I had never heard of Tracy Ross before coming across a short review of her new memoir, The Source of All Things, in a recent issue of Whole Living magazine. But the review intrigued me and I made sure the book was one of my purchases with the last gift card I had to spend from the holidays.
Ross tells a disturbing tale of sexual abuse at the hands of her step-father and the resulting self-destructive aftermath. Through it all, it was nature that helped Ross to heal and find the answers to the questions she was ready to discover. It's not an easy book to read, but it's a beautiful testament to the strength of Ross's character.
What was also interesting to me was what I took away from reading Ross's book. As a writer and a reader, I closed the cover on my nook with the realizations that:
*Ross's love for writing came after her love for nature and immersing herself within the elements on her many outdoor adventures all over the world. It might sound simplistic, but there's writing without focus because you know you love to write and then there's focusing on writing what you know. One will bring you great personal joy. The other will, too. The difference is that the audience won't give a damn about the first.
*I am not as brave as Tracy Ross. I primarily write non-fiction but focus on the funny and hide the rest of the bits in layers of snark and chuckles. It's part coping mechanism dealing with the crap I don't feel like focusing on and mostly just the way my writing voice naturally manifests itself. But to go into the detail that she did, Ross had to expose herself and those in her story in a very real way. No pretty filters to alter reality's image. Her ability to do so (and her family's willingness to allow her the much-needed opportunity to tell her truth) is something to be admired.
*a great memoir will surprise you at the end. Even if you think you know the whole story. A great memoir takes you on the same journey the author has traveled. A great memoir is hard to put down.
*that the often-touted advice to get your work in print to bolster that all important platform is often-touted for a reason. The Source of All Things first materialized as a feature length article in Backpacker Magazine in 2007. I read the original essay and it left me wanting more. The rest, as they say, is history.