“Tell It Slant”– How to Craft the Emotional Truth at the Heart of Your Memoir
Virginia Woolf said that books are the mirror of the soul. This is certainly true of memoir. A good memoir stirs us at a soul level because it invites us to experience a narrator’s emotional truth. But emotions in and of themselves are abstract and vague. And we all know that vague is boring. How, then, do you craft your narrator’s emotional truth in a way that keeps your readers reading?
Tell it slant! In this craft talk, we’ll explore what Emily Dickinson meant by “Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant / Success in Circuit lies….” We’ll consider the power of external details to convey a narrator’s internal emotional truth, and how these same details, when “slanted,” can chronicle a narrator’s internal change over the course of a memoir.
- What it means to “tell it slant”
- Slant external details to reveal your narrator’s internal truth
- The more specific the detail, the more universal the truth
- Craft a recurring detail to chronicle your narrator’s emotional arc
- Participate in a writing exercise that invites you to “tell it slant”
Marilyn Bousquin is founder of Writing Women’s Lives™ Academy, where she teaches women who are done with silence how to free their voice, claim their truth, and write their memoir stories with confidence, craft, and consciousness. Known as an integrative writing coach, her holistic approach to teaching integrates the craft skills essential to writing memoir with the consciousness work necessary for women to claim their voice and their story from the cultural shame and silencing that continue to keep so many women’s stories untold. Her students and mentoring clients have gone on to publish, win awards, and enjoy personal transformation in their writing and in their lives. A certified Amherst Writers and Artists group writing facilitator, Marilyn holds an MFA in creative nonfiction. Her writing appears in River Teeth, Superstition Review, Literary Mama, Under the Gum Tree, Pithead Chapel, Role Reboot, and The Rumpus. Her essay “Against Memory” was a finalist for AROHO’s Orlando Prize for Creative Nonfiction. She is working on a memoir titled Searching for Salt.
Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner
Writing Your Truth in the #MeToo Era
Brooke and Linda Joy have been teaching together for the past seven years. They bring the collective expertise a therapist and memoir writer (Linda Joy) and a publisher (Brooke) to their memoir classes, where they’ve taught hundreds of hundreds of students, helping them to dig deep and to brave the storms, internal and outside in the world, that silence them. Being silenced is the secret that so many memoir writers carry–and when are quietly not writing, or sneaking out a few lines, the poison of the silence and the shame that goes with being silenced serves to keep them small, or quiet, or afraid.
Linda Joy and Brooke will talk about how they see the problem of silencing and shame and the ways you can break through to find your voice. To tell your truth.
You will learn:
- How to recognize the twin problems of silencing and shame
- Ways to break through as you begin to write
- How to develop your voice over time
- How to feel confident about your story
- Techniques to keep you going
Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., MFT, is president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers. Her first memoir, Don’t Call Me Mother: A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness, was a finalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year Award and the IndieExcellence Awards, and a BAIPA Gold Medal award winner. Her new memoir Song of the Plains is a finalist in the Best Book Awards and the 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. Author of The Power of Memoir—How to Write Your Healing Story, Journey of Memoir, and Becoming Whole,. She is co-author with Brooke Warner of Breaking Ground on Your Memoir, and The Magic of Memoir. Linda Joy has been a therapist for 40 years, where story is part of the healing process. A memoir coach for two decades, Myers helps people dive deep into writing their truths while crafting a publishable story. Her monthly programs on NAMW offer tools for breaking silence, developing a powerful story, and finding the best publishing path.
Brooke Warner is publisher of She Writes Press and SparkPress, president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Green-light Your Book, What’s Your Book?, and three books on memoir. Brooke is a TEDx speaker, weekly podcaster (Write-minded with co-host Grant Faulkner of NaNoWriMo), and the former Executive Editor of Seal Press. She currently sits on the boards of the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Bay Area Book Festival, and the National Association of Memoir Writers. She writes a monthly column for Publishers Weekly.
Writing to Discover. The Relationship of Discovery, Memoir and #MeToo.
In this segment, we will start by exploring the importance of the discovery process in memoir writing. We’ll talk about the three levels of story, and how discovery can help us, first, to remember what happened and second, to see the meaning in what happened. Effective memoir writing is rarely a linear process. We must learn how to let go and allow. That’s where we find the juice. That’s where we discover the deeper story that lurks beneath the facts of our lives. We’ll explore the two basic principles of a discovery process, and three tools that allow us to implement those principles as we write. We will do a short exercise to experience these tools in play, showing how the principles and tools of discovery can help us to access hidden memories and weave them into the story we want to write.
In the second part of this segment, we will explore the relationship of the discovery process and memoir writing to the #MeToo movement, particularly for men. What are the lessons that we can learn from writing our memoir? How can using the discovery process help us to move beyond stereotypical male roles and embrace the feminine in all of us? We are at a watershed moment in our cultural evolution. The times call out for more men to write memoir, write with a more open heart, write from awareness of how we are viewing and treating women, write to reclaim our whole selves.
Attendees at this session can expect to learn about and experience:
- How the discovery process can help the memoir writer recover lost memories.
- Using the discovery process to get deeper into scenes from long ago, writing in a way that brings forth both the personal, sensual detail and the universal truth that lies beneath all of our experience.
- Two principles and three specific writing tools that enable the memoir writer to apply discovery to your writing.
- A writing experience that allows you to practice and deepen understanding of these principles and tools.
- A true story of how one male memoir writer learned about the #MeToo movement (before it began) and how memoir writing helped move him beyond stereotypical male roles and got him more in touch with the feminine.
Peter Gibb has written children’s picture books, two novels, and the multiple award-winning memoir, King of Doubt. He currently speaks and teaches about memoir writing, and about the subject of his forthcoming book, How to talk with Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace, About Anything. The Joy of Mindful Conversation. You can reach him through his web site, http://www.petergibb.org/ or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Peter is married, father to three children and grandfather to four. He and his wife live in Ashland, OR.
Writing as a Pathway Through Grief, Loss, Uncertainty, and Change
As human beings moving through our lives, we inevitably lose things that are dear to us: people, relationships, careers, health, cherished hopes, dreams for the future, faith in things we thought we could count on. Our culture does not help us mourn these losses. We are expected to grieve quietly, quickly and on our own-or to medicate ourselves with pharmaceuticals, busyness, and consumption. Taking the time to grieve is not honored. Writing about our losses—and being witnessed—is a powerful way to process grief, deal with uncertainty, and embrace change. By putting words to our experience, we create a bridge where we can honestly name our experience, stand and get our bearings, and ultimately transform our grief into the seeds of new beginnings.
What you will learn:
- Three tricks for finding “the story under the story,” learning to write about truths that are scary or difficult to unearth
- Why it’s critically important to share your writing about grief and loss
- Five writing prompts to tuck in your pocket for times of loss, change, and uncertainty
- How to take care of yourself when doing therapeutic writing.
Laura Davis is the author of seven non-fiction books, including The Courage to Heal, Becoming the Parent You Want to Be and I Thought We’d Never Speak Again. Laura’s groundbreaking books have sold more than 1.8 million copies around the world. Laura has also worked as a columnist, talk show host, radio reporter, radio producer, blogger, editor, and speaker.
She is a cancer survivor, the mother of three, the grandmother of three, and has buried both her parents. In other words, she is a well-seasoned human being. Laura leads weekly writing groups and retreats in the Santa Cruz, CA region, as well as retreats internationally. She has taken writers to Bali and Scotland, Greece, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. She documents these trips to the delight of many readers in her blog, The Virtual Vacation.