August 21, 2018

Zooming Out and In: How to Harness the Power of Your Memoir Camera Lens

In our six-month course, Linda Joy and I teach a class called “Write Your Memoir Like a Movie.” The point of this metaphor---memoir as movie**---is to teach students how to get behind the lens of their own memoir camera and to think like the director of their own story. Too often we see aspiring memoirists not using the full range of their camera lens, instead staying completely zoomed out in the Big Picture, reluctant to zoom in and create the details of the scene they’re asking their reader to … [Read more...]

Who’s Driving Your Memoir?

In our long memoir course there’s an image I share around the halfway point to help students recognize tendencies they might have in their writing practice around control. I ask them to consider the idea that either they or their memoir is driving their memoir. In writing, we can want to be in control, which can lead to always needing to be the one to drive; we can also resist being in control, wanting to turn everything over to the creative process, which may work for a while, but eventually … [Read more...]

Mary Karr’s Truth

In September I had the great honor of interviewing Mary Karr, whose claim to fame is this little feat of having penned three best-selling memoirs(!). Karr’s new book is The Art of Memoir, and reading it is like having a front row seat to one of her exclusive graduate seminars, which you’ll never get into in real life because they’re so darn competitive. To start, I highly recommend this book to any student of memoir, anyone who’s trying to write a memoir, and anyone who’s ever written a … [Read more...]

To Revise or to Move On?

Students often ask us in our six-month course about which course of action is better—to revise as they go or to just keep writing and get it all out. As is the case with most things in life, there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your disposition, the level of feedback you’re getting from a coach, teacher, or editor, and how much the revisions might impact the bones of your story. The case for revising as you go When you revise as you go, you are engaging in a learning process … [Read more...]

Takeaway: The Heart of Memoir Writing

When writers hear the word “takeaway” it evokes something specific. It speaks to what your reader gets from reading your work. What they walk away with. We originally started using the term "takeaway" in our memoir classes because of Brooke’s background as an acquiring editor, where every single manuscript evaluated for acquisition had to pass a single litmus test: Did the story have a takeaway? As we developed curriculum for the various memoir classes we teach together at … [Read more...]

Your Memoir Needs Good Boundaries

Just like a child, your memoir needs you to set boundaries. We’ve worked with countless memoirists over the years who are struggling either toward the beginning of their memoir because they’ve reached a certain place and they’re not sure where to go next, or because they’ve written so much content that seems disconnected and they can’t figure out how to turn it into something cohesive (the classic not being able to see the forest through the trees kind of experience). In our courses, we often … [Read more...]

Are Time Bandits Keeping You from Writing Your Memoir?

Time bandits come in all forms. They’re anything that keeps us from doing what we commit to doing where our writing is concerned. They might be social commitments. They’re most certainly work commitments. They can show up as the guilt we feel for not spending time with our family. They can also be the many other personal commitments we have: exercising; mowing the lawn; doing the dishes. There are a few lucky individuals who have figured out lifestyles that foster having a creative life, but … [Read more...]

Libel and Invasion of Privacy in Memoir

So many memoirists Linda Joy and I work with are concerned about legal issues surrounding libel and invasion of privacy that it's high time we get clear about what you can and cannot do in memoir here on our blog. I obtained the information below about libel and invasion of privacy at a session I attended at Pub U  in April (notice—next year Pub U is happening in Salt Lake City, April 8-9), where attorney Jonathan Kirsch was helping a bunch of publishers and authors wrap their mind around the … [Read more...]

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...]