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nan-phiferDate: November 21, 2014

Time: 11 AM PST 12 PM MST 1 PM CST 2 PM EST

Guest: Nan Phifer

Topic: Evocative Memoirs: An Unconventional Approach

Many memoirists assume their writing should be chronological and linear. They write first about childhood and proceed into adolescence, followed by adulthood—an approach often plodding for both the writer and readers. I take a different approach; I direct writers straight into their most meaningful, intense experiences regardless of age. I encourage impulsive writing about the events, people, and places that have shaped their lives, and I recommend that memoirists to allow their accounts to take unexpected turns. When the writer is open to unforeseen outcomes, insights and revelations can occur.

When memoirists select their chapter subjects impulsively, their style is more expressive than it would be if selected chronologically because it’s fueled by haunting memories and passions. Furthermore, I demonstrate a strategy that vivifies the accounts so readers will feel present in the scene. Not until numerous chapters have been written do we organize them by laying them out like a deck of cards in order to see ways they can be sequenced, usually chronologically but sometimes by an emerging theme, or other relationships. The chapters written impulsively already pulse with life and can easily be linked by adding brief, pre-chapter, scene-setting narration. This unconventional approach produces writing that focuses on meaningful, rather than mundane subjects, and radiates the feelings of the author.

Participants will gain from this teleseminar:

  • A strategy that identifies your most significant life experiences
  • A copious quantity of personally meaningful topics, an abundant table of contents from which to choose
  • A way to begin writing spontaneously, a way to avoid gazing at a blank page while wondering where and how to begin
  • A method for writing in sync with inevitable daily musings
  • Freedom to follow unexpected ideas, to deviate from what you expected to write, freedom to make discoveries and to gain insights.  This is when memoir-writing becomes most exciting.
  • A schema that assures positive, constructive sharing of early drafts with listeners
  • A diagrammatic strategy that produces such vivid, sensual writing, readers will feel themselves to be in the scene with you
  • Questions for reflection on the story you told, questions that illuminate strengths and virtues within yourself that you had never before consciously recognized.
  • An approach to writing memoirs that will never plod and never produce plodding reading

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‘Nan is a “resident scholar,” at the Oregon Writing Project within the University of Oregon. She leads workshops for libraries, retreat and renewal organizations, writers’ groups, continuing education programs, and religious organizations. Her interest in American literature, Master of Liberal Arts degree from The Johns Hopkins University, and years of teaching all contribute background for her present work.

Nan leads a variety of workshops: writing to explore “wilderness within and without; writing to design sacred space. She has a program that enables retired people to review their lives. In Indianapolis she co-guided pastors writing to fathom their vocational dedication, and on-line she has taught for Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. She reports that at this time she’s immersed in her most challenging undertaking—creation of a writing-to-heal manual for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress.

About her work Nan says, “I love what I do. Most of all I love the moments when participants look up from the page, their eyes alight with insight.”

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