Home > Memoir, Uncategorized > Memoir Workshop notes and observations

Memoir Workshop notes and observations

The Memoir workshops were run by Tom McAllister @t_mcallister author of “Bury Me In My Jersey,” English professor at Temple University and non-fiction editor for @Barrelhouse.
His first question was: How do I get people to care about my life?
An excellent starting question, particularly from someone who wrote a memoir at age twenty six. Even more so if your memoir deals with the more typical topics of addiction, abuse, grief, death, coping, your big adventure, parenthood, child rearing, the sixties. These have been done to death. Do we really want to read more of these? The sixties? Really?
Well, we did. We read Joan Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking” and Chris Offut’s “The Same River Twice.”
So how can you accomplish that? What should your goals be?
First identify the materials in your life that can turn into interesting narrative non-fiction.
Then you will need to foster connections with the reader and,
Thirdly, work on distinguishing your work from similar work.
In other words, to accomplish these, to shape your memoir you will need to pinpoint the stuff you want to write about, separate it from the chaff and consider whether it is interesting enough. To write a great essay, you will need to think deeply.

The challenges are figuring out what to talk about (third time we say that, so it must be key), identifying the focus and determining your UNIQUE role in the story. Why are you the ONE to tell the story. Assume a hostile reader. Will it bore the reader. Entertainment or info coming into readers brain.

“Fiction is not fact, but fiction is fact selected and understood. Its fact selected, artfully arranged and charged with purpose.” Tom Wolfe

Ten questions to ask yourself:
1.- What is the relationship that defines me. To things, work, people, etc. Negatives work as well, ie., bad relationship with someone. (How it changes? Like an arc?)
2.- What unique obsessions do I have. Like Tom’s, with the Eagles.
3.- What are my most pivotal experiences. Think of the smaller moments, the stuff that happened before and after those big moments.
4.- What lies have had a major impact in my life? Disillusionment.
5.- Which of my memories do I trust more or least?
6.- What are some important endings in my life?
7.- What are my regrets?
8.- What version of myself is the best and the worst version
9.- What is one essential thing that I want people to know about me.
10.- Have you been to the moon?
Tom really had nine key questions so, to make it metric (base ten) he added the moon. So people do have extraordinary things to write about, if you are one of them, if you have been to the moon, write about it.
More on Tom’s workshop will come later.
And for more on the PWC and events I didn’t attend, try http://bit.ly/1KSBxos

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Categories: Memoir, Uncategorized
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