Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger Frances Lefkowitz – “Are your parents still speaking to you?” The Dangers of Memoir

“Are your parents still speaking to you?” This question—a darn good one—comes up pretty much every time I do a Q&A. The short answer is “Yes.” My parents and siblings are all still talking to me; we still get together for holidays and birthdays and no blood gets shed. But this is not the case for other memoirists; I know several who are estranged from their families. Discussing family matters, revealing secrets, shining light on our most vulnerable and tragic moments including bad behavior or naive mistakes, and getting just our version into print, so it sounds like the official word on the subject: If this is what we do when we write memoir, then offending the people in our lives is one of our occupational hazards. The long answer is that this question is a great opportunity to discuss the distinction between the process of writing a memoir or…

Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger B. Lynn Goodwin asks: What Would You Do With a Goal and a Deadline?

NaNoWriMo, www.nanowrimo.org, invites you to draft a 50,000 word novel in one month. I’m doing it for the second time, and I’m going for higher word totals than the 1667 suggested daily allotment. I just want this first draft out of my head. I want material to work with. Not a fiction writer? You can still achieve a 30-day goal with memoir, biography, or any other form of non-fiction thanks to author and writing coach Nina Amir’s WINFIN, http://writenonfictioninnovember.com/about-2/. WINFIN (Write Nonfiction in November) is “an annual challenge to create a work of nonfiction in 30 days.” The rules are simple: Decide what you’re going to complete and go for it. You can create “an article, an essay, a book, a book proposal, a white paper, or a manifesto” The program “operates on an honor system…no word counts logged in here. It’s a personal challenge, not a contest.” Simply describe…

Guest Bloggers

Simple Structure for Building the Essay by Susan Bono, Guest Blogger

Continuing with Guest Blogger, Susan Bono, here are building blocks for writing personal essay, or memoir. Character: you Problem: give yourself a problem Struggle: problem creates conflict Epiphany: after struggle, a flood of new understanding Resolution: what you do differently as a result Many essays begin with a clear, straightforward statement of intent. All essays have an implied thesis and should have a clear angle —a particular way of approaching and narrowing the subject matter.  For example, notice how the following statements could shape your narrative from the start. I want to tell you how ______________changed my life. (Universal statement: this is the basic scaffolding for every personal essay) I learned about ________from ___________. I thought I would never learn to love ____________. We’ll continue this exploration of personal essay and memoir over the next few days with intriguing writing prompts suggested by Susan Bono.

Guest Bloggers

What is personal essay? Susan Bono, Guest Blogger

When you’re writing personal essay or memoir, it’s helpful to keep these words by Vivian Gornick in mind: “Good writing has two characteristics. It’s alive on the page and the reader is persuaded that the writer is on a voyage of discovery.” (Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story) Remember, too, that readers want to feel as if they know WHY you are telling your story. It’s not enough for the incidents you’re describing to be exciting or scary or hilarious. Your readers want to know how those events changed you. At the heart of every personal essay is this basic purpose: “I want to tell you how ______ changed my life.” When you attempt to communicate that intention, you are helping your essay become a “quest for understanding and information.” (Lee Guttkind, founding editor of Creative Nonfiction) Once you understand that personal essay is what Tristine Rainer calls a…