December 18, 2017

Archives for 2014

Get Wild with Flashback and Memory

Because Linda Joy and I taught Cheryl Strayed’s Wild as our first best-selling memoir course in our best-seller series, I’ve been eager to see the movie from the moment I heard about it. In our six-month course, Linda Joy and I talk a lot about writers’ strengths. There are always certain elements of craft that writers will nail. You might feel comfortable with scene-writing, or narrative voice, or takeaways without even realizing it. These are areas in your writing that might come naturally … [Read more...]

Why to Write Through the Holidays

There’s an exercise I do with clients that I got from Tsultrim Allione, author of Feeding Your Demons. The exercise is more or less a guided meditation that encourages people to give characteristics to their saboteur (demon). The point is to give form to your saboteur—to determine its shape, smell, size, color, and even to name it. Over years of doing this with writers, there’s been an interesting commonality: Oftentimes the saboteur haunting writers is sticky. I’ve seen saboteurs manifest in … [Read more...]

Memoir Writing Is Not an Act of War

Writing a memoir is not an act of war, but it can seem that way to our family. When our “truths” are other people’s “lies” that they need to believe, when the larger than life stories are skewed or downright wrong—some people look askance at any story that does not agree with their own version. Family members are like slices of a pie, seeing the center through a different lens. It’s a war when families fight over what “really” happened, and this can go on and on, for generations. Memoirists … [Read more...]

Manifesting Your Idea into a Memoir

I had the privilege of seeing Elizabeth Gilbert’s keynote address at the Wake-Up Festival this August 2014. Although Liz is most famous for her memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, she told the audience that her true and original love was fiction. Dani Shapiro wrote this month in the New Yorker that she is an accidental memoirist, and although Liz didn’t frame it exactly this way, it’s clear that she is too. It’s not uncommon for writers to be visited, or haunted, by a story that will not let them go. … [Read more...]

Your Scene-writing Toolkit

It happens in each of our long courses that I hit a point where I realize how much writers really shoulder when it comes to writing a memoir. There are so many things to hold in addition to the memories, messages from our saboteurs, and bouts of self-doubt. Most writers who are working on a memoir are learning a new craft while also dealing with the wellspring of emotion that comes from tapping into experiences that can oftentimes feel like stirring a hornet’s nest. Sometimes it’s hard to keep … [Read more...]

How to Craft the Beginning of Your Story

    As readers, we all have the experience of trying to find our bearings as we begin a story. To get “inside” the story that’s beginning, we readers are curious about who the main characters are, and we’re eager to learn about them—to learn why we are being told this story about these people. Early in a story, we’re getting grounded in where we are—literally—on the planet, in the world, and in the geography of place.  We need to know the time frame for the story, too. That’s the who, … [Read more...]