LAST NIGHT I WENT INTO BATTLE fully armed. I felt most comfortable gearing up because I was eating alone. Suiting up in front of the family invites both ridicule as well as speculation. Solo, I can slide into the full-length apron, tuck the napkin into the collar of my shirt, slide as close to the table as one can and, not having anyone with whom to make conversation, keep my head perfectly straight, thereby cutting down on the possible angles. You see, I am a spotter. In fact, my talents at getting spots on clothes are Olympian in breadth. [Read more…]
WRITING MEMOIR IN PRESENT TENSE suits grief in ways that the past tense simply cannot provide. Think about it for a moment and you may agree. Or better yet, read Amy Biancolli on writing her new book, Figuring Sh!t Out: Love, Laughter, Suicide and Survival, and see if the case she makes for the immediacy of the tense does not change how you feel on this. It did for me.
I’VE TRIED MEDITATION, dosing myself with the prescription to apply it at the same time each day. And when I do, the silent, tunneling lack of thought sculpts my sharp edge into something I can use in the world, rather than something I merely use against myself. Exercise, too, razors off some degree of my resistance. But neither one has done enough recently to let me write something I want to write, and the longing for words soon became a search for a new kind of support. What to do? [Read more…]
IT’S THE BIRTHDAY of the Writing Lessons column. It’s been a year, and in that time some of the greatest current memoir writers have taken their time to teach you how to write memoir. To celebrate the anniversary I thought I’d give you a little gift in the form of a new website page. [Read more…]
ARE THERE RULES FOR WRITING MEMOIR? For instance, can your story be enlarged by the story of someone else whose life parallels or informs your own? When Maria Mutch proposed this question as a Writing Lessons piece, I knew I had a fine writer on the line, and that I wanted to introduce you to her. The author of the remarkable memoir, Know the Night, Maria just learned that her book was named one of Oprah’s “Memoirs Too Powerful to Put Down.” For good reason. It is. Read on. [Read more…]
SPEAKING WITH A STUDENT recently, I was dismayed when she claimed that hers was not an “exceptional” story. There was no death, no loss, and so she thought her story of little value. I disagreed. In fact hers is a tale of great gain, though of the spiritual type, and it got me thinking about the difference purely in terms of craft and how to record the various forms of memoir I like to read. Writing about an exceptional experience provides lessons for us all, no matter what our tales include, and to tackle this I have turned to an exceptional author, writer and teacher, John W. Evans. His beautiful new book, Young Widower: A Memoir, is splendid with the thoughtful skill of someone who can teach you what you need to know to write about the big stuff – the exceptional experiences—of life, while also upping your game on the small details of how to write good memoir. Read on. [Read more…]