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How to Write a Memoir about a Subculture that Connects with the Mainstream Culture | Free Roundtable August 8, 2013 – 4 PM

Shirley ShowalterAugust 8, 2013

Free Roundtable Discussion

4 PM PDT   5 PM MDT   6 PM CDT   7 PM EDT

Shirley Showalter

This presentation offers concrete examples of how to tell stories so readers unfamiliar with the place, culture, or group will not only learn about “the other,” but will identify with people different from themselves. All writers need to do this—it’s called the “universal message, and goes beyond subgroups to the universality of human experience.

For example, women need to write so men can understand and enjoy their world views. Different generations and races need to reach across time and connect. At the heart of all great writing lies the often-repeated truism: the route to the universal is through the particular. But how do we learn to connect the two?

For Shirley Hershey Showalter, our guest today, the challenge in writing her memoir Blush, A coming of age story about a Mennonite girl, was this: how can a Mennonite describe what it was like to grow up in a very particular, even peculiar, culture—on a dairy farm in Lancaster County, PA, as a Mennonite child in the ’50′s and ’60′s so that urbanites, members of other religions, races, younger and older people could see themselves in her story? How could a member of a sub-group connect with those in the larger culture?

We will discuss these myths:

  • Only another member of the same group can understand an author. Hence, the smaller the group, the smaller the audience.
  • Or the opposite: It’s good to write your book for everyone.
  • General information about subgroups connects better than specific descriptions

Shirley will describe a series of paradoxes that derive from the central one: the more concrete the writer, the more possible it is to connect with many readers, though not with everyone.

Using her own forthcoming memoir Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets the Glittering World, Shirley will describe seven ways she thought about her audience before and during the writing process and the ways she deliberately tried to connect.

Shirley Hershey Showalter, an award winning writer, began blogging about memoir in 2009 after she entered and won several literary competitions in the Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette. More details about her writing and publications can be found at and on her FB Author Page Her book Blush will launch on September 19, 2013.




  1. Sandy Fry says:

    Will there be a recording available after the event?

  2. I admire Shirley’s work, as well as the thought she’s put into engaging with the meaning and complexities of memoir in its various shapes and aspects. I’m quite eager to attend her talk tomorrow. Thanks for hosting this!

  3. This message is for Shirley,
    I am so looking forward to your roundtable discussion. I am writing the memoir of a woman raised in an Asian subculture that no longer exists – the Hong Kong boat dwellers. The main character is between the ages of five and fourteen in the book, and so I am writing for middle grade readers. The boat dwellers, known as the Tanka, were despised as Hong Kong’s lowest social class, but the culture was amazingly rich. Thanks in advance for this opportunity!

  4. Marilyn Shie says:

    Thanks for the helpful, informative and inspirational webinars.

  5. Celene Adams says:

    Thank you for offering this free seminar!

  6. kate shannon says:

    Will there be a recording available to others who did not sign up for the class until 2 days after the discussion?

  7. Laurel Lewis says:

    Am I able to obtain a recording of a Roundtable Discussion that I didn’t sign up for. I just discovered this while browsing through the classes and would love to hear it.

    Laurel Lewis