means that all of the marketing is up to us, the author. Even if we had a big name publisher we would need to market our own work. Most publishing companies of today only spend their advertising money on well known authors (who kind of don't need it but that is another topic all together!). 

Those of you who know me probably think that I probably already understand how to use social media because this isn't my first rodeo with a writing gig. I might have published my first fictional work but I've been around the block several times when it comes to promoting my online writing ventures. I do understand the basics of social media and use it regularly but I will admit not to its fullest potential. The game is different for authors in particular and let's face it...the way to use these social networks changes on a regular basis. How many times have you reached a point where you feel that you have figured it all out, to have one or two of the popular sites change the playing field? I'm guessing a lot!

So, I really appreciate my daughter gifting me this book! I'm reminding myself of the basics while being able to come up with a strategy for my writing and promotions.

What I like about this book by Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine is that it is written in an easy to understand format. As I said, I'm not new to social media but even if I were the content would be easy to understand. They do a really good job of explaining how each option works and best practices for a writer to use on each platform. They cover blogging, podcasting, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. Do they recommend that you try to use all of them? Actually, no. They understand that if one were to try to have a solid presence on all of them; there would be no time for the actual writing of the books. They suggest that you pick the three that you are most comfortable with and go from there.

As I am studying this book, I feel confident with their advice. They are both authors in their own right and I can tell by the content that they actually use social media to promote not just this book but a series of books that they have co-authored together. I don't know about you but for me that is huge. I'm sure that you have experienced the same as I have over the years with getting advice from a so called expert who has less experience than you do when the dust all settles.

I really like that the authors break down the formats and give realistic time frames for using them. Having experience with most of these social media networks, I can tell that they are giving good information on the time that can be invested in working with the different options. They are even honest about having invested a lot of time on a few of them and figuring out that for their needs and their time constraints, it wasn't worth it. That doesn't mean that you will come to the same conclusion because we all have different styles and comfort levels. I do appreciate their honesty in the results for themselves!

Now, I realize that not all of you are planning to write a novel or a work of non-fiction; that being said I do know that many of you have a strong online presence either contributing here on Review This or your own sites. Perhaps you contribute on another multi-user site. My point is that much of the information will be beneficial for your online work as well.

I know in the past, I have tried to have a presence on all of the social media sites. It doesn't take long to get burnt out trying to keep up. Reading a book like Social Media For Writers is helpful in reminding us of what it is we want to accomplish and the audience we are trying to reach. This book gives some realistic advice on coming up with a strategy that is not overwhelming and that with the proper effort put forth should offer a successful result. It is not going to happen overnight but with dedication and a good plan, it can happen.

I am finding this book very helpful and I think that many of you will, also. I know I am changing my strategy after having read it. I am going to concentrate on three platforms and not worry about all of the others. How about you? If you were going to limit your marketing to three platforms, which would you be willing to invest your time in?



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Monday, April 7, 2014

Mid-Atlantic Authors

Just in case you have not noticed, I love the Mid-Atlantic region. I’d love for everyone to experience a part of this area, whichever part they would enjoy most. Whether that enjoyment would come from the beach or the mountains, quiet countryside or bustling city, hot summer nights or cold snowy days... I wish everyone could have a personal experience here.

I realize that traveling and vacations are sometimes difficult.  Luxuries like travel are becoming increasingly difficult as the economy has taken such a toll on so many people.

When I can’t travel, and I usually can’t beyond this region, I turn to books.  I can read about faraway lands and adventures that I may never take. I already feel as though I’ve done a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail, even though I have only done a short walk on a couple of different portions of the trail in this immediate area. That is the magic of books.


I’d like for you to know about my three favorite Mid-Atlantic authors.

Suzanne McMinn writes about her life in rural West Virginia.

Tawni O’Dell tells us stories about coal mining areas, and the people who live there, in Pennsylvania.

Nora Roberts tells too many stories to list, but I want to point out that she tells us stories that take place in BoonsBoro, Maryland and on the Chesapeake Bay.

I hope you check out these authors and their stories.  And if you are interested, I’ve given you a place to help review these books and to browse more of their writing.

Until you can come to the Mid-Atlantic in person, pick up a book and travel here through the magic of words. Enjoy your adventure! 


Image Credit: Image is ©Dawn Rae – All Rights Reserved (Click on photo for larger view)



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