Part memoir, part handbook, part survey of the contemporary literary scene, Joan Frank's "Because You Have To: A Writing Life" is a collection of essays that, taken together, provide a walking tour of the writing life. Frank's aim is to form a coherent vision, one that may provide some communion about realities of the writer's vocation that have struck her as rarely revealed. Frank offers what she has learned as a writer not only to other writers, but to those to whom good writing matters. Her insights about "thinking on paper" are never dogmatic or pontifical; rather, they are cordial and intellectually welcoming. Original, witty, and practical, Frank ably steers us through the journey of her own life as a writer, as well as through the careers and work of other writers. Her subjects range widely, from the boot camp conditioning of marketing work to squaring off with rejection and envy; from sustaining belief in art's necessity to the baffling subjectivity of literary perception and the magical books that nourish writers. Frank's personal journey is wonderfully told, so that what in these essays is particular becomes useful and universal.
"Once in a blue moon a book on writing comes along that reads as though it's speaking directly to you. "Because You Have To" is just that: an honest and wise and brave account of what it means to be a writer in this odd, new century. I recommend to you this rare thing, a book packed full of useful information that is also a work of art." John McNally, author of "After the Workshop" "What I treasure is Joan Frank's voice, placed so beautifully in concert with those of a multitude of writers in our tradition. She has turned research into art and advice into song. No matter where you are in your artistic evolution, you will appreciate this writer blues, writer-opera, writer-jazz." David Huddle, author of "La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl "and "Nothing Can Make Me Do This" "Wittily, elegantly, disputatiously, passionately, Joan Frank lays bare the paradox-ridden psychology of the artistic vocation. She has a wised-up and intimate knowledge of the writing life's curriculum: doubt, fear, anticipation, rejection, recovery. Here is a writer speaking from the heart. "Because You Have To "delivers hard-won recognitions with an almost disconcerting fluency." Sven Birkerts, author of "The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age "and "The Other Walk: Essays " "Poignant and witty, trenchant and tender, lament and celebration wisdom deeply honed, in beautifully crafted sentences. A companion volume in the truest sense: a book for writers at every stage, through every mood of the writing life." Noelle Oxenhandler, author of "The Wishing Year "and" The Eros of Parenthood" "On every page of these stunning essays, Frank lays bare the hardest truths of being a writer, and on every page she confesses her hopeless, passionate love for the pursuit. The artist's conundrum has rarely been so eloquently voiced. Part erudite treatise, part love letter, "Because You Have To" is certain to find myriad ardent admirers of its own." Robin Black, author of "If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This" "There are craft books. There are "Just do it" books. There are memoirs. But "Because You Have To" is the story of what it is like to "be" a real literary writer in the 21st century, a story about time, money, desire, anxiety, and (complicated) community. It's about loving books, writing, and art. Occupational hazards of the writing life? Many. Pleasures for the reader? Plenty if Joan Frank is the writer, and "Because You Have To" is the book." Debra Spark, author of "The Pretty Girl.