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Friday, February 6, 2015

Writing Quote: Frank McCourt on "Angela's Ashes"

In August of 1994 I started writing Angela's Ashes. I was sixty-four years old…I began by writing in the past tense about my parents meeting in New York and having me. Then, suddenly--it's on page nineteen of the book--I wrote a sentence in the present tense that says: "I'm in a playground on Classon Avenue in Brooklyn with my brother Malachy. He's two, I'm three. We're on the seesaw." I meant it just as a note to myself for the next day: how to continue. But the next day I continued where I had left off, in the present tense, in the voice of the child on the seesaw. It felt very comfortable, and I just kept going with it. The whole book is in the present tense, with a great lack of punctuation and with simple sentences and a simple vocabulary. It was kind of a mosaic: bits would come to me and I'd put them down. It wasn't a linear process, though in general the narrative follows the "Once upon a time" format right to the end.

Frank McCourt in Inventing the Truth, edited by William Zinsser, 1998 

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