A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year

“Leaving home is perhaps the central experience of the Writer’s life. It is this enigma that informs the writer’s perspective – the restless pursuit of a way back while remaining steadfastly at a distance.”

Equal parts revelation and inspiration, these eleven essays combine a memoir of an exotic life, reflections on the art and craft of writing, and a brilliant examination of the always complex relationship between fiction and life. In Taming the Gorgon an account of translating a difficult mother into fiction becomes a poignant and hilarious meditation on the intricate knot binding mothers and daughters. In Sex with the Servants, the story of a scandal created by publication, becomes a brilliant inquiry into the porous boundary between private truth and public betrayal. Whether examining the difference between a story told and a story written or the trials and rigors of teaching writing to pay the rent, Freed surprises, instructs and entertains.

Learned, opinionated and wickedly funny, Freed tears off all fictional disguises and exposes the human being behind the artist. Destined to become a classic, Reading, Writing and Leaving home is essential reading for writers, readers, anyone engaged in literature.


“To the tiny list of necessary books for people who aspire to the writing life – ‘Mystery and Manners,’ by Flannery O’Connor, and ‘One Writer’s Beginnings,’ by Eudora Welty – must now be added Reading, Writing and Leaving Home. Like those two books, Lynn Freed’s memoir . . . has an essential quality largely lacking in the permissive, indulgent culture of the writing-school era: honesty.”
—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World

“Something for every writer, published or aspiring, to befriend over a period of years, a generous source of heat, heart energy and consolation . . . Lynn Freed truly does inspire.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“This memoir of her formation as a writer is characterized by such virtuosity and rigor that the reader is tempted time and again to linger, admiring the view, retracing the shape of a sentence.”
-The New York Times Book Review

“Honesty fuels this small book from start to finish . . . Freed is incredibly funny.”
—Philadelphia Inquirer

“Distinguished by its emotional honesty and stylish prose.”
—Chicago Tribune

“This collection by novelist and short story writer Lynn Freed is subtitled Life on the Page, but it could just as accurately be subtitled What It Takes—as in, what it takes to read with attention, to write with courage, and to leave home in order to make a life that allows for the work to be done. Writing requires distance, and distance comes at a price. Whether she’s writing about selling family secrets in a novel or teaching creative writing to pay the rent, Freed speaks to the cost. In her hands, it’s not about sacrifice so much as a kind of holy subordination.”
—Lacy Crawford, Narrative Magazine

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) (September 5, 2005)
ISBN: 015101132X
Hardcover: 256 pages