Essay Writing

If first person narrative non-fiction and essay are your thing, or you would like to explore them and your voice join us.

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Discussion Forum

Where do you publish?

Started by DeLani R. Bartlette. Last reply by Renate Stendhal Apr 16. 61 Replies

I Need Advice, Please

Started by Grace Peterson. Last reply by Jackie McNamara Aug 1, 2012. 5 Replies

Good resources for the craft of essay writing

Started by Shannon Huffman Polson. Last reply by Nancy Barth Jun 30, 2012. 15 Replies

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Comment by Marilyn Bousquin 20 hours ago

This week's blog article at Writing Women's Lives includes my response to one of my students who was sideswiped this past week by her inner critic. You can read it here.

Comment by Sue William Silverman on Saturday

You're welcome! Lucille, another way to proceed could be for you to attend a writer's conference and get in a memoir-writing workshop. Most of these conferences are only about 5 days or so. That could be a wonderful opportunity to meet and hang out with other memoirists while getting some early feedback on your work. The magazine Poets & Writers usually has excellent lists and ads for these conferences. You can find the magazine online as well. I think the URL is something like P&, but if you just Google "Poets & Writers"  you'll find it. Wonderful that you're already 50 pages in!!

Comment by Lucille Joyner on Saturday

Thank you so much, Sue, for your information and recommendation. I'm going to do my best to learn something. Especially since I'm already 50 pages into a Memoir. I need to find out what I am doing.

Comment by Sue William Silverman on Saturday

Lucille, that's a fascinating story. Well, I admire people, like you, who are gifted enough to simply know how to do things, without a gazillion lessons, etc. I really am impressed by your musical and writing talent. Very impressive. It sounds to me as if you're ready to just leap in and begin writing! I say go for it. IF...if you want to learn a little more about the crafting of a memoir, I have written a craft book that might interest you -- but I dare say it doesn't sound as if you need it. And I am certainly not trying to sell you a book, as I'm sure your public library would be able to get it for you...but I just thought I'd mention it. It's Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir. But, as I say, it doesn't sound as if you need lessons on anything. So probably you should just leap in and begin writing. I wish you all the best and I'll look forward to reading it!!

Comment by Lucille Joyner on Friday

How fascinating your Memoirs must be! And you know how to write them. I, personally don't much about anything. I never had lessons, but practiced piano obsessively, then went over to the Yale School of Music to take lessons, figuring I'd learn how to read music, the professor encouraged me to register. I played so well, he never asked if I could read music. No one ever discovered that I couldn't. It's the same in writing. I wrote a letter to the editor and the Mayor contacted me. The next thing I knew, I was her ghost writer.  At the same time, the editor of the local paper asked me to do a column, so I did. Just as I never learned music, I never learned writing.That's why I don't really know anything about anything. I admire those who do.

Comment by Sue William Silverman on Friday

From my perspective, a memoir is supposed to be one slice of a life -- not a whole life. (An autobiography, usually written by celebrities, is a whole life.) That's why I've been able to write/publish 3 memoirs, and am at work on a fourth. Each memoir follows a theme of my life. Of course, there's a little overlap, but that's to be expected. For example, my first memoir is about growing up in an incestuous family. The second memoir is about recovering from a sexual addiction. Now, in the second memoir, of course I had to show that the reason why I struggled with the sex addiction is because my father had molested me. However, each book stands alone. The focus of each -- as well as the voice of each -- is very different.

Comment by Lucille Joyner on Friday

Does a Memoir imply a person's whole life or can you have 20 Memoirs based on 20 events?

Comment by Sue William Silverman on Friday

Lucille: About an attorney for writers: if you're a member of the Author's Guild, one of their free services is a staff attorney one can contact.

For me, a memoir is fact-based, but facts are subjective...and a memoir is based on memory, also subjective. I don't think people read memoirs looking for some kind of academic, historical truth. Readers of memoir understand that memory is open to interpretation. As you mention below, one sibling will remember a childhood or parents one way, while another sibling will remember something else altogether. That's certainly true of my sister me.

But, from my perspective, that's beside the point. When I write memoir (I'm on my 4th!), all I can do is write from my own subjective recollection of events. It's my own interpretation and my own sense of what happened. I would never make up a fact willy-nilly (like James Frey), but I know that others would interpret an event differently from me. That's just the way it is. And I write memoir not only to recollect events, but more to try to make sense of them...understand the metaphors of any given experience.

Comment by Lucille Joyner on Friday

We KNOW that about witnesses. They are mostly subjective. But the Victim knows what they experienced. It's objective. Now if the Witnesses wrote this memoir, it would be 60% fiction and maybe 40% truth. But if the Victim wrote this memoir, it would be 90% facts and 10% fiction. I suppose that if one can write a Memoir that is at least 90% accurate, it would constitute a good Memoir.

It's one thing to be talking about a crimeaccident. It's a whole different matter when remembering the past. That's where memory fails. Case in point: My siblings remember parents and home life one way. I remember it differently. That difference is that when everybody was married and I was a teenager, my mother hit the lotto. My life was totally different from theirs. If you asked them what my mother was like, you'd get one answer. If you asked me, you'd get a different answer. When you stop and think of all the factors involved, one wonders if it's even possible to write a memoir. 

Comment by Heather Marsten on Friday

Check out eyewitness testimony experiments - Harold Takooshian wrote about that - people can look at the same set of facts and "see" different things. The facts are the same, but people remember the same situation differently.  I took a memoir course with Marion Roach and her sister. She and her sister wrote about the same incident and their essays were vastly different. We bring ourselves into every experience and that colors how it is perceived.


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