October 1, 2022

Why to Write Like There’s No Tomorrow

Write Like There's No Tomorrow Recently, Mychal Denzel Smith was a guest on my podcast, Write-minded. I asked him, “How do you think about consequence when you set out to write your thoughts and opinions about what you see out there in the world?” I loved his answer, which was to turn the question back on me: Consequence in what direction and for whom? He went on to ponder the question of consequence. If my question was about him, the writer, then what are the personal consequences … [Read more...]

Pushing the Fear of Being Sued to Where It Belongs—on the Backburner

Brooke Warner and I have taught hundreds of students in our memoir workshops and classes, and presented memoir topics at dozens of conferences. In every single course we teach, a writer will invariably raise her hand, looking a bit pale and scared, and say: “I can’t write my story because I’m afraid of being sued.” Other writers can’t get the image of angry ex-partners or friends or coworkers out of their minds. If you write what really happened, can these aggrieved people sue you?   Fear of … [Read more...]

Writing Through Exposure in Memoir

Memoir, as a genre, requires intimacy and self-exposure. It demands confession and deep dives into the truths of our inner lives. When we write a memoir, we enter into a contract with the reader: we’ll reveal the truth of our experiences, our emotional truth. But how much? How detailed? And what are we allowed to hold back? These are questions all memoirists encounter, especially at the beginning of the writing journey.Another question every memoir writer will face has to do with exposure—how … [Read more...]

Overcoming the Fear of Getting It Right

On September 20, Stephanie Foo, author of What My Bones Know, will be joining us to teach for our newest series, THE COURAGE TO WRITE FEARLESSLY, on the topic of “getting it right,” and how to overcome the intellectual and emotional obstacles to that particular expectation when you’re writing your memoir.I adored this book, which was what prompted us to invite Stephanie to teach for us in this series. Some of the things Stephanie wrestled with getting right, she shared with me, were being a … [Read more...]

Rules to Live By if You Feel Freaked Out About Writing About The People in Your Life

"Don’t show your work to any family member or friend in question until it’s ready to be published. Yes, that might take a while. That is the point. Read on." One thing I know from teaching memoir over the years is that memoirists freak out about writing about other people in their life. Since memoir means writing the truth, my students often ask, Isn’t revealing my true thoughts about myself exposing enough? To write about others brings up all kinds of fears: What if they sue me? Hate me? … [Read more...]

What to Share When Writing a Memoir

Who cares? is one of the most common assaults memoir writers are subjected to, and it’s usually lobbed at them by their own inner critic. Memoir writers face critical voices—their own and others’—who state that the story/message/idea is trivial, boring, not worth sharing. It’s so important for memoirists to get past these messages in order to set free the story that wants to be told. Here are some tips for memoir writers, especially those struggling with their inner critics, whose primary goal … [Read more...]

What To Say When Someone Suggests You Turn Your Memoir into a Novel

Of course you say, “Thank you very much for that insight,” because you’re polite and the person who’s suggesting this is undoubtedly an agent or an editor who doesn’t really understand the soul-power of memoir or what draws writers to it. Inside you may be thinking, Hell, no! Or worse, Maybe she’s right. That would be easier, after all. Whether you’re an aspiring memoirist, have a memoir-in-progress, or have one or a few published memoirs to your credit, you are in serious danger of being … [Read more...]

Truth, Exposure, and the Reason We Write Memoir

Recently I had the privilege of moderating a panel at the Bay Area Book Festival. The panel was titled “Why Write Memoir: A Conversation about Truth, Exposure, and the Genre People Love to Hate.” The title shows a perfect combination of the issues that memoir writers struggle with. In every workshop and class I teach, the conversation that brings the most questions and angst has to do with writing the truth, feeling "too exposed," and writing material that seems to attract pointed criticisms: … [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...]

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...]