Writing In the Voice of My Mother
Thursday March 3, 2016
4 pm PST 5 pm MST 6 pm CST 7 pm EST
We are so pleased to welcome Jo Ivester, the author of The Outskirts of Hope: A Memoir of the 1960s Deep South to our Roundtable podcast. Read her summary below about working with her mother to write a story about her mother’s life. Ultimately Jo wrote from the point of view of her mother. We get many questions about this at NAMW, and want to explore the issues that arise.
Can I write in the POV of someone else and call it a memoir?
What makes the reader engage in a story like that?
Join us for a great discussion about the narrative voice, choices you can make, and how to might write from the point of view of someone else.
In 1967, when I was 10 years old, my father joined the War on Poverty. He moved our family from Boston to a small, all-black town in the Mississippi Delta, where he started a clinic, my mother taught at the local high school, and I was the only white student at my junior high. Thirty-five years later, my mother wrote about those days, along with stories from her whole life.
For five years, we worked together to massage her early writings into a cohesive journal, spanning much of the 20th century. After distributing copies of that journal to family and friends, we circulated it to connections in the publishing industry and were told that the story of our time in Mississippi was the only publishable part. My mother, disappointed, gave up, but that was just the start for me. I took the feedback in stride and went on to write “Outskirts,” relying on both my mother’s journal and my own childhood memories.
What Members Will Gain:
- An appreciation of the importance of writing daily, even when there is no book in sight
- An understanding of how the memoir-writing process can draw family members closer together
- A recognition of the challenges of writing in someone else’s voice, along with the rewards of doing so
- Some pointers about re-connecting with people from one’s past
- The courage to be honest and authentic in writing about one’s experiences
- How to decide about using another person’s point of view
Jo Ivester spent two years of her childhood living in a trailer in Mound Bayou, where she was the only white student at her junior high. She finished high school in Florida before attending Reed, MIT, and Stanford in preparation for a career in transportation and manufacturing. Following the birth of her fourth child, she began teaching, first as a substitute math teacher and then as an adjunct professor at St. Edward’s University. She and her husband teach each January at MIT and travel extensively, splitting their time between Texas and Colorado. For more information, please visit www.joivester.com.
Listen to the recording below: