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Margo Jefferson Lee Smith
on craft Emma Brockes
Jonathan Evison
Tips for engaging
the reader
Strategies to
stay focused
dynamic details
Nailing narrative


Creative Writing
Work closely with faculty through workshops and individual
Take advantage of the best features of residential and low-
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Choose from specializations in fiction, creative nonfiction and
Refine your writing skills in convenient evening courses in
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Reginald Gibbons Ed Roberson Miles Harvey

The summer quarter application deadline is April 15. 312-503-6950

School of Professional Studies
February 2016 S Volume 129 Number 2

Over the line
Journalist and critic
Margo Jefferson takes a
collage approach for the
personal and cultural landscape
of Negroland: A Memoir.

We tend to think of
the traditional essay
as the unfolding of a
certain voice that is
very compelling. But
that voice can play with
rhythm, tone, shifts.

26 Back to port
Gone adrift with your 30 You must
memoir? Get on remember this
course with these Develop sensual
strategies. details to trigger
BY BROOKE WARNER engagement with
your reader.

20 24
On the cover
"0?6=4554?@=<0BA7=?=5Negroland: A Memoir
%7=A=-0<%03?=<5=?The Writer


Mind your manners
4 From the Editor

Can politeness increase your 5 Take Note

success? Emma Brockes, dual
perspectives in memoir,
tips for digging into the
On the edge
past and more.

Clinging to an Italian cliff 42 Markets

can be a teaching moment.
BY JAYLYN CARLYLE 47 Classied advertising

Card catalog
48 How I Write
Jonathan Evison: My job is
Take steps to market your to jump through that empathic
indie book to libraries. window and report on the
BY ELIZABETH IVANOVICH human condition. Period.

Refresher course
Keep track of narrative
structure in your memoir.

Get outta the house
Shared space can bring new
inspiration to your workday.

Young living
If you think theres an age
limit to memoir, think again.
BY MEREDITH QUINN Put our free e-mail newsletter
to work: Check out our

Truth based
bi-monthly newsletter, which
offers highlights from our website
Looking for conferences and the magazine, and directs you
about creative nonction? to more articles about craft from
BY MEREDITH QUINN 34 The Writers vast archive. Find the
Free Newsletter box on our
Long-term memories
home page, enter your e-mail
address, and youre in business.
Essays and nonction are the
brain food of an online mag.


Editor-in-Chief Alicia Anstead
Managing Editor Meredith Quinn
Contributing Editors Megan Kaplon, Nicki Porter
o you want to tell the Copy Editor Suzanne G. Fox
story of your life? So Art Director Mike OLeary
Group Publisher Robert Dortch
many writers do. And for
many, the process is both EDITORIAL BOARD
James Applewhite, Andre Becker, T. Alan Broughton,
difficult and painful. Emotion seems Eve Bunting, Mary Higgins Clark, Roy Peter Clark, Lewis
to come with the territory of memoir Burke Frumkes, James Cross Giblin, Gail Godwin, Eileen
Goudge, Rachel Hadas, Shelby Hearon, John Jakes,
so much so that New York Times John Koethe, Lois Lowry, Peter Meinke, Katherine
editor Neil Genzlinger once began Paterson, Elizabeth Peters, Arthur Plotnik

the review of a memoir with this plea: MADAVOR MEDIA, LLC

Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Wolk
A moment of silence, please, for the Chief Operating Officer Susan Fitzgerald
lost art of shutting up. Vice President, Operations Courtney Carter
Vice President, Digital Operations Heidi Strong
With all due respect to Genzlinger Director, Integrated Production Justin Vuono
(and I do get his point), our job here at The Writer is to help you open your Operations Manager Laura Finamore
Controller Peggy Maguire
thoughts and your craft to the possibility of telling stories in all genres, all formats. General Staff Accountant Amanda Grubbs
This particular issue focuses on developing the chops for a memoir. We include an Staff Accountant Tina McDermott
Staff Accountant Heidie Hogan
interview with Margo Jefferson, arts critic turned essayist turned memoirist. Why Circulation Operations Specialist Nora Frew
Marketing Analyst Cathy Pearson
and how did she cross over to this new voice? What drove her story? Read the inter-
Technical Product Manager Michael Ma
view and find out. We also include an excerpt from her memoir Negroland, a com- Sales Administrator Cassandra Pettit
Production Associate Steve Sangapore
plicated tale about race, class, identity and American culture. Newsstand National Publisher Services
But dont stop there. This issue is packed with advice about memoir: Lee ADVERTISING
Smiths entertaining and illuminating opening essay about the role of imagination Media Sales Manager Claudia Warren

and community in storytelling, features by teachers on the tricks of the trade, a Email
how-to article on narrative structure, an educational piece on teaching the genre SELLING THE WRITER MAGAZINE
to youths and details about a conference dedicated to memoir. Its all here for you OR PRODUCTS IN YOUR STORE
Phone (617) 706-9078
in what we believe is a thoughtful exploration of the form. Fax (617) 536-0102
If youre not a memoirist, youll still find nuggets of gold in this issue that apply Email Catherine Pearson
to nearly every genre. Such as: Novelist Jonathan Evison has much to say about CUSTOMER SERVICE/SUBSCRIPTIONS 877-252-8139
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4 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

My kind of storytelling depends upon people
that have time to talk to each other. Lee Smith


No truth in her!
Inheriting the storyteller gene serves fiction and memoir.

lace has always been paramount for me as a writer. I noted that the truth did not seem to be nearly as impor-
I was lucky enough to grow up in a small mining tant as the skill of the storyteller.
town set deep in the rugged Appalachian Moun- It didnt really matter what the story was about: a man
tains of southwest Virginia, very near eastern Ken- who left his wife for a dog or that woman who walked these
tucky, and very isolated in those days. My father owned and hills in a long black veil or the time the lightning bolt came
ran the Ben Franklin dime store on Main Street; my mother down the chimney, rolled all the way through the house and
was a home economics teacher at the high school. I was an out the front door. Why it knocked me right out of my little
only child born to them late in life, so I grew up hanging red chair! as my grandmother always told it. They were
around the older folks in my daddys big, raucous family. I world-class storytellers, all of them.
dont know how many nights I fell asleep on somebodys lap I fell right in with them, so much so that this same
on somebodys porch, having tried to stay awake long grandmother later announced, Why, there aint no truth in
enough to hear the story being told. Even now, stories come her! There wasnt much. I got sent home from school for
to me in a human voice. All I have to do is write them telling everybody that I was adopted, that my mother was
down. Sometimes it is the voice of the narrator or another dying of a wasting disease, that a burglar had broken into
character in the story, but often it seems to be the voice of our house and locked us all up in the basement. I loved to
Shutterstock/ Everett Collection

the story itself. make things up. It was so much more interesting.
Dont you tell me no story now! my father often said I also heard a lot of stories at the dime store where I
when I got in trouble for something, although he was no worked as a very little girl when my job was taking care of
slouch in the storytelling department himself. In fact, in the the dolls. Not only did I comb their hair and fluff up their
mountains where I grew up, a lie was usually called a story, frocks, but I also made up long, complicated life stories for
and no distinction was made between them. Even as a child, them. I gave each of them three names: Mary Elizabeth

Satterfield and Baby Betsy Black. Upstairs in my fathers recently, the house I grew up in was demolished, too.
office, I got to type on a typewriter, count money and As soon as the actual places were gone, I felt a tremen-
observe the entire floor of the dime store through a one- dous need to re-create them again in words and to people
way glass window. I witnessed not only shoplifting, but them with those who had been there. My memoir Dimestore
fights and embraces as well. Thus I learned the position emerged from that impulse.
of the omniscient narrator, who sees everything, yet is Crafting a memoir has been harder than any other writ-
never visible. ing I have ever done, but also more gratifying. My belief is
So you can see how my writing started in that place. All that we have only one life, that this is all there is. And I dont
my life, I have written fiction the way others write in their want to lead an unexamined life. No matter how painful it
journals, coming to believe, over the years, that I can tell the may be, I want to know what was going on, who I was then,
truth better in fiction than in nonfiction, since you can move what I thought and felt and did upon this earth.
the facts around so conveniently to fit your theme or the
needs of the story. Fiction is easier by a long shot. Lee Smith has published 13 novels, four collections of short stories and
The memoir bug didnt bite me until my entire town was the memoir Dimestore. She is a recipient of the Academy Award in Litera-
demolished as part of a flood-control project. I went to wit- ture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the North Carolina
ness the dime store being blown up several years ago; more Award for Literature and the Southern Book Critics Circle Award.

book, to banish this snobbery and

WRITERS ON WRITING understand that there is, beyond a

Emma Brockes certain point, no correlation

between the time spent on
something and how well it turns
Emma Brockes is an award-winning out. I learned that good writing is
journalist and author of the memoirs what happens when you stop
What Would Barbra Do?: How Musicals thinking about the writing itself and
Changed My Life and She Left Me the think straightforwardly about what
Gun, a portrait of her relationship with it is youre trying to say, that its a
her mother and an investigation into the question of mechanics, not magic.
dark legacy of her maternal grandfather, a
pedophile whom Brockes mother unsuc- HOW HAS THAT HELPED YOU AS A
cessfully tried to have convicted. In She WRITER?
Left Me the Gun, Brockes investigates her It stopped me being quite such an
late mothers childhood in South Africa arse when it came to writing books,
and describes visiting that country after which I now approach with my nor-
mal, journalists head on. I like fancy
her mothers death. She goes to unearth
writing; I like the flips you can do to
court records and speak with family
show off your dexterity. But those
members, to piece together the story that to writing to short deadlines. Even arent the things to focus on. I used
her mother had been unable to reveal so, I think for a long time I labored to think that even the best journal-
fully to Brockes before she passed away. under the delusion that there was ism was a transitional phase you
Brockes was born and raised in England, something a tiny bit magical about went through en route to something
where she attended Oxford University, writing something good. I would better but it isnt. For me, the skills
wrote plays and worked for The Guard- fret about the chemistry of what I that underpin good journalism
ian, before moving to New York, where was writing, and rev endlessly on underpin everything: brevity, angle,
she currently lives and continues to write what I took to be small defects in observation, discipline, structure
for The Guardian and other publications, the opening lines or pages. I would and, above all else, story. When
including the New York Times. decide I couldnt write after 3 p.m. things are going well, the posh bits
(Not for the newspaper I had a write themselves. Its the tables and
WHATS THE MOST IMPORTANT 6 p.m. deadline, so didnt even start chairs the lines like He went into
LESSON YOUVE LEARNED ABOUT writing until 3 p.m. most days.) But I the room and sat down that
WRITING? made a distinction in my head accrete, over the course of a story,
Im a journalist by training and have between the nuts and bolts of to make something real.
always worked primarily for a daily journalism and what I thought of as
newspaper, which means that from the posh end of writing, which is Gabriel Packard is the associate director of the
my first reporting job at the age of book work. It took me until my mid- creative writing MFA program at Hunter College
22 onwards, Ive been accustomed 30s, after Id written my second in New York City.

6 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

When faced with a question, half of U.S. consumers
would turn to the Internet before trying to remember
the answer, according to a Kaspersky Lab report.

Getting in touch with your past self is critical to
The Twitterverse is often ablaze
writing a memoir. We asked professionals in the with thoughts and advice on how
psychology eld for their best tips on getting in to construct a compelling
touch with ones earlier self.
memoir. While many tweets curse
A key element of creativity is that it the arduous process, others show
Memories are rich with
relies strongly on your experiences. sensory information, so its satisfaction about exploring most
When looking back on childhood to no surprise that exposure to personal stories. A selection of
draw inspiration, nd different ways a certain perceptual stimulus
to ask your memory new questions can trigger the return of a MTs follows.
to bring out more vivid memories of memory. A popular song from Henry Pickavet @Pickavet
what it was like to be a child. Look at your teenage years can bring Last chance to first draft the #mem-
old photos. Revisit a childhood home. back the liberating feeling of oir Ive been wanting to create since
Use your body as a cue to memory by first driving a car. The smell I was 12. Its gonna be a long month.
getting down on the oor or adopt- of old books can remind you #NaNoWriMo #NaNoWriMo2015
ing some other physical position of flirting with your 5th-grade
you used commonly when you were crush in the library. The taste Melissa Halstead @MeliHalstead
younger. Eat foods you ate when you of a certain dish can spark Stop thinking about #writing your
were young and dont eat any more. memories of your grandmoth- #memoir and take action. You might
The more different ways you ask your er. One can use such sensory surprise yourself, so jump in and get
memory a question, the more different triggers as powerful tools for started.
answers it will give you. unlocking memories.
Art Markman, executive editor of the journal Harry Haroutioun Haladjian, Conscious- Jennifer Stewart @jenny_stewart
Cognitive Science and author of Smart Change ness, Attention, and Conscious Attention Some of the best moments in life are
the ones you cant tell anyone
aboutor can you? #memoir
What we remember most intensely Memories are often tied to #personalhistory
from childhood are the emotional the senses: a familiar smell,
high points. These might be mo- a sound or sight. If you can Lisa Dale Norton @LisaDaleNorton
ments we screwed up or experi- home in on the sense reac- The act of making memoir is about
enced hurt or humiliation, as well as tion, the memory may follow. transforming your life and giving oth-
the times we felt especially excited You have to allow yourself to ers the tools to do the same.
by a gift or a happy surprise. To get focus solely on the feeling. #memoir #writing
in touch with such creativity-inspir- This is especially difcult if
ing memories, try this: List, year the memory attached to the Stevie Greeks @steviegreeks
by year, where you lived or went sense is painful. These are the Writing a memoir it can be hard to
to school, and try to recall your memories that we bury within know what is the truth, what is
teachers for each year. Now focus on our psyche. When they can be exaggeration and what is a complete
those settings until memories begin unlocked, the experience is lie. #writing #nonfiction #memoir
popping up. cathartic.
Susan K. Perry, Writing in Flow: Keys to Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Teenage as a Katie Suzanne @1lifeincolour
Enhanced Creativity and Kylies Heel Second Language Finishing a memoir, how do you write
the happy ending that hasnt hap-
pened yet? #writing #memoir
Try a technique known to improve the richness and accuracy of eyewitness
memory. Start by closing your eyes. This allows you to more fully re-immerse Buxtonlesley @buxtonlesley
yourself in the past (or an imagined future). Then think of a conjunction of #writing #memoir is like pinning
reminder cues perhaps beginning with a particular emotional state, such as down butterflies.
intense uncertainty or exhilaration. Ask yourself: What exactly did you see?
What and how did people say what they said? Was your heart racing? What Shailaja V @shyvish
did it mean for you? Stay with the memory walk forward in time and then 30 minutes #writing sprint and I
backward in time, noticing all that comes to mind. Be patient, experiment and managed 1100 words! The things you
be receptive: Deep recollection takes time. can do when you put your mind to it!
Wilma Koutstaal, Innovating Minds: Rethinking Creativity to Inspire Change (with Jonathan Binks) #WIP #AmWriting #memoir Whoop!

New York State
Summer Writers ASK THE WRITER
Institute Id like to write a perspectives illustrate the
1\S`1\S`ZLZZPVUVUL group experience,
1\S` ZLZZPVU[^V memoir with my something unique to the
sister, but Ive never Lost Boys of the Sudan,
and at the same time
TEACHING FACULTY seen a book like this show the markedly
POETRY with two authors. Is individual experiences.
Should you decide on a
FRANK BIDART it possible? collaborative approach,
HENRI COLE consider how this will play
CAROLYN FORCH Yes, its certainly possible.
Before you go forward,
out. Having that focus can
CAMPBELL MCGRATH consider how the dual
help direct your writing
process. I offer the
PEG BOYERS perspectives will function following questions as
FICTION in the memoir. Will each
of your perspectives offer
triggers for even more
M ARY G AITSKILL something unique? Will a
targeted questions
you develop.
RICK MOODY variety of perspectives If your accounts
AMY HEMPEL inform one another? If so, compete in some way,
PAUL HARDING then collaboration can be
a good idea.
how will you use that to
C RISTINA G ARCIA There are many ways a
create interest and deepen
the readers understanding
H OWARD N ORMAN collaborative effort could of the situation?
V ICTORIA R EDEL work well in a memoir. If the perspectives work
C L AIRE M ESSUD They Poured Fire on Us
From the Sky is a memoir
toward the same aim, how
J OANNA S COTT by Benjamin Ajak, Benson
will you organize the work
so that two perspectives
E LIZABETH B ENEDICT Deng and Alephonsion build on one another?
A DAM B RAVER Deng. It documents their Will two perspectives
NON-FICTION experiences as children
during war in Sudan and
tell the same story at the
PHILLIP LOPATE their arrival in the U.S. as
same time? Or will they
start out as two seemingly
JAMES MILLER young men. Ajak, Deng different narratives that, at
and Deng are part of a some point, converge?
group of nearly 4,000
VISITING FACULTY Sudanese (dubbed the
With some forethought,
a collaborative memoir
ROBERT PINSKY Lost Boys of Sudan by can be a compelling read,
JOYCE CAROL OATES Western media) who fled one that tells a deeper
RUSSELL BANKS their homes as children,
survived the harrowing
and, perhaps, more
LOUISE GLCK journey to refugee camps
complete story.
Brandi Reissenweber teaches
PAUL AUSTER and were later brought to fiction writing and reading fiction at
KATHA POLLITT the U.S. These three Gotham Writers Workshop.
Writing Prompt
FRANCINE PROSE A good way for getting in touch with childhood
memories is to think in terms of specic emotional high
RIVKA GALCHEN points, says Susan K. Perry, author of Writing in Flow:
APRIL BERNARD Keys to Enhanced Creativity. Perry suggests asking:
JOSEPH O'NEILL When did I feel shame? When was I most embarrassed?
When was I most afraid, sad, confused, angry? Write
WSLHZL]PZP[! one paragraph for each of those questions. Pick one of
the paragraphs and develop it into a scene for an essay,
^^^ZRPKTVYLLK\Z\TTLY poem or chapter of your memoir.

8 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

An InTechstudy found that writing by hand allows the brain
to receive feedback from a persons motor actions. Lodge a
motor memory in your brain with old-school pen and paper.

Memory lane
Writing memoir means retracing the past possibly all the
way back to childhood. While you are no longer that younger
version of you, its essential to remember the past clearly. To
think like you once did. These products will help your mind go
back in time to activate memory and relive years past.
Ever hear a song that immediately
transports you back to a specific
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writing room with the music of
your youth to set the scene and
provide cultural context for your
work. This box set contains five XSCIENTIFICALLY SOUND
CDs of top-10 hits from the 50s, Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki
60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. $64.98 explores how exercise improved her brain health and memory
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XSAGE and overall health. $20.33
The powers of sage
have been linked to
better metabolism XRE-MEMORY
and strengthening This deck of cards may have been created as a getting-
the senses, and to-know-you game, but the prompts it provides will
it may also help have you dipping into the memory bank. Mix and
increase memory. match three categories of cards to trigger memories
Dab a few drops during periods of your life. $23.95
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Relive your childhood by
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filling in the blanks Mad
retrace your past.
Libs style. Not only will
these activity books help
you think creatively, but
if youre focusing on a
certain scene or period
of time, pick up a book
with that theme. Options
include a sleepover
party, camp, graduation
and summer vacation.
Research while having
fun. $3.99


Mind your manners

Can politeness increase your success?

mong the benefits of being a This might be the most amazing
semi-successful professional email I have ever received, and I have
writer translation: your par- Perhaps the corresponded with the San Diego
ents no longer employ air published & Chicken. There is no indication as to
quotes when they discuss your profession experienced how this writer knows me, a clear sign of
is that, occasionally, other writers seek writer had a form letter. Nothing stating where he
your help. I respond to every message had success or she got my email address. No if you
because I am touched. Not too long ago, I with this have a moment. No please. No have a
was learning how to make Frappuccinos. Oh, waiter! boss weekend, dude. How I detest the
Now people ask me for writing and approach use of thanks here. It lingers like a
career advice, instead of extra chocolate before. nose-crinkling smell in a rush-hour
syrup and directions to the bathroom. subway car. It has the haughty tone of an
I am also duty-bound. For years, I uppity homeowner asking the cleaning
have asked smarter and far more tal- lady to drop the recycling at the curb on
ented colleagues for counsel on any her way out. And can you put Siennas
number of subjects. Not once have I toys back in the crate? Thanks.
been ignored or rebuffed. Writers, I That email went right into my trash,
have learned, help writers. retrieved only for the purposes of this
Over the summer, I chose not to heed essay. I do not feel the least bit bad
the call when I got this email. about it.
Perhaps the published & experi-
Hi Pete, enced writer had had success with
My name is [redacted]. I am a published this Oh, waiter! approach before.
& experienced freelance writer. Wanted The writing community is very
your advice on something. chummy. Sympathy, I am convinced,
I did a Facebook post on my business is the glue. Weve all been rejected.
FB page on [redacted] morning. And Dealt with uncertainty. Felt the frus-
today, I find that the post hasgoneviral. tration of adding another deadline to
On [redacted], my FB page only had the juggling chainsaw routine that is
10 likes, today it has 42 likes. having a job without a consistent pay-
Stats of my FBviralpost, so far: check. If you can navigate those
Post reach - 35000+ twists, turns and nervous trips to the
Post engagement - 6000+ ATM, it is a wonderful, empowering
Shares - 475 way to make a living.
I want to do a blogpost tentatively I wake up wanting to work. That is
Shutterstock/ WellingtonDrawe

titled [redacted] why I am eager to show others to the

Which place do you suggest I pitch it table but not if your email has the
to, where Ill get good exposure and decent pleasant tone of a subpoena. And not
money for my blogpost. so much if your LinkedIn message to
Thanks, me starts with, Dear Mr. Smith. Even
[redacted] less so if your spouses first words upon

10 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

meeting me are, How about hooking tasks such as promptly responding to courtesy and respect in asking for help,
us up? Definitely not if you reach out an email request you initiated means to make sure that I give as much as I
for advice on breaking into the busi- you will write very little, save for grocery take. It taught me to be judicious with
ness and then wait two weeks to lists and emails to Mom. asking favors, to use please and thank
respond to my suggestion that we talk Heres why: Getting paid to write you, to be grateful that there is a com-
that day. I caved on the last one means getting published. That means munity of writers who are gracious and
because it was a request from my dealing with editors. Who want to be helpful. My goal is to keep that precious
brother-in-law, whom I consider a called by their actual names. Who want environment clean of thoughtlessness
good friend. That favor executed, I to see the person behind a well-reasoned, and rudeness, so future generations can
have retired my benevolence. polite plea before they offer money for a enjoy its benefits.
Writing is an intensely personal act. far more wordy commitment. Try reply- I also got an essay out of this experi-
These behaviors spit in the face of that ing to an editors email after a fortnight. ence, which I pitched by acting like a
spirit, wrestle it to the ground and put Better yet, demand that she run your human being with an idea, not an almost
two bullets in its head. And that is not story. Enjoy becoming an anecdote pre- spambot fueled by cash and clicks.
what really annoys me. As a writer friend ceded by a head shake and a heavy sigh. The best part? I have the perfect
once said of freelancing, You dont get Ambition has to be cleaned up before response if my published & experi-
paid for showing up. You have to create you introduce it to friends and potential enced colleague ever returns with
your own infrastructure and urgency. associates. Nobody wants to feel like a another offer I can easily refuse.
Youre the boss, the accountant, the sec- rung on your ladder.
retary and the marketing department. To Still, I am grateful for having my sum- Pete Croattos work has appeared in The New
do all that requires immense focus and mer Sunday morning interrupted so York Times, Publishers Weekly and The Christian
discipline. A failure to master the small spectacularly. It reminded me to practice Science Monitor. He lives in Ithaca, NY.

The Oldest Low-Residency

Fiction | Nonction | Poetry

Past and Present Guest Writers and Editors Include:

Richard Bausch, Michael Connelly, Arthur Flowers, Nick Flynn, Roxane Gay, Hal Hartley,
Amy Hill Hearth, Eli Horowitz, Denis Johnson, Miranda July, Ben Lerner,
Susan Minot, Rick Moody, Francine Prose, Karen Russell,
George Saunders, Heather Sellers, Wesley Stace, Deborah Treisman

Teaching Faculty Include:

Jessica Anthony, Sandra Beasley, John Capouya, Brock Clarke, Erica Dawson,
Tony DSouza, Mikhail Iossel, Stefan Kiesbye, Kevin Moffett, Donald Morrill,
Josip Novakovich, Jason Ockert, Alan Michael Parker, Jeff Parker,
Corinna Vallianatos, Jennifer Vanderbes

Learn more at

or by calling (813) 258-7409.


Get away to write


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When the Low Residency MFA in There is no better advertise-
Creative Writing & Writing for ment for the success of our
the Performing Arts at the Uni- program than our alumni.
versity of California, Riverside Their achievements have
was founded, it was with the sim- been profound: U.S. Con-
ple guiding philosophy that we gressman (Mark Takano),
would provide a real-world Emmy Award-winning
emphasis on publication and pro- screenwriter (Guy Nicolucci),
duction. What that means in a acclaimed novelists (includ-
tangible sense is easy: Each of our ing Stephen Jay Schwartz,
graduating students has his or her Cate Dicharry, James Jenne-
manuscript or screenplay read by wein, Gallagher Lawson, and
top agents and managers, New York and course of his or her study, effectively as a Tiffany Hawk), award-winning poets
independent publishers, major motion minor. We believe in the idea of well- (including Rick Marlatt and Lizi
picture studio producers and develop- rounded writers skilled in more than Gilad-Silver), genre-twisting writers
ment executives and industry profession- one way of storytelling, so that you (including journalist/fiction writer
als. When our students graduate, they always have an avenue into your art. Colby Buzzell, screenwriter/play-
are professional writers, not merely writ- wright Mickey Birnbaum, and novel-
ers with an advanced degree. Your pages Our faculty ist/journalist/playwright Lee
go out into the world at the same time Our faculty includes Guggenheim Fel- Cataluna), cultural critics (Heather
you do. low (and Los Angeles Times Book Critic) Scott Partington and Maggie Downs),
David L. Ulin, New York Times best-sell- best-selling nonfiction writers (Bill
Our curriculum ing novelist (Hausfrau) and poet Jill Ratner and George Morgan) and doz-
We offer degrees in fiction, nonfiction, Alexander Essbaum, award-winning ens of working screenwriters, fiction
poetry, and screenwriting and all forms horror writer (Demon Theory) Stephen writers, essayists, poets and more. In
within those genres. What you write is Graham Jones, best-selling memoirist 2016, keep your eye out for JoAnn
up to you. Our job is to help you trans- (The Still Point of the Turning World) Chaney, Natashia Deon and Suzy Fin-
form your idea into a book or screenplay Emily Rapp, former Furthur Films presi- cham-Gray. It wont be hard to find
that launches your career. Students dent and Warner Bros. producer John them. Theyll be everywhere.
spend seven quarters working online in Schimmel, acclaimed crime writer
the program, plus five intensive 10-day (Gangsterland) Tod Goldberg, and short To apply
residencies at the Rancho Las Palmas story writer (The Laws of Evening) Mary We accept applications for Fall through
Resort in Rancho Mirage, CA just a Yukari Waters, whose work has appeared August 1, and for Spring through Feb-
few miles outside of Palm Springs in The Best American Short Stories a ruary 1. For more information, visit
studying craft and honing skills. Each remarkable three times. For a full listing or contact the
student also has the opportunity to work of our core faculty members, please visit: program at 760-834-0926 or
in a secondary discipline throughout the

12 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

Michael Birnbaum
Elizabeth Crane
Jill Alexander Essbaum
Gina Frangello
Tod Goldberg
Stephen Graham Jones
Joshua Malkin
Anthony McCann
Mary Otis
William Rabkin
Emily Rapp
Rob Roberge
John Schimmel
Mark Haskell Smith
Deanne Stillman
David L. Ulin
Mary Yukari Waters
Molly Bendall
Francesca Lia Block NONFICTION
Julie Buxbaum POETRY
Dave Cullen
Ron Currie Jr.
Geoff Dyer
Janet Fitch
Sara Gran
Javier Grillo-Marxuach
Dorothea Lasky
Jillian Lauren
Sara Levine
Attica Locke
Megan Mayhew Bergman
Joshua Mohr
Wendy C. Ortiz
T. Jefferson Parker
Allison Seay
Don Share
Matthew Specktor
Fall: August 1 Spring: February 1

On the edge

ranted, writing wasnt on shake off that grip keeping me static.
my mind while I was I have to stretch for whats uncom-
grasping for anything fortable, however unlikely, in the
solid enough to keep from event of finding something worth
sliding off one of Cinque Terres cliffs holding onto.
onto the rocky coastline hundreds of

feet below. That came later, with the Forget the destination; focus
clich but serious reflection near- on now. Over my right shoul-
death experiences usually demand. der, I see Corniglia. Gripping
What had been a beach outing with the three-inch piece of shale, I can
my boyfriend Chad quickly turned make out our apartment, the jeans Id
into a life-threatening hike. Coming hung earlier. Dirt slides beneath my
from such a transformative adven- feet as I struggle to stay on the small
ture, I was struck by how important lip, and I can see my laundry. I can see
writing actually is to me and how Ive exactly where I want to be, where I
been holding myself back. Here are should be, yet theres a canyon between
my key takeaways. my destination and me. Ive never
wanted to be anywhere more desper-

Keep moving forward. At the ately than that balcony, and the frus-
beginning, there is gravel. A tration overwhelms me. But before I
stranger suggested we follow become awash in self-pity, I stop
an obscure path leading from the myself. Worrying about Corniglia and
shoreline to the trail. But the pitch not my next move will get me killed. If
disappears into increasingly steep I want to advance, I have to focus com-
brush, until we find ourselves pletely on each and every step.
trapped on a near-vertical climb, 75 With the ever-increasing pressure
yards beneath safety. I have nowhere to publish at rapid speeds, let alone
to go. Everything crumbles at the publish at all, Ive felt like a word-
touch, and my sandals have zero smith factory, not an artist connected
tread. Chad looks at the ocean below. to my work. The mantra produce,
Its too dangerous to down-climb, produce fed my growing anxiety to
he says. We have to keep going. accomplish something now.
Continuing is painful, uncertain. And while long-term goals are
Any advance be it a foothold or key, with eyes forward, whats imme-
theme change only forces us fur- diate tends to blur into background
ther into unknown territory. This is noise. Id focused so much on churn-
when other project ideas start their ing out pages that Id stopped enjoy-
seduction, promising easier roads. ing my writing. Sentence structure
Almost always a lie, this only leads to used to excite me. What happened?
a handful of incompletes, rather than I cant pile-drive through my pas-
finished work. sion any longer. While thoughts of
Guilty of this, I realize I have to publishing persist, ultimately, I want
14 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016
That day reminded me writing is inherently part That day dealt serious physical
of who I am, and I cant imagine anything more consequences. In juxtaposition, fac-
ing the truth of my writing fears an
painful than stifling my creativity. imagined backlash of criticism is
unavoidable. Writers can suffer need-
to get lost in my love of craft, push Chad urges me on; were almost lessly, not giving ourselves enough
for constant improvement and create there. After a long, deep breath, I credit. We play small, leading us to
work that inspires me. continue, pushing past each plant as stay small in our minds, which
fast as I can, past the anguish Im try- becomes cyclical. That day reminded

Push to the end. We move ing to ignore, past the voices in my me writing is inherently part of who
inch by inch for hours from head, past everything, until I reach I am, and I cant imagine anything
one questionable rock to the trees. more painful than stifling my cre-
another. Now here we are, looking at Challenges often seem the worst ativity. Pulling myself up the moun-
branches extending salvation, on the before the end. Were more tired, tain taught me to fight for my
opposite side of an agave field. I sigh, having battled writers block, inner writing, because if I dont, some part
scanning the only handholds left critics and messy plot structures. of me will always stay on that cliff.
cacti-like vegetation. Theres no Seemingly, theres nothing left to There wont be jagged rocks to break
other way. I start slow, gripping at give. Yet as I found, theres always my fall, and itll be excruciating, but
the base, moving through carefully, more to give, and afterwards, youre Im heading for the trees.
but I cant help crying out as inch- not the same person. You come away
long thorns slash my limbs. At half- with this belief that you can do more, Jaylyn Carlyle is a fiction and freelance
way, I cant take it. I pause, needing a that you are more, and thats a pow- writer slowly traveling the world, one location
momentary break from the pain. erful truth. at a time.



The book was very lovingly

prepared so I was happy with
the experience.
Clifford Thompson, Author of Signifying Nothing

Take control of your publishing journey. Author Solutions makes it easy for
authors like Clifford to empower themselves. After receiving dozens of rejections
from traditional publishers, Clifford decided to say yes to himself, choosing to
self-publish his work through Author Solutions. Visit
to learn how we help guide authors through their publishing journeys. |

Card catalog

hen up-and-coming Research potential libraries.
authors release new Since library websites tend to be
books, they usually comprehensive, its easiest to start
want to donate cop- there. Try an Internet search using
ies to local libraries. This is a gener- the librarys name followed by the
ous gesture for those who can afford phrase suggest a purchase or pur-
to do it, but writers may not realize chase suggestion. This usually leads
that they can market their books to to detailed guidelines about the
local and regional libraries and librarys purchase policies. Some
potentially to others throughout the libraries get deluged with email solic-
country. Library systems regularly itations and prefer to receive sugges-
seek new books on diverse topics tions by mail or in person.
and are an ideal source of current Frequently, you are required to
and future readers. While selling to belong to that particular library to
libraries poses some unique chal- suggest a purchase. Depending on
lenges, these tips can make the pro- the cost, effort involved and how far
cess more rewarding. away you live, it could be worthwhile
to join an out-of-town librarys sys-
Make your book database-friendly. tem. Even if you are unable to visit a
Libraries are government agencies, certain library, having remote access
and that often means cumbersome to its ebooks and research databases
purchasing procedures, says Laura can be useful.
Lent, chief of collections and techni- Collection development librarians
cal services at the San Francisco choose what materials their institu-
Public Library. If your book is avail- tions purchase, so address any corre-
able through a third-party distribu- spondence directly to them. Lists of
tor such as Ingram or Baker & collection development librarians are
Taylor, it will be easier for an insti- available on the Internet. Google
tution to buy than one sold only library email lists. A list generally
from an author or publisher. Ebooks costs up to $100 to buy or rent,
are more likely to be considered if although particularly high-volume
they can be made available through lists can be more expensive. While
library platforms such as OverDrive these lists can help you target librar-
or Axis 360. Afterward, the library ies by type or region, proceed care-
needs to create a machine-readable fully. Since you want to be known as
cataloging MARC record for the an author and not a spammer, do
book, which can then be cross-refer- your research before contacting any-
Shutterstock/ connel

enced by a larger database such as one on the list, follow the librarys
WorldCat. An ISBN number makes preferred protocol and be sure that
all these things possible. Make sure your pitch is appropriate for your
your book has one. chosen market.
16 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016
the dig wnload
The Wri al edition of
about th ter to learn
of atten advantages
confere g library

Whats in it for librarians? pendently. Be sure to investigate have helped lessen the stigma. The
Libraries have limited time and every library you find in a web real issue is getting noticed in an
resources, and while many factors search even those with similar- increasingly competitive landscape.
affect the decision to buy certain sounding names. Large publishers devote more of their
books, two remain constant. A marketing budgets to big-name
librarian in California told me: It Look for other connections. authors, so even their midlist writers
comes down to relevancy to the com- If you attended an educational insti- now vie with indies for the same
munity and sometimes cost. But usu- tution, its libraries may welcome readership. Writers need to keep this
ally relevancy will win over cost. If books written by alumni. Likewise, in mind when dealing with libraries.
its not obvious why your book is the those who cover scientific subjects Many institutions say that pur-
perfect match for a certain library, will likely find a technical library in chase recommendations will not
state that information early. A local need of information. From profes- receive a response or may take
connection can entice libraries to sional groups to fraternal organiza- months to be considered. Take heart.
buy multiple copies since they will tions, there may be an under-the- Few libraries have staff to read a
anticipate strong patron interest. radar library where your book will book, Lent says, so its important to
shine. Library conferences can be a build a case that you have laid the
Find local libraries outside the system. great way to discover new contacts groundwork online, in print and in
While some metropolitan areas, and markets. person however you can to create
including Los Angeles, have county a reading public for your title.
and city systems, so do smaller com- Be patient and focused.
munities such as Californias Mon- While some libraries still refuse to Elizabeth Ivanovich is the author of Going
terey County. However, small-town purchase self-published and print- Coastal: Santa Cruz County and Beyond,
libraries may decline to join county on-demand books, Lent says that which she successfully placed in multiple
library systems and instead run inde- indie titles on the best-seller lists California libraries.



Its nice to have somebody support

you through the process, to guide
you through and ensure the book
is the best it can be.
Julie Hockley, Author of Crows Row

Turn your dream into reality. Author Solutions provides the
supportincluding 24/7 customer assistanceto help writers become authors.
Julies busy life nearly led her to set aside her dream of publishing. With the
guidance of the Author Solutions team, Julie finally published her book
and readers are asking for more. Visit to learn
how we are helping authors every day to realize their dreams. |

Refresher course
Keep track of narrative structure in your memoir.

emoirs travel in and out find herself on the trail. When she sets National Association of Memoir Writ-
of time. A scene that out on her trek, Strayed writes, My ers. A good memoir offers a universal
comes alive in your head mom was dead. My mom was dead. truth through a personal story.

might struggle chrono- Everything I ever imagined about myself
logically on the page. Maintaining a had disappeared into the crack of her last Create age-appropriate
solid narrative structure is critical to breath. At the end of the journey, dialogue.
ensure readers move in step with the Strayeds wiser narrator says, It was Readers have a better chance of
sequence of life events. These four enough to trust that what Id done was following your progression when they
techniques will help you keep your true. This gives evidence for takeaways. know which voice is speaking. In The
story on track. Not only do we recall the memory, Outskirts of Hope, winner of the 2015

we find meaning in it, says Kathy National Indie Excellence Award in
Show character growth with your Pooler, advisory board member at the autobiography, Jo Ivester describes her
then and now narrators. white Jewish familys experience living
The use of the voice of innocence in Mound Bayou, an all-black town in
and the voice of experience affords a the Mississippi Delta, in the 1960s. In
writer the opportunity to move the first chapter, she uses solid
through narrative time from dif- anchors to establish the childs per-
ferent perspectives, says Sue spective: Jo (10 years old).
William Silverman, author of To mimic child-like speech,
The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Ivester writes with choppier
Life as a White Anglo-Saxon sentences, more casual gram-
Jew. The voice of inno- mar, shorter words with
cence narrator experiences fewer syllables and fewer sen-
her world as if she is back in tences per paragraph. I
the moment when events chose words that are more
actually happened. The likely to be used by children
voice of experience narrator, by referring to my friends as
on the other hand, writes guys and described my parents
through the viewpoint of the as Mom and Dad, Ivester says.

writer herself, in the present,
reflecting back on the past and mak- Reference popular culture and
ing sense of it with this more authorial technology.
perspective. Contextualize time and place by
In the New York Times best-selling mentioning products, trends, songs, TV
memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the
Pacific Crest Trail, author Cheryl
With memory, shows and any other distinctive refer-
ences that will immediately evoke a
the wiser narrator
Shutterstock/ kungverylucky

Strayeds narrator moves between her particular time period. In Renewable:

current Pacific Crest Trail experience One Womans Search for Simplicity,
and scenes of her past. She grapples with
her mothers death at the onset of her
remembers an event in Faithfulness and Hope, Eileen Flanagan
describes her return from the Peace
journey, not fully realizing that the diffi- the current moment Corps. In the two-and-half years Id
cult events she encounters will help her been gone, ATMs had replaced lines at
18 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016
the bank, as well as some of the bank thing that has not yet come to pass. to my cousins for Christmas dinner
tellers. A computer was replacing the For example, at a rally to push stron- and envying their tree, tall and tinsel-
card catalog at our local library. I felt as ger action on climate change, Flanagan soaked with flashing colored lights,
out of date as the typewriter Id used at writes, This vision of human beings encircled by presents a few feet deep,
college, which now sat in the hall closet recognizing our universal Oneness ripped wrapping paper tossed nearby.
of my parents apartment, along with would, in the coming years, inspire me Years later, I was grateful Tom and I
the grass baskets Id brought home from to become a vegetarian to reduce my hadnt promoted Santa either when we
Botswana. carbon footprint, a sacrifice that felt spent Christmas with a relative whose
Because of the clear historical mark- much easier once I was living in hope son got more gifts on Christmas morn
ers, the storys moment reveals itself rather than despair. It would motivate than my two children combined.
without stating: The year was 1984. me to keep speaking about climate By pinpointing earlier and later

change in Africa and keep organizing. moments of your memoir using these
Use flashback and memory. She then re-anchors the reader in the techniques, your readers will not be led
Two commonly used tools can present: But that was all in the future astray. When they can follow your pro-
show the present-day narrator at as I stand in the bitter February wind. gression as a character, they can also
another time and place: flashbacks With memory, the wiser narrator fully enter your story.
and memory. remembers an event in the current
Flashbacks travel back in time to moment. With mixed feelings about Dorit Sasson has written for The Huffington
illustrate a story point that occurred buying things for her children and con- Post, Media Bistro and The Write Life. She is
prior to the current point in time. Simi- sumption in general, Flanagan recalls the author of several nonfiction books and the
larly, a flash forward accelerates the the painful memory of growing up memoir Accidental Soldier: A Memoir of Service
reader through time to imagine some- poor: I remembered, as a child, going and Sacrifice in the Israel Defense Forces.

fiction nonfiction poetry reviews opinions art

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ast fall, Margo Jefferson was sitting alone reading in the massive
green room for authors at the Miami Book Fair. In that moment, it
was easy to picture her as a girl poised and elegant even then
in Chicago where she grew up in an upper-middle-class family. It
was also easy to see the remove she might have had as a young
black female positioned between her familys so-called black aris-
tocratic standing and the shadow of racism in the American land-
scape. Those are the intersections of Negroland: A Memoir, which
combines Jeffersons personal stories with cultural documentary in a
mash-up style of prose, poetry, dialogue, confessional and historical
essay. Best known as the Pulitzer Prize-winning theater critic for the
New York Times and for the episodic biography On Michael Jackson,
Jefferson relies on her formidable background as a journalist and
teacher and her understanding of theater to create a dramatically
engaging and intimate commentary on self, society and where the
fault lines are for each. As professor of nonfiction writing at
Columbia University School of the Arts, she guides student essay-
ists. Negroland is her first sustained piece driven by her own journey
and writerly commitment. In it, she grapples with the impact of the
political, historical and cultural on the personal. I believe its too
easy to recount unhappy memories when you write about yourself,
she writes toward the end of the book. You bask in your own inno-
cence. You revere your grief. You arrange your angers at their most
becoming angles. Jefferson guards herself from such indulgence,
but her book is in no way pain or anger free. At the heart, however, is
craft. In Miami, we spoke about the process of achieving a memoir.
An edited and condensed version of our conversation follows.

#)'+,.!#() %$)$.-#%'$#
ALICIA ANSTEAD sies, for good reasons. But also its ANSTEAD
Your book is such an exciting explora- overlooked a lot. As much as I would like to continue on
tion of writing and your life. the cultural historical side, Id like to go
ANSTEAD back to the writing.
MARGO JEFFERSON When you say this world, what do you
Thank you. I really wanted it to be that. I mean? JEFFERSON
did it in part to experiment with certain Im happy to go back to the writing. If
modes of writing. JEFFERSON anything, the book has been talked about
Well, you see, thats the other interesting less in terms of writing, and that has
ANSTEAD thing, which also helped determine this frustrated me.
I can see theater, poetry, journalism, shifting form. Its the world of the black
criticism and essay writing in it. How elite, the black bourgeoisie, the black ANSTEAD
did you come up with that style? How upper-middle class. Because of a shifting The writing is so vibrant in its variety
did you know to have first person and status, it is an uncertain status, and and its musicality, which I know you
then to go to third person? Or to go always in some way questioned, con- understand through your time as a critic.
into another rhythm all together a list tested. The status of black people has a But also your background. Your family
for instance? lot of names and identities. At the begin- seems to have prized your development
ning of the book, my mother says to me as a person of expression.
JEFFERSON that we are considered upper-class
As a writer, you do these things inter- Negroes Negro being the word of JEFFERSON
nally, and then you do the work intel- choice in the 50s and upper-middle- Absolutely. A person of expression who
lectually. I had been reading and class Americans. And, too, her point is nevertheless did not go over any lines.
teaching lots of inventive types of clearly that, to all the bigoted people in
essays the lyric essay, the traditional America, were just more Negroes they ANSTEAD
essay, the personal essay. Since I left want to look down on. Intrinsically, there At the end of your book in the acknowl-
the Times, Ive also been interested in are entities and ambiguities. edgements, you mention the influence of
pushing at the boundaries of a critical your Columbia University colleague
voice. How can you be vulnerable and ANSTEAD Philip Lopate you dub him guardian
full of ambivalence, but also in some Is there some reason why that particular of the essay. Memoir and essay have
way be the critic analyzing and making narrative has not been mainstreamed? much to say to each other. What do you
the visual and sensory an experience? think the elements of a good essay are?
All of this was in my head. It had a lot JEFFERSON What should writers be thinking about
to do with being a reader and a To be fair, theres good sociology and when they construct an essay?
teacher, but it all started coming good fiction and some poetry about that
together when I decided to do this time. But I dont think theres any one JEFFERSON
memoir. I read memoirs, but its not reason. Maybe the dominant reason is Its always the relationship of your partic-
the form I hew unto. that when black people, Negroes, colored ular obsession with the subject, which
people,when a group is discriminated might be yourself or something else an
ANSTEAD against, the object of disdain, contempt, artist you love, a place you visited. But
Why did you do it? You spoke about not laws its always dramatized as a prob- theres always that core of the absolutely
wanting to do it and how painful it was. lem. This is even true of women. Certain intimate and personal: Whats the rela-
traits become the tropes the culture the tionship? How does it transmit into the
JEFFERSON society views it by. This narrative of larger experience? Youre always translat-
How else could I have rendered this nondramatic achievement though ing in an essay between the very intimate
world without claiming to be an omni- within that, theres a lot of drama still is and the larger picture.
scient narrator? something that a lot of white Americans
traditionally havent paid attention to ANSTEAD
ANSTEAD because it doesnt fit into the dominant And commenting on it as well?
Why did you want to claim this world? narrative of prejudice. It even doesnt get
into the dominant narrative of what JEFFERSON
JEFFERSON makes black people exciting and interest- The interesting thing about an essay
It has been written about and docu- ing. Often the same qualities or imposed is, yes, you are commenting but com-
mented in various ways. Its a world traits that can arouse contempt can also menting through confession, reflec-
that attracts both irritations and fanta- arouse a lot of excitement. tion, analysis, dramatization. We tend
22 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016
to think of the traditional essay as the Manners are a performance. This is so JEFFERSON
unfolding of a certain voice that is true of my childhood: Youve been told I have always struggled with self-censor-
very compelling, whose style we that implicitly or explicitly, any time you ship. That has been a huge battle for me.
know. But that voice can play with walk outside the way you speak, the My little drawers are filled with writing
rhythm, tone, shifts. Thats really way you dress, your diction all of this, thats true of many writers that I gave
whats interesting, that sense of pro- is going to someway signify our place as up on, decided whats the point because
cess and unexpected turns. a people on the larger stage of American it will never see the light of day or this is
society. Thats a performance. shameful or embarrassing. So yes, I
ANSTEAD thought its time. If not now, when?
You call that out in your book. In the ANSTEAD
first segment, you get to a point where Did that set you up to be a critic? ANSTEAD
you write: Im going to change my How did you know you were at that
tone now. JEFFERSON moment as a writer to take on this
Very much so. And you know, children immense project?
JEFFERSON are always learning how to perform at
Yes, I do. each stage of their lives. I very deliber- JEFFERSON
ately chose an earlier part of my life A couple of things. I had ended, in a
ANSTEAD because I wanted to dramatize and con- sense, one part of my life when I left the
How did that happen for you, inserting fess and reveal that part. A friend said to Times. I chose to leave weekly regular
yourself and saying: OK, dear reader? me: Because this world is so protective beat reviewing and column writing. I
of itself doesnt want to be misunder- had written the Michael Jackson book
JEFFERSON stood, misinterpreted or say anything so I knew that I could write a book. Both
I was very, very intent on not wanting about itself that can be held against it of those things set loose this desire to
the illusion of one tone, one narrative in many ways, you were brought up not write this book. This had been in my
overview which is implicitly omni- to write this book. And it was very head. In some way I always knew I
scient both as a writer and with tech- important to me to break that spell. wanted to bring this world to life. I
niques that interested me, and as a writer applied for a Guggenheim. Because its
trying to think how best to be faithful to ANSTEAD somewhat removed, the critic in me
this complicated experience. I knew Do you think being brought up not to could write a proposal. I didnt yet have
there had to be a lot of personae. So write this book contributed to your per- to face the story. And I got the Guggen-
much of being a privileged black person sonal sense of worth, that you also talk heim, so I had to start writing.
is executing a series of performances. about in the book in terms of suicide?
Could you have done the book any

Could we have done anything earlier? Id
like to think I could. What I did do ear-
lier was code some of this material into a
theater piece. I need not to leave that out.
That was a big step. You speak it aloud.
Sometimes speaking aloud is easier for
me than writing. Still, there it was writ-
ten down, and I had put it in front of
people. And my ambitions as a writer to
do more got fiercer and fiercer.
Courtesy of Margo Jefferson

How did you transition from daily jour-
nalism to writing removed from yourself
the Michael Jackson book to writing
a book about yourself?
XU-Highs varsity cheerleaders. Co-captain Margo is in the back row, center, 1964.

The Michael Jackson book was moving As a critic, youre always on the
from contained criticism to essayistic periphery of creativity. You have a win-
criticism. Im so interested as I said dow on that that is unique in the
before in critical authority mingled world. Youre with artists. Youre
with ambivalence and uncertainty. How watching the process.
can you not bring that to Michael Jack-
son? My editor and I were talking about JEFFERSON
him at lunch one day. We were having Yes, youre trying in a way to recreate it
lunch to talk about a possible book. I for the reader or at least the result, if
said that I was mesmerized by Michael not so much the process.
Jackson. We agreed he was a genius, and
my editor said it would be nice to see ANSTEAD
him get his due before he completely And youre opening up your heart and
self-destructs. I was not able to write the your mind to the impact of that creative
book in time to do that. But I said abso- moment. Theres a skill with that to be
lutely. We knew we had it. XMargo Jefferson c. 1950 open rather than judgmental.

ANSTEAD prose writers were engaged in set up my JEFFERSON

How did you move to that voice? excitement, my competitiveness. Dave So often the openness and the judgment
Hickey [the cultural critic] and loads of have to exist simultaneously and often
JEFFERSON critics talk about this. Since we all are a in the commercial world of writing, the
Courtesy of Margo Jefferson

Once I knew I wanted to do it this also little parasitical, any good critic is in judgment can be pushed, can be empha-
has to do with my teaching and wanting some way thinking: How do I push sized more. That becomes the brand.
to see what was out there in terms of boundaries, play with structure, do
nonfiction writing and experiments in something different? Offer a piece of ANSTEAD
nonfiction just seeing this range of writing, a description, a rendering, thats Lets talk about the biggest challenges
expressive possibilities that nonfiction alive in and of itself? with the writing.

From Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson

Im a chronicler of Negroland, a of them would be turned against the hood she was a full-time wife, mother,
participant-observer, an elegist, For nearly two hundred years we race. Most white people made no and socialite. But where did they come
dissenter and admirer; sometime in Negroland have called ourselves all room for the doctrine of human, all from to get there? And which clubs and
expatriate, ongoing interlocutor. manner of things. Like too human: our imperfections were organizations did they join to seal their
I call it Negroland because I still the colored aristocracy sub- or provisionally human. membership in this world?
nd Negro a word of wonders, glori- the colored elite For my generation the motto was A brief vita of the author.
ous and terrible. A word for runaway the colored 400 still: Achievement. Invulnerability.
slave posters and civil rights proc- the 400 Comportment. Margo Jefferson:
lamations; for social constructs and the blue vein society Part of me dreads revealing Ancestors:(In chronological order):
street corner aunts. A tonal-language the big families, the old families, the anything in these pages except our slaves and slaveholders in Virginia,
word whose meaning shifts as setting old settlers, the pioneers drive to excellence. But I dread the Kentucky, and Mississippi; farmers,
and context shift, as history twists, Negro society, black society constricted expression that comes musicians, butlers, construction crew
lurches, advances, and stagnates. As the Negro, the black, the African- from that. And were prone to being supervisors, teachers, beauticians
capital letters appear to enhance its American upper class or elite. touchy. Self-righteously smug and and maids, seamstresses and dress-
dignity; as other nomenclatures arise snobbish. So let me begin in a quiet, makers, engineers, policewomen,
to challenge its primacy. I was born in 1947, and my genera- clinical way. real estate businesswomen, lawyers,
I call it Negroland because Negro tion, like its predecessors, was taught I was born into the Chicago branch judges, doctors and social workers
dominated our history for so long; that since our achievements received of Negroland. My father was a doctor, Fathers fraternity:Kappa Alpha Psi
because I lived with its meanings and little notice or credit from white a pediatrician, and for some years head Mothers (and sisters) sorority:Delta
intimations for so long; because they America, we were not to discuss of pediatrics at Provident, the nations Sigma Theta
were essential to my rst discoveries our faults, lapses, or uncertainties oldest black hospital. My mother was Parents national clubs:the Boul
of what race meant, or, as we now in public. (Even now I shy away from a social worker who left her job when (father); the Northeasterners
say, how race was constructed. the word failings.) Even the least she married, and throughout my child- (mother)

24 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

JEFFERSON momentum. That combination turned thing I had done before. Not at that
All the challenges become a blur at out to be part chronology within collage length and not with that kind of histori-
some point. I found myself having to and still with jumping. cal and social narrative. I had to write
work in very small pieces because if I and rewrite and rewrite it.
thought to myself there will be scenes, a ANSTEAD
kind of monologue, I would freeze up. I Did you control that in part with head- ANSTEAD
had to work in small segments. Some- lines of segments? Its so important, that section.
times they would come out as essays or
reviews or scenes or cultural encoun- JEFFERSON JEFFERSON
ters. The confessional parts were always I had originally had titles over virtually I felt it was.
very hard for me so thats another rea- every section. The process of editing
son I did them in discrete. Structure made me realize that this wasnt going to ANSTEAD
was the devil because I knew the last work. Not again and again and again. It The bravery of the book Im using that
thing I wanted was the orderly elegance was too fractured. In a way, I was evad- as a synonym for innovation created
of a chronological narrative though I ing taking control of certain parts, still such a fresh voice, even though Ive
knew I needed some kind of chronol- hiding behind fragments rather than known your voice as a critic. It was unex-
ogy. The first completed version was recusing the subject. pected. I was happy to get to know you
collage: I love it! The first completed through those voices.
version was also too internal, an inter- ANSTEAD
nal collage. You could not see all the And transitions? JEFFERSON
connections. I was jumping and I had JEFFERSON Good. Thank you. I was happy to be able
the links, but the links could be as I had to work so hard on transitions. to deploy them.
ephemeral as a song title, which in my Transitions and endings are killers not
mind made the link. But my very good least of which in a small essay, but for my Alicia Anstead is the editor-in-chief at The
editor and I talked through how you book, each section had to have an ending Writer magazine. She worked for more than two
blend this desire for something more that mattered. Within that, the long his- decades as an arts critic. She is also editor and
discreet and surprising and unexpected torical section at the beginning was very co-founder of the Harvard Arts Blog at the
with a readers desire for a narrative difficult for me because its not some- Office for the Arts at Harvard.

Sisters and my national clubs:Jack little but does not write / reads and ers, employers, and parents; From New Orleans to New York, men
and Jill; the Co-Ettes writes a little / neither reads nor men and women who bought their and women of mixed blood insistently
Local clubs, schools, and camps will writes freedom with hard cash and hard labor; established their primacy.
be named as we go along. Skin color descends from African and Indian men, women, and children bought and Ive fallen into a mocking tone that
and hair will be described, evaluated royalty / descends from African ob- freed by slavery-hating whites or Negro feels prematurely disloyal.
too, along with other racialized physical scurities / descends from upper-class friends and relatives;
Excerpt reprinted with permission from Margo
traits. Questions inevitably will arise. whites / descends from lower-class men and women descended from free
Jefferson 2015, Pantheon Books.
Among them: How does one how do whites / descends from no whites Negroes, hence born free.
you, how do I parse class, race, fam- at all They learned their letters and their
ily, and temperament? How many kinds manners; they learned skilled trades
of deprivation are there? What is the White Americans have always (barber, caterer, baker, jeweler, machin-
compass of privilege? What has made known how to develop aristocracies ist, tailor, dressmaker); they were the
and maimed me? from local resources, however scant. best-trained servants in the better
Here are some of this groups found- British grocers arrive on theMayower white homes and hotels; they bought
ing categories, the oppositions and and become founding fathers. German real estate; published newspapers;
distinctions they came to live by. laborers emigrate to Chicago and established schools and churches;
become slaughterhouse kings. Women formed clubs and mutual aid societies;
Northerner / Southerner of equally modest origins marry these took care to marry among themselves.
house slave / eld hand men or their rivals or their betters and Some arrived from Haiti alongside
free black / slave black become social arbiters. whites eeing Toussaint LOuvertures
free black / free mulatto We did the same. Colored society black revolution: their ranks included
skilled worker / unskilled worker (free was originally a mlange of men and free mulattoes and slaves who, after
or slave) women who were given favorable some pretense of loyalty, found it easy
owns property / owns none treatment, money, property, and even to desert their former masters and go
reads and writes uently / reads a freedom by well-born Caucasian own- into the business of upward mobility.
THERE COMES A POINT in the writing of a memoir where youre
so far in and at the same time so far from where you want to be
that you feel like youre swimming your way across a channel
having lost sight of land on either side. It takes grit and deter-
mination to keep pushing forward, but also a strategic plan
and practical tools. Relying on willpower as a driver may ulti-
mately get you to a place where the end destination is visible; it
may even get you to the finish line. But its not enough.
Memoir asks so much from a writer, much more than only
writing a good story. Because holding nothing back is a prereq-
uisite for writing one, you may feel like youve offered yourself
up in some sort of sacrificial ceremony you wish you could
rewind. But usually by the time a memoirist realizes this, he or
she is usually too far in to bail out. Therefore its essential that
you be well-equipped on this journey with strategies to keep
you focused, organized and on track, with tools you can access
when you feel like youre flailing, sinking or plain stuck.

Whenever youre feeling overwhelmed, its best to zoom out-
ward rather than inward, to think macro rather than micro
for the purpose of gaining perspective. Feeling adrift
between the start and the finish of a memoir can cause panic;
it breeds defeatism and fires up the inner critic. Why are we
doing this again? Is this really worth all the suffering? Whos
going to read this thing anyway?
If you find yourself in this space, you must reconnect not
only with the big picture of your story, but with why youre
writing, and for whom youre writing. Not being able to see
the forest through the trees happens when we forget that we
can grant ourselves the omniscient power to see all. We are
here and there and everywhere, the creator and director of
our own lived experience. You can use the following strate-
gies any time you feel stuck to give yourself a sense of hold-
ing, an embrace from a support system of your own making.
Creating support structures for yourself gives you a life raft
to cling onto when you feel like you dont have it in you to
keep going. The following strategies can help.

Strategy #1: Harness your theme.

Whenever clients or students of mine are treading water,
whether theyre weighted down by the volume of writing
theyve amassed or feeling at a loss about how to move their
story forward, I suggest we look upward rather than ahead.
Shutterstock/ Dmytro Balkhovitin

Your memoir has an atmosphere, the air a reader breathes,

and its called theme. Its presence is felt in every scene,
whether or not its explicitly named by the author.
In Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilberts themes are part of the
title, the structure and the very backbone of the book: passion,
devotion and love. Dani Shapiros Devotion is another theme-
based memoir where the author tethers us to what shes explor-
ing through her title. Both Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, and H Is Rumi wrote, Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah; it
for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald, are about grief, but the for- makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.
mer is also about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and what hap- Your memoir is your foolish project, and its wondrous.
pens there, and the latter is also about training a hawk. Both Though your memoir will invariably take on a life of its own,
of these memoirists use the device of an experience (hiking you must take time to reconnect to why youre writing and
and hawking) as a frame for their journeys through grief, their why thats important. Honor the project and yourself during
primary theme. this journey, because too often theres no one else who will.
If your theme is vague, such as transformation, try to artic-
ulate what initiated your transformation. Find a specific con- TOOLS FOR THE JOURNEY
cept you can pinpoint that speaks to a universal human While strategies are valuable for helping you become unstuck,
experience or emotion, such as devotion or grief, and perhaps theres nothing like having tools at the ready when something
also coming of age, aging, addiction, being an outsider or the needs quick fixing. Using tools to tweak and tighten your
repetition of a particular family pattern. memoir as you go gives peace of mind, too. Instead of tread-
Answering the question of how your writing informs your ing aimlessly, feeling hopeless or beating yourself up, you can
theme in every scene you write will strengthen your process. come up with a maintenance plan. Once youre clear on your
If you cannot articulate an answer to that how, then either theme(s) and you know where youre going to end up, the fol-
your scene does not belong in your memoir, or your theme lowing tools can be used either for maintenance or for a nec-
might be too broad or nebulous. essary shift in perspective, depending on what support you
need in a given writing session.
Strategy #2: Decide the ending.
Choosing where your memoir is going to end doesnt mean F Take inventory.
youre shackled to that decision if it later doesnt work for the Finding yourself in the channel between two land masses
story. It will, however, provide guidance in those darker feels particularly difficult for some writers who get frus-
moments when theres no end in sight because no end has trated by how little they remember of what theyve written
ever been established. Writers are often reluctant to decide so far. If you take a break from your writing even two or
on an ending because, they say, theyre still living it. Or three weeks you may well remember nothing. This is nor-
something about doing so feels too final, as if putting a mal. Our brains have a lot of information to catalog. Its mas-
damper on the creative process by making a concrete decla- ochistic to keep reading the same pages over and over again
ration about where you want to end up. If you find yourself thinking you can hold all of it in your head. You need Cliffs-
resisting the idea of putting an ending on your story, how- Notes to your own writing, and you can create just that by
ever, thats probably evidence that you might need to do just doing summaries of each chapter youve written so far. If you
that. We all need boundaries, some of us more than others. havent separated your writing into chapters, then summa-
Limitlessness is not all its cracked up to be. In our culture, rize by scenes or events. Having a cheat sheet to review
we are often taught that limits stifle freedom and expression. before you sit down for a new session is an easy gift that you
But not if you give yourself plenty of room to play. And can adopt into your ongoing writing practice, forgiving your
within memoir theres only so much you have to work with. brain for not being able to track every detail.
After all, youre writing about the truth of what happened,
the events of your lived experience. If your ending cant hap- F Scaffold whats left.
pen because you are still living it, you might want to con- Scaffolding is outlining on steroids. Its a process not so differ-
sider rethinking the scope of your memoir and writing a ent from taking an inventory but involves doing summaries.
first memoir that you can actually end. Leave the unfolding You project whats coming, scene-by-scene, in three sentences
story of your life and whats still happening right now for a or less per scene. Once youve taken your inventory, scaffold-
second or third book. ing helps you make decisions about whats coming next.
If, as you write, your story starts to take a different direction
Strategy #3: Reconnect with purpose. from your scaffolding, not to worry! Fix it to represent what has
While there are many reasons to write a memoir, most people actually happened. Then, once your chapter is complete, your
are driven by motivation to write the book they wish theyd scaffolding chapter becomes part of your inventory. You can
had while they were going through a particular experience, scaffold out one chapter at a time, or you can do your whole
and they want to help others. They may also be driven by a book. In the classes I teach, students who use scaffolding com-
need, and theres simply no not writing it. The memoir wont plete their memoirs at a faster and more thorough rate than
leave them alone, and they cant heal without it. those who dont. Its a support, after all, and memoirists cannot
Knowing or remembering why you wanted to write your have enough of that. Develop this practice and discover for
memoir in the first place connects you back to the big pic- yourself how gratifying it is to have a plan in place about where
ture. It helps to meditate on why you took on this challenge. youre going next.
28 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016
F Determine takeaways. oirists. After all, your memoir is about you, told from a
The takeaway of your memoir has to do with whats in it for single perspective: yours. But lately all sorts of memoirists
the reader. Agents and editors will want to know what you have been pushing the envelope of imagined narratives
think your takeaway is, if and when you shop your manu- within their own memoirs, and deigning to call it memoir.
script. Readers should be able to feel a sense of takeaway. And reviewers and audiences alike seem to be perfectly
The only memoirs that dont necessarily need takeaways are happy with this obviously due to the fact that the writers
those written by celebrities, or the result of infamous stories are being explicit about what theyre doing. In H Is for
covered in the media, like Jaycee Dugards A Stolen Life or Hawk, Helen Macdonald gracefully inhabits the psyche of
Amanda Knoxs Waiting to be Heard. fellow author and hawker T.H. White; in The Family
If people arent clamoring to hear about the intricacies of Romance, John Lanchester slips into his mothers skin as
your life, however, you need to pay attention to takeaway. he writes from her point of view to uncover certain sur-
Takeaway involves more than simply identifying what you prising things about his family history; in Replacement
think a reader will get from reading your memoir. It also Child, Judy Mandel writes about events she didnt live
shows up in your writing as moments through, reconstructing them through
within the narrative when you tap into newspaper articles and imagined psy-
something bigger than yourself. Theyre
moments when you think about your SOMETIMES WE chological responses to a deep family
tragedy that resulted in the loss of an
readers and attempt to connect them to
something bigger than your book. NEED TO PLUNGE older sister whose death prompted Man-
del's own conception.
Takeaway can be identified as times in
your writing when you turn outward, HEADLONG INTO Sometimes you may want to write
from anothers point of view to under-
where instead of writing, This is what
happened to me, you write, This is how OUR OWN PASTS stand the person he or she was, even to
forgive that person. If youre writing a
my experience connects to a greater
whole. It takes practice to incorporate TO ACCESS character who is one-dimensional or
coming across as all good or all bad, try
takeaways into your writing, but getting
the hang of it is the difference between A DEEPER to write a single scene from a new per-
spective as an exercise. It doesnt mean it
having a readable memoir and a life-
changing memoir. REMEMBERING. has to make the final cut of your book.
See what you find when you walk in
another persons shoes. What were the
F Mine your memories. struggles? The influences?
Sometimes we need to plunge headlong
into our own pasts to access a deeper When writers are adrift with a memoir,
remembering. When sitting with your they can feel as if their dream of writing a
thoughts in your writing space starts to book that matters will never manifest.
feel insufficient, you need photos, music, Completing a memoir is a major accom-
Google Earth or a trip to your old haunts. Immerse yourself plishment (and challenge), and theres nothing like setting
in old photos and play music from that era. See if you can yourself back on course to give you a boost of confidence to
grasp snapshots of memories that might be dusted over but see yourself through to the finish line.
not buried, and then jot them down in a notebook. Look up Its not surprising that so many memoirists slog through
the topography youre writing about on Google Earth and the middle terrain of their memoirs, often feeling like theyre
see whats there. What new memories come up when you alone, trying to force it or sometimes throwing in the towel.
virtually revisit where you grew up, or where you lived dur- Without structure and support, youre likely to exhaust your-
ing the time your memoir covers? Better yet, visit. If you self and strain the author-memoir relationship, which needs to
have the opportunity to take a research trip, seize it. Pay par- be acknowledged and tended to for your book to continue to
ticular attention to your dreams. We can rattle our subcon- have a pulse. Theres no promise here that you can change
scious with enough effort, but if were not alert to how it your orientation to your writing quickly or drastically, but
communicates, well lose its messages. So carve out some only you can decide that its time to implement a new
space. Give yourself this gift. Try to go alone. Be with your approach to your writing. Start with supportive structures that
thoughts, and be with silence. Create an environment that buoy you, giving you faith, not just hope, that you will finish
invites your memories in. what you started.

F Write from the point of view of another. Brooke Warner is publisher of She Writes Press and president of Warner
In the past, shifting points of view has been off-limits to mem- Coaching Inc. She is the co-author of Breaking Ground on Your Memoir.


in a memoir
to trigger
engagement with
your reader.
Note the use of specific details: the characterization
of Grandpa, the scent of the pipe and flowers, dialogue
that shows characterization, the strong visual ele-
ments. Lets look more closely at how to write power-
ful scenes that will keep your readers engaged in your
story from the first to the last page.

Selecting scenes
Writing in scenes is the most powerful way to bring
people into your world and to write like a novelist.
A scene includes action that takes place at a cer-
tain time and place, presented in real time. A scene
is showing, not telling. Theres a reason for the
scene to exist, something important that you want
the reader to experience.
Scenes include characters who are acted upon and
reacting, and occurs in a particular place and time.
Successful scenes include sensual details such as sight,
sound, smell and texture, and they may include dia-
logue. Something happens in a scene that moves along
the plot. Think of scenes as pearls on the necklace of
ost writers have heard about the so-called rule show, your narrative arc.
dont tell, but putting it into practice when it comes to Memoir writers have a unique challenge in decid-
writing about your own life in a memoir can be a chal- ing what scenes to include to bring the reader inside
lenge. After all, you remember vividly how you strolled the heart and soul of the story being told. A fiction
in the garden with your grandfather, and how his prize writer can make up the various elements of a scene,
irises and roses bloomed. You can see and feel that but you are remembering it. The events have already
moment, so you write: I remember how Grandpa and I been processed and tucked into the file cabinet of your
took lovely walks in his beautiful garden. mind as an image that holds an emotion.
The problem with this sentence is that there are no Sometimes all we remember is the emotion con-
sensual details to engage the reader, to make the nected to an experience whether its the pleasant
reader feel your story. Sensual details deliver the walk with a grandfather or a painful moment where
power of the moment, and this is what moves readers. details are blurred. Regardless, you need make your
Sensual details of colors, taste, smell and texture evoke scenes come alive and still write the truth. I teach
emotion and bring the reader into the world youre writers to figure out what scenes to include by having
creating on the page. Consider the following passage. them list turning points or moments of meaning.
Scenes slow time down and bring the reader fully into
It was morning, and the storms of the night had the world youre painting in your story.
passed. Grandpa looked at me and nodded his
head toward the garden. His raggedy straw hat Theme determines scenes
perched over the bald spot on his head, and he You choose the scenes that show significant
stuck his pipe in his mouth. I loved how the wal- moments based on your theme. After all, you cant
nut tobacco aroma mixed with the smell of earth include everything that happened in your life, so
and green leaves as we headed out over the gravel ask yourself: What is my memoir about? What is the
path. It led through his prize irises, a brilliant story Im trying to tell? The theme of Cheryl
ultramarine blue still flecked with dew. The path Strayed's Wild, for instance, is indicated in the sub-
curved toward the crimson roses climbing up a title: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
white trellis. He bent his head, silver hair glisten- The late Frank McCourt said his memoir, Angelas
ing in the morning sun and deeply inhaled. Glo- Ashes, is about his miserable Irish childhood.
rious, arent they! You smell them now. But dont How would you characterize your theme? Perhaps

let the thorns bite you. I bent my head as the its how you healed from an illness, took a trip that
musky smell of the roses filled me up. changed your life or repaired a mother-daughter con-

flict. You need to have a focal point to help you select your ways to show rather than tell how they sound.
scenes. The theme will determine your choice of scenes. 9 Taste Tart, sweet, salty. Use examples of specific flavors such
I recommend that memoirists make a list of significant as strawberries, lemon, chocolate, barbecued. How do your
moments. For instance, if your book is about how the moth- characters react to certain foods? Which flavors bring mem-
ers and grandmothers in your family were in conflict, you ories alive for you?
might choose scenes that show how you experienced those 9 Texture Soft, harsh, hard, slick, bumpy. Show the textures in
conflicts. If your book is about recovering from an illness, your scenes. For instance: We slipped on sidewalks slick
you might show yourself in good health at the beginning, with rain. We couldnt get the sand out of our bed.
then include scenes that show how the symptoms appeared, 9 Vivid descriptions When writing about colors, go beyond
the specifics of being ill, how you found the wrong doctor, the generic red or yellow. Crimson, red-orange, blood
then the right doctor. red. Lemon yellow, the deep yellow of an autumn afternoon.
The arc of scenes would build chapters that show how you 9 Sensations What does the world you are creating feel
coped with the scary challenges regarding your illness and how like? Is it harsh and hot like parts of Strayeds Wild, or wet
you got better. You present the conflict points in your story and and cold, like McCourts miserable Irish childhood in
then follow that particular arc, whether its within a scene or the Angelas Ashes?
resolution at the end of the book. You may have had a full life of
family, children, husband, work and friends, but you would Dialogue and characterization
choose scenes to show how the real-life characters and aspects Now that you know how to choose and develop the sensual
of your life interacted around your health and the emotional details in your scenes, keep a few more elements in mind
significance of these interactions based on your theme. about scene writing. Remember that a scene has a beginning,
middle and end, and must show something significant at play.
Staying in the dream A scenes other job is to include the thoughts and reflections of
Once you are clear about how to choose your scenes, develop the narrator. Without these clues to the narrators thinking, we
them to create the dream of your memoir. The term fictional fall out of the dream.
dream comes from John Gardners The Art of Fiction, in which Dialogue and characterization develop a scene by present-
he writes that we weave a world for our readers with every detail ing struggles, opinions and differences in points of view. The
we include every scene, description, character best way to show who characters are is to have
and piece of dialogue. When we fail to offer con- Bring your them speak. Memoirists sometimes struggle
tinuous clues to scenes in that world, the reader world alive with characterization because they know the
falls out of the dream. people in the story so well. Theyre related to
The best way to create this dream is to write by taking most of them.
vivid scenes that stimulate the brain to see, feel the time to Characterization includes what people wore
and taste that world. Research in the neurosci- create and how they moved. Consider gestures such as
ence of writing demonstrates that when we read how they pushed the hair out of their eyes,
a story with sensual details, our brain fires up in dynamic cleared their throat, paced back and forth,
the areas of visualization, taste and sound. details. always tapped a wine glass. Such character
Bring your world alive by taking the time to tags keep us apprised of a particular character
create dynamic details of sound, texture and col- without a long description each time they
orful descriptions. Taste is one of our most pow- appear. Think about hair, eyes, glasses, shoes
erful memory triggers and instantly evokes a particular and lifestyle as you assemble the various details that comprise
moment in time. Think of the aroma of fresh baked bread, your characters.
Grandmas ginger cookies, Uncle Jakes barbecued ribs. We are To develop dialogue that shows your characters in action,
there with you. practice writing how the people in your memoir speak. Try to
Evocative details take the reader into the scene by creating a tune in to the cadence of speech and the language they used.
parallel experience for the reader in a similar way as you S What special expressions did they use?
remember the same moment. Work to include the following S Did they speak in dialect?
details the next time you sit down to write a scene. S Did they use fancy words?
S What words did they use or refuse to use?
9 Sound If there is music in your story, how does it make One sentence of speech characterizes someone faster than a
you feel? What is the sound of the voices in your story? long passage of description.
Are they guttural, growling, lilting or sing-song? Are
there irritating sounds? Do your characters make specific Talking heads
sounds such as grinding their teeth, speaking in a clipped However, I caution writers to avoid what I call talking heads.
way or elongating vowels in a drawl? Find interesting This involves leaving out the details of the world they are
F )74,?8A4? G February 2016
weaving, the thoughts, reactions and body black sheep and that John has looked out
language of the characters speaking. Learn about after him and empathizes with him, but is
In this example, John the I narrator, the magic frustrated with him.
is talking to his cousin Daniel. They have
been celebrating Grandmas birthday for
of writing His thoughts help to characterize the
narrator/protagonist: I hated criticizing
dozens of years (context that is already scenes by Daniel is woven with descriptions of Dan-
established in the story). reading iel through Johns eyes: His face lit up. I
couldnt tell whether he was angry or hurt.
Hey Daniel, you know that we are well-written Without these clues, we just hear words
gathering next weekend to celebrate memoirs. spoken. Take the time to weave in the
Grandmas birthday again. details that fully show the people in your
Great, I was planning on coming. Ill scenes, and reactions to what they say and
bring a cake from Costco. their behavior in the scenes.
Uh, well, OK.
Cool. I like that rich chocolate layered cake. Checklist for creating scenes
Dont you remember shes is allergic to chocolate? Writing a great scene is like juggling. You need to ground your
I knew that. scenes first in place and time and build them by creating that
You know, Im going to pick up some cookies anyway. Ill particular moment in time with the following.
just grab the cake too. 9 Place, setting: Describe landscape, weather, buildings,
towns, cities, canyons, deserts, mountains.
Body language and reactions 9 Characters: What are their actions and dialogue?
Here is the same scene, but this time with reflection, physical 9 Situation: What is the central problem?
action and characterization of the narrator, John, and his 9 Action: How do different people in the scene react, move,
cousin Daniel. respond?
9 Dialogue: How do people talk? Use language and words.
Hey Daniel, you know that were gathering next 9 Conflict: How do people express their differences? What are
weekend to celebrate Grandmas birthday. Daniel had their differences?
forgotten Grandmas birthday for as long as I could 9 Context: When does the story occur in time?
remember. 9 Sensual details: How does the world feel, smell, taste, sound?
Great, yeah, I was planning on coming. Ill bring a cake
from Costco. He puffed on the last bit of cigarette before Pearls of your story
stomping it out with his boot. In a scene, the reader is transported into your world using all
Uh, well, OK. I hated criticizing Daniel, but really, the tools mentioned here. If you use the checklist above,
Costco? Hed been the black sheep ever since hed got- each scene will be a moment of time-traveling for your read-
ten arrested at 13. I was in his corner more than most ers as you transport them to places and moments they have
in our family, but sometimes I felt I had to save him never been before. Each pearl, each scene, takes your readers
from himself. into a mind-meld where the sensual details register in their
Cool. I like that rich chocolate cake. Daniels face minds in a similar way as originally experienced by you.
lit up, reminding me of how he was before, when we This phenomenon has been confirmed by studies in neuro-
were kids. science that prove our brains respond to stories as we read.
Darn it, why does he have to be so clueless? I The best way to learn about the magic of writing scenes is
reminded him, Grandmas allergic to chocolate. to read well-written memoirs and fiction, and to notice how
Yeah, I knew that. you sink into the worlds those writers create. Mary Karr
Why dont you just let me get the cake? I said, again takes you to Texas, Jeannette Walls to the rough gritty places
as casually as I could, but feeling the strain in my voice. of her childhood. On each trip, you are with them as they
Daniel turned his back and lit another cigarette. He make you feel hot, sweaty, scared, cold and triumphant. Each
didnt bother to respond. I couldnt tell if he was angry scene makes you re-experience what they originally experi-
or hurt. enced, to travel and to learn and feel what it means to be
human. That is the power of memoir.
We learn a fair amount about these two people in this brief
dialogue segment: the relationship between these cousins and Linda Joy Myers is president of the National Association of Memoir Writ-
how things have changed, or not, through the years. Through ers. Her memoir Dont Call Me Mother is a ForeWord Book of the Year finalist
the characterization of the protagonist, we learn Johns goal/ and Indie-Excellence Awards finalist. Shes the author of The Power of Mem-
desire is that Daniel feel included. We learn that Daniel is the oir and teaches the memoir intensive Write Your Memoir in Six Months.


Get outta the house


oure getting ready to call a in small towns and bustling cities, I liked the folks I worked with,
source crucial to a story these spaces range from a simple cube and theres been a little bit of network-
youre working on. First, to a private office to a full conference ing, he says. The owner and I took
you scan the area: The dog room suitable for impressing clients. to each other, and are now friends and
is contently sleeping, the neighbor- Some offer an open floor plan with have networked through each other.
hood kids arent clustered at the end unassigned seating, encouraging While Mossman is back to working
of your driveway and theres no sign workers to move about. Many boast at home, he views his time in the co-
of your neighbor firing up his lawn- amenities such as lockers for over- working space as a positive experi-
mower. Soon youre engaged in an night storage, a fitness center, a roof ence. In addition to the new
informative conversation when a garden, mailing services, a kitchen
truck lumbers up your driveway. Your or catering.
landscaper arrives, weedwacker in Washington, D.C.-area freelance THE RATES
tow, a day early. writer Matt Mossman turned to a co- Sounds great, but whats the cost? Heres a
While working at home is more working space when his newborn sampling of prices around the country. Rates vary
based on frequency of use, type of space
frequently a perk than a burden, it presented a temporary interruption
needed, extras and more. Always confirm ahead
does present the occasional, unavoid- into his usual bedroom work space. of time and verify whats included.
able interruption. Many independent After looking around in his area, he
Share Space, Day rate: $35;
workers have found refuge in renting chose a location that gave him a Rochester, five days: $150;
co-working spaces public places casual feeling over an option with a Michigan one month: $450
where you pay for office space by the full kitchen. sharespace.cobot. Ten-person suites:
day, month or longer. I really just wanted a good place me/plans six-month minimum
We see a lot of writers, from those to pull up a chair and flexible part- rental
Day pass: $15;
freelancing on different projects, to time hours, he says, adding that monthly: $99-$520,
Shutterstock/ maverick_infanta

Link Coworking,
someone writing a childrens book. It while he was open to the potential depending on number
Austin, Texas
of visits and space
really varies, says Devin Cole, direc- camaraderie of a communal work
tor of business development at Work- area, he didnt want to feel forced. Ten visits within
Bar, with locations in Boston and The space, which attracted just three months: $400
Sparks Cowork
Monthly rate: $300-
Cambridge, Massachusetts. four regular workers, proved good Space, Acton,
Gaining popularity among writers for Mossman. Massachusetts
Boston and
Desk rental: $50 per
day; $500 per month
Office rental: $70
per day; $1,100 per
month; long-term Day rate: $30
plans available Five days in one
Conference rooms: month: $125
$50-$100 per hour
Full-time: $350 per
month; team spaces
and offices also
New York, New York
connections, he enjoyed being out of out a new idea shed been planning. worker a place to work, plus access to a
the house more than usual. I wanted to roll out a new creative larger community.
Enrichment opportunities are another audit service for small businesses, in The underlying feel is that youre in a
common perk of many co-working which I review their marketing tactics room full of smart, helpful people, says
spaces; a full calendar of professional and strategies to help improve their Cole, observing that workers tend to
development sessions and social events is branding, she explains. After announc- embrace the chance to talk and meet
common. Facilitators are both outside ing her services in the spaces newsletter new people.
professionals and members showcasing offering a free session to the first few Most spaces respect the independent
their own skills. responders she had some test clients. nature of the self-employed by offering
Long Island, New York, freelance Caruso also participated in an orga- flexible scheduling and varying member-
writer Iyna Caruso thought a co-working nized one-to-one program set up by the ship plans. Many are pet-friendly, a
space would create a useful home base space, during which she introduced her bonus for work-at-home types used to
during trips to Manhattan for meetings services to members and heard about catering to Fidos daily needs.
or press events. After looking around, other members needs. Whether you need a quiet place to
she chose In Good Company, a space In addition to a quiet spot at which to work, a change of scenery to boost your
dedicated to women entrepreneurs. work while on the road, Caruso came creativity or youve just been itching for
In addition to desk space, it has a full away from the experience with a head contact with like-minded individuals,
schedule of networking events and start on her new service: I got great exploring co-working spaces can be a
classes, and it gives members the oppor- feedback plus a couple of new clients. great way to revitalize your work style.
tunity to offer workshops and programs While memberships and floor plans
of their own, she says. vary, most co-working spaces are uni- Debbie Swanson is a Massachusetts-based
Caruso used that as a chance to try form in their goal to give the solo freelance writer.

the ownlo
to re digital e ad
favor the teac tion
i h
BY MEREDITH QUINN brea te studen ers
kt t
mom hrough

Young living

n Bird by Bird: Some Instructions Community School in Los Angeles,
on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott notes that while the genre is mainly
writes, Remember that you own taught in the elementary and middle
what happened to you. grade levels, it is beneficial to high
That sentiment drives many writers schoolers as well. Our stories are the
to memoir to the point where the things we know best, she says, and
genre sometimes becomes the butt of a teaching students to be able to go back
joke. We might find ourselves asking: Is and look for significance in their lives is
memoir a fad, a self-indulgent ego essential for giving [them] a sense of
boost? Or is it important? their space in the world.
To Jake Wizner, memoirist and 8th When his principal approached
grade English teacher, it is important. Wizner about incorporating memoir
Throughout middle school and high into his syllabus, he was skeptical.
school, students are constantly invent- Was it possible that 13-year-old chil-
ing and reinventing themselves, he dren had had enough meaningful
says. Memoir, more than any other experiences and the distance from
genre, helps them answer the question, those experiences to be able to write
Who am I? reflectively about them? he wondered.
The craft of memoir is taught in But his students engagement was a
schools across the U.S. whether its revelation, and he saw how deeply
identified as such or not. Kathryn and thoughtfully they were able to
Gullo, an English teacher at the UCLA open windows into their lives and to



Shutterstock/ DenisFilm

 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

reflect on who they were. of recreating and manip-
The resulting work, he The two teachers we
ulating our life stories in
says, was the best his stu- spoke to recommend the ways that help us better
dents had submitted all following memoirs for understand who we are.
year. I came to see the young readers. Once they grasp the
memoir unit as the most Jake Wizner intricacies of the genre, THE NATIONS FIRST AND ONLY
meaningful and exciting Middle school students get writing, and, LOW-RESIDENCY
work I do with my stu- Wizner says, many make
First French Kiss
dents, he says. by Adam Bagdasarian both personal and aca-
It might be difficult to 8th grade+ demic breakthroughs. IN
imagine a classroom of The Glass Castle Young writers, like
freshmen taking the by Jeannette Walls their elders, struggle with CREATIVE
weight of memoir seri-
ously. But Gullo starts by
This Boys Life
by Tobias Wolff
revision. Secondary stu-
dents find revision mad- WRITING
encouraging her students Kathryn Gullo dening, says Gullo,
to write small, something A Long Way Gone by because they feel like the ),&7,2132(75<3/$<:5,7,1*
which she has since Ishmael Beah words made the page CREATIVE NONFICTION
learned to do in her own The Glass Castle by [and] therefore the work
work. The most resonant Jeannette Walls is over.
times are not the big Though students may DIRECTOR
A Child Called It by Dave JANET SYLVESTER
flashy moments, she says. Pelzer not have yet learned the
Getting students to slow phrase kill your darlings,
Half a Life by Darrin FACULTY
down and look for that Strauss
Gullo encourages Stephen
moment and then to Kings other phrase the
Truth & Beauty by Ann LAURIE FOOS
explore it in depth is defi- egocentric scribblers
nitely a challenge, but heart. She says, Its easier
worth it. to get students to make MICHAEL VIZSOLYI
According to Wizner, a successful targeted revision by focusing on sharp-
memoir unit will build community and ening and brightening their writing with
expand reading horizons, and can have stronger verbs or more specific nouns )$//$1'635,1* RESIDENCIES IN
a transformative effect on students who than it is to get students to tighten. PLAINFIELD, VT
are struggling academically or with Since teaching memoir, Wizner has
issues in their lives. seen his own craft and reading deepen.
Wizner points his students to three In exploring with my students the many
considerations for memoir: fact vs. ways to write a strong lead or a memora-
truth, the reason for telling the story ble ending, he says, Ive done the work
and a balance of details and reflection. with them, pushing myself to try tech-
The line between fact and truth while niques out of my normal comfort zone.
recreating scenes can be a fine one He also draws inspiration from his
particularly for children who have a students work. Ive come to see new
tendency to exaggerate. To illustrate the and interesting ways to stretch the 3526(32(75<,0$*(6
point, Wizner and his students analyze boundaries of the genre, he says. $0$/*$0
published memoirs, including ones that And if you, your child or your student
have fallen from grace, such as James still isnt sold on the idea of learning '8(1'(38%/,6+(63526(
Freys A Million Little Pieces. We talk about memoir, Gullo points to one criti- 32(75<75$16/$7,216
about the difference between manipu- cal benefit: Memoirs help feed one of 9,68$/$57+<%5,')2506
lating the past to communicate a larger the most high-stakes writing forms in $1'&2//$%25$7,216
truth and just making things up to high school: the college essay. DUENDELITERARY.ORG
heighten the drama, he says. Ulti-
mately, students come to understand Meredith Quinn is a graduate of New York
that memoir is a process of reinvention, University and managing editor at The Writer.

Truth based

riting conferences arent
exclusively for fiction
writers and poets. Mem-
oirists and other creative
nonfiction writers also have opportuni-
ties to focus on craft in a conference set-
ting. Calling in some of the biggest
hitters in essay, memoir and the publish-
ing industry, nonfiction conferences bal-
ance craft talk with ethical issues. In
addition to topics essential to nonfiction,
such as truthfulness, privacy of subjects
and fact checking, breakout sessions also
cover the business end of publishing,
including constructing a book proposal
and building a social media platform.

San Miguel Writers Conference the Friday night keynote speaker, and
After this annual conference, with Joyce Susan Wittig Albert will deliver the key- niques and facets of the publication pro-
Carol Oates as keynoter, memoir writers note address on Sunday. Sessions include cess. Breakout sessions allow
can stay on for a six-day retreat with 15-minute heart-to-heart coaching ses- participants to experience writing in a
Susan Brown. During the week, partici- sions, writing like a heroine, dialogue, small group atmosphere. Past presenters
pants work with the writing coach to creative ways to market, flash memoir, have included the New York Times con-
create a five-part book proposal, an coming of age stories and place as char- tributor Maggie Jones, writing professor
essential part of the nonfiction publish- acter. Dinners, an open mic session and Marissa Landrigan, Pushcart Prize-
ing process. The schedule includes pri- a silent auction add a social component. winning poet Saeed Jones and CNF
vate consultations, workshops, feedback When: April 15-17, 2016, Austin, Texas founder Lee Gutkind. Register for a sin-
sessions and writing with peers. On the Info: gle day or all three days.
first morning of the retreat, literary agent When: May 27-29, 2016, Pittsburgh,
Andy Ross will offer insights on market- Creative Nonfiction Conference Pennsylvania
ing a proposal. Dedicated workshops will A three-day event hosted by the literary Info:
address specific parts of the book pro- magazine Creative Nonfiction brings
posal, including the sample chapter and together agents, editors and writers to  River Teeth Nonfiction
crafting chapter summaries. discuss creative nonfiction such as long- Conference
When: February 15-20, 2016, San Miguel de form journalism, memoir, narrative An annual event held at the University
Allende, Mexico nonfiction and micro-nonfiction. Each of Ashland, the 2016 conference features
Info: days workshops focus on a central Dinty W. Moore and Elena Passarello as
theme. Last year, the daily themes were speakers. The weekend includes semi-
Shutterstock/ gary yim

 Stories from the Heart VIII Defining your truth-telling voice and nars and readings focused on creative
Women writers gather to share personal The first person and beyond: Making it nonfiction such as essay and memoir.
narratives, heal and tell stories. Brooke as a writer. On the final day, master Past workshops have covered recreating
Warner, founder of She Writes Press, is classes were offered on writing tech- scenes and balancing narrative urgency
 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016
July 21-24, 2016

with reflection. For an extra fee, attend-

West Virginia
ees may submit a 25-page essay or a Writers
book-length manuscript in advance for Workshop
consultation during the event. The LOW-RESIDENCY
agenda also includes social events such
as happy hour, meals and book signings.
You wont find a less
expensive workshop. MFA
When: June 3-5, 2016, Ashland, Ohio IN
We doubt youll find a
better one.
Produced by Hippocampus Magazine,
A four-day conference in the
Appalachian highlands offering
this three-day nonfiction writing con- workshops in poetry, fiction, and ),&7,2132(75<6&5((1:5,7,1*
ference includes panels and breakout creative nonfiction. Plus: helpful 3/$<:5,7,1**5$3+,&129(/
craft talks, enthralling readings, &5($7,9(121),&7,21/,%5(772
sessions, mostly on Saturday. Vendors thrilling writing exercises, and a
with writer-friendly wares, books by you-will-get-published panel on
conference presenters, headshot photo publishing.
sessions and informal opportunities for FACULTY
networking are all part of the lineup. Faculty:
Mark Brazaitis, James Harms, .</(%$66 AIMEE LIU
Workshops in 2015 included collage David Hassler, Shara McCallum, '(%25$+ MICHELINE
essay, movement for writers, self-editing Howard Owen, Rene %5(92257 MARCOM
and tech-friendly topics such as pod- Nicholson, and more! 5(%(&&$ '28*/$6$
casts and building an audience on the %52:1 MARTIN
web. Speakers in 2016 include Eric Special Lecture: How to JAN CLAUSEN 52*(/,2
Smith, Kaylie Jones and Sarah Einstein. Launch a Writing Career After MARTINEZ
40 (or 50 or 60) DARRAH CLOUD
Post-conference pitch sessions are avail- JOHN MCMANUS
able for an extra fee. NICOLA MORRIS
When: August 12-14, 2016, Lancaster, %($75,;*$7(6
Pennsylvania ELENA
Info: hippocamp2016.hippocampusmaga- *(25*,28 5,&+$5'3$1(. 
%+$18.$3,/ RAHNA REIKO
 Association of Personal Morgantown, home to West
Historians Annual Conference Virginia University, provides a
warm, friendly atmosphere to a
Personal historians record life stories. dynamic workshop.
Once a year, they get together at the
APH Conference to share best practices West Virginia Writers Workshop NEW POSTGRADUATE
and methods, honing techniques and STUDY OPTION
fostering community. Past workshops projects/west-virginia-writers-
topics included Personal historians as 725(9,6(&203/(7($1'32/,6+
immigrant allies, audio recording, writ- $33/,&$176:+2$/5($'<+$9($
ing organizational histories, interview- WVU Department of English
PO BOX 6296
ing for print and guided autobiography.
Morgantown, WV 26506
Presenters include editors, filmmakers, 304-293-9707
marketing experts and writers. email: RESIDENCIES IN
When: October 23-27, 2016, Fort Worth, VERMONT AND
WVU MFA in Creative Writing
Texas Fiction, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction WASHINGTON
Meredith Quinn is a graduate of New York Uni- 800.906.8312
versity and managing editor at The Writer.


Long-term memories

hen Donna Talarico explains, does the narra- farmers for generations
founded Hippocampus tor begin to feel. Its com- An exclusively back, were walkers of fields
in 2012, she hoped the pelling and heartbreaking, online publication set and woods, watchers of
magazine would enter- a story about her broth- out to entertain, crows, deer, stars and
tain, educate and engage readers and ers murder without being educate and engage moons. Moving was his
writers of creative nonfiction. The about the murder. writers and readers default rhythm.
engage part was really important to Cathy Bell is a reader of creative
me, she says. With that in mind, she for Hippocampus. She Contributors
turned on the comment function looks for lyric pieces Genres: Personal essay, Bells own essay Wash Me
memoir excerpt, creative
under each published piece. with an original Clean, about caring for
nonfiction, reviews,
A friend once said the comment approach to imagery and interviews, craft articles her grandmother with
section is where humanity goes to language. I want to be dementia, inspired numer-
Length: 4,000 words
die, she says, but I wanted Hippo- drawn into that world maximum ous comments on Hippo-
campus to be a community. I wanted and feel something, she campus website. In
Submission format:
readers to be able to leave a comment says of the pieces that get Online form via website particular, it resonated
for the writer and spark some conver- her attention. Her favor- with readers who were also
Contact: Donna Talarico,
sation. Thats been really rewarding ite Hippocampus essay, Publisher/Managing Editor
caretakers. Trying to do
for the people we publish. John Yu Branscums that same act for my hus-
Hippocampus takes its name from Things in the Shape of band with Alz., writes one
the section of the brain in which long- Trailers, tells a gritty reader. I will incorporate
term memories are made. The monthly story about growing up in Big Flat, your thoughts during his next shower
magazine spotlights writers memories Arkansas, with a mentally disturbed to help make sure he is enjoying every
such as bathing a grandmother with father and grandfather. second, just like your Grandmother.
dementia and living in a crisis unit Hed always had trouble remaining Potential contributors might con-
with a schizophrenic roommate. still, Branscum writes of his father. sider attending HippoCamp 2016, the
His people, mountain folk and dirt magazines second-annual writing
Tone, editorial content
Grief shows up frequently in submis-
sions to Hippocampus. Talarico appre-
ciates unique and surprising
treatments of sorrow and loss. She
cites Charisse Colemans essay Pen-
alty Phase as an example of how to
write about grief from an unusual
Colemans story begins with her
brothers senseless murder, Talarico
says, but it really revolves around her
inability to grieve or think of the mur-
derer as a monster until the case goes
to trial. In the piece, another victim
from a previous robbery describes her
experience. Only then, Talarico
40 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016
conference with a focus on creative
nonfiction. Last year, it attracted 140
people from 19 states. Many had
been published in the magazine, and
still more were devoted readers.
Talarico and her staff organize the LOW-RESIDENCY
conference around classroom-style INDIVIDUALIZED MASTER OF ART
presentations. You have one person &21&(175$7,1*,1
as an expert in their area, she says,
they get up and rock that room. Its TRANSFORMATIVE
little more exhilarating with a lot LANGUAGE ARTS
more audience interaction.
Advice for potential contributors :5,7,1*)2562&,$/&+$1*(
Submissions to Hippocampus must be :5,7,1*:,7+&20081,7,(6
double-spaced and anonymous, with :5,7,1*$663,5,78$/35$&7,&(
a solid sense of character develop-
ment and narrative arc. Sometimes
we get submissions with gorgeous 7/$DQHPHUJLQJDFDGHPLFHOG
writing, Bell says, but there is no SURIHVVLRQDQGFDOOLQJUHFRJQL]HV
story. Its just a glimmer of something, WKHDQFLHQWLPSXOVHWRWHOORXU
maybe a scene. We need to have the WUXWKVZKLFKEUHDNVVLOHQFHVRI
narrator change or grow or to find PDUJLQDOL]HGLQGLYLGXDOVDQG
light in the darkness. Sometimes peo- FRPPXQLWLHVDQGJLYHVYRLFHWRWKH
ple havent had enough distance from H[SDQVLYHSRVVLELOLWLHVRIKXPDQ
the experience to know how theyve
grown or changed.
Talaricos husband, Kevin, is also *RGGDUG&ROOHJH)DFXOW\
an editor at Hippocampus. They look Founder of the TLA Concentration
for submissions that inspire discus- )RUPHU3RHW/DXUHDWHRI.DQVDV
sion long after their workday ends.
Something that leaves us saying,
)$//$1'635,1* RESIDENCIES IN
Wow, I cant believe that happened,
explains Talarico.
With so many submissions about
grief and trauma, the editors appreciate ALSO IN THE GRADUATE INSTITUTE:
the opportunity to publish humorous INDIVIDUALIZED MA
pieces, as well. One of these is Hunger
and Sleep, Matt Jones essay about two
married graduate students with separate
bedrooms because of their vastly dissim- MA IN SOCIAL INNOVATION
ilar sleeping habits. Its lighthearted,
says Talarico, but its full of poignant CONSCIOUSNESS STUDIES
moments that people can relate to. They CONCENTRATION
make us laugh and cry, and they stick
with us for a long time.
Melissa Hart teaches nonfiction for the Whid-
bey Island MFA Program. Shes the author of 800.906.8312
Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a
Family and Avenging the Owl.

Subscribers to The Writer have online
access to information on publishers, publi-
cations, conferences, contests and agents.
Go to and click on Writing
In fellowship
Sad but true: Money often stands in the way of a writer
Information in this section is provided to
The Writer by the individual markets and
finishing the next best-seller. And it shouldnt. There are many
events; for more information, contact those opportunities, including awards and grants, to help you devote
entities directly.
F = Fiction N = Nonfiction P = Poetry
more time to writing. Consider another option: a fellowship.
C = Childrens Y = Young adult O = Other Here are some fellowship fast facts.

AWARDS 1 What is it? A fellowship is a short-term opportunity to develop a

work-in-progress while being provided a financial stipend and,
typically, a workspace.
2 How long? Depending on the program, fellowships can last for a
few weeks, a semester or an entire year.
Provides fellowships for writers and jour-
nalists producing imaginative works deal- 3 How much? Relative to the duration of the fellowship, a stipend
can be delivered monthly or in full. While living the high life may
ing with pre-20th-century American be off the table, most stipends cover daily living expenses.
history. Fellowship projects include histori-
cal novels, poetry, plays, screenplays, maga- 4 Where can I find one? Look to educational institutions, including
colleges and universities, libraries and writing workshops. Some
zine or newspaper articles and nonfiction literary journals and national writing associations also provide
works of history designed for general audi- opportunities. Check local organizations as well as ones far from
ences. Deadline: See website. Entry fee: home.
None. Prizes: $1,850 stipend and a four-
week residence at the society, located in
Worcester, Massachusetts. Contact: Ameri-
5 Whats the catch? Though you should read the terms and
conditions of each fellowship carefully, in general the biggest
can Antiquarian Society, 185 Salisbury St., demand may be to teach a class or do a reading. Otherwise,
Worcester, MA 01609. 508-755-5221. fellowships are about digging in and concentrating on your work. The grants, fellowships and awards here are a sampling of what the industry has to offer. For a complete listing, visit


Recognizes works that contribute to an MEMORIAL FUND Awarded to an American citizen age 39 or
understanding of racism and an apprecia- Provides grants to women in the arts younger at the time of application. Appli-
tion of diversity. Submit five copies of a whose work in progress focuses on cant must have at least one published
book published in the previous year. Self- women. Submit maximum of 20 pages of book and a project in progress. Deadline:
published books and ebooks are not a writing or mixed genre sample by June 15. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $30,000
accepted. Deadline: Dec. 31. Entry fee: online submission manager. See website and appointment as writer in residence at
None. Prizes: $10,000 awarded to both for full guidelines. Deadline: Fiction and Bard College for one semester. Contact:
the fiction and nonfiction categories. mixed genre Dec. 31; poetry and nonfic- Bard Fiction Prize, Bard College,Annan-
Contact: Karen R. Long, c/o Anisfield- tion June 30. Entry fee: $25. Prizes: $500 dale-on-Hudson, NY 12504. 845-758-
Wolf Book Awards, The Cleveland Foun- - $1,500. Contact: Money for Women/
dation, 1422 Euclid Ave., Suite 1300, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Inc.,
Cleveland, OH 44115. 216-685-2018. P.O. Box 717, Bearsville, NY 12409. F CABELL FIRST NOVELIST AWARD Recognizes a rising talent who has pub- lished a first novel in 2015 in the U.S. Self-
published novels and books only available in

42 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

Get up-to-date information on
markets at

e-formats are not eligible. Submit three cop- nantly in the American South. Self-pub- Pittsburgh Press, 7500 Thomas Blvd.,
ies of the book by regular mail. Deadline: lished books accepted if they have an Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
Jan. for books published July through Dec., ISBN number. Books available only as
Sept. for books published Jan. through June. ebooks are not eligible. Deadline: June
Prizes: $5,000 and travel to Virginia Com- 15, 2016. Entry fee: $35. Prizes: $1,000 N ELLEN MELOY FUND FOR DES-
monwealth University for a reading and and a free glass of wine every day from ERT WRITERS
reception. Contact: VCU Cabell First Nov- Crooks Corner bar. Contact: Crooks Provides funding for a writing project that
elist Award, Dept. of English, 900 Park Ave., Corner Book Prize, 313 Country Club combines an engaging individual voice,
Hibbs Hall, Room 306, P.O. Box 842005, Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27514. literary sensibility, imagination and intel-
Richmond, VA 23284. 804-828-0593. lectual rigor to bring new perspectives and deeper meaning to the body of desert literature. Encourages emerging, mid-
P DARTMOUTH POET-IN- career and established literary nonfiction
F FICTION COLLECTIVE TWO RESIDENCE AWARD writers to apply. Deadline: Jan. 15. Entry
CATHERINE DOCTOROW Open to poets who have published at least fee: None. Prizes: $3,000. Contact: Ellen
INNOVATIVE FICTION PRIZE one full-length collection of poetry. Seeks Meloy Fund. Email from website.
Open to any U.S. writer in English with at poets who are at an artistic and personal
least three books of fiction published. Seeks crossroads. Deadline: Check website.
fiction considered by Americas largest Entry fee: $28. Prizes: $2,000 and a six- F N P EMERGING VOICES
publishers too challenging, innovative or to-eight week residency at The Frost Place FELLOWSHIP
heterodox for the commercial milieu. Sub- in Franconia, New Hampshire. Contact: Provides new writers with tools to launch
missions may include a collection of short The Frost Place, P.O. Box 74, Franconia, professional writing career. Deadline: See
stories, one or more novellas or a novel of NH, 03580. 603-823-5510. website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: Eight-
any length. Works that have previously month fellowship, a series of master
appeared in magazines or in anthologies classes, public readings and a $1,000 sti-
may be included. Translations and previ- F DRUE HEINZ LITERATURE PRIZE pend. Contact: PEN Center USA, P.O.
ously published or self-published novels and Open to writers who have published a Box 6037, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
collections are not eligible. Electronic sub- novel, a book-length collection of fiction 323-424-4939.
missions only.Deadline: See website. Entry or a minimum of three short stories or
fee: $25. Prizes: $15,000 and publication by novellas in commercial magazines or lit-
FC2. Contact: University of Alabama Press, erary journals with national distribution. F N P O THE HODDER FELLOWSHIP
P.O. Box 870380, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487. Self-published and digital-only publica- Seeks writers who demonstrate much
773-702-7000. tions not considered. Submit unpublished more than ordinary intellectual and liter-
manuscript of short stories or novellas. ary gifts. Fellows are selected more for
F CROOKS CORNER BOOK PRIZE Deadline: June 30. Entry fee: None. promise than for performance.Deadline:
Open to authors whose first novel was Prizes: $15,000 and publication by the See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: Two
published between Jan. 1, 2015 and June University of Pittsburgh Press. Contact: recipients receive $79,000 each and a
15, 2016. Book must be set predomi- Drue Heinz Literature Prize, University of yearlong residency at Princeton to pursue


an independent project. Contact: Lewis F N P O KENYON REVIEW F NYC EMERGING WRITERS

Center for the Arts, Princeton University, LITERARY FELLOWSHIP FELLOWSHIP
185 Nassau St., Princeton, NJ 08544. Ysa- Awards two-year, post-graduate residential Open to residents of one of the five bor-
bel Gonzalez, 609-258-6926. fellowships at Kenyon College. Recipients oughs of New York City. Applicants must will undertake a significant writing proj- be in the early stages of their careers and ect, teach one semester-long class per year, have not published a novel or short story
assist with The Keyon Review and attend collection. Deadline: See website. Entry
F JAMES JONES FIRST NOVEL Kenyon College cultural events. Appli- fee: None. Prizes: $5,000, access to The
FELLOWSHIP cants must have professional teaching Centers Writers Studio, opportunities for
Awarded annually to an American author of experience in creative writing and/or liter- readings and mentorship. Contact: The
a first novel-in-progress. Submit via regular ature at the undergraduate level. Dead- Center for Fiction, 17 E. 47th St., New
mail or online submission form. Submit a line: See website. Prizes: $33,800 yearly York, NY 10017. 212-755-6710.
two-page (maximum) outline of the entire stipend plus health benefits. Contact: Tory
novel and the first 50 pages. Deadline: Weber, The Kenyon Review, Finn House,
March 15. Entry fee: $30. Add $3 for online Gambier, OH 43022. 740-427-5391.
submissions. Prizes: $10,000 first place, F THE ERNEST J. GAINES AWARD
$1,000 for two runners up. Contact: James FOR LITERARY EXCELLENCE
Jones First Novel Fellowship, c/o MA/MFA Annually awarded to an emerging African
in Creative Writing, Wilkes University, 84 F N P O LEEWAY FOUNDATION American author for a book of fiction
W. South St., Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766. TRANSFORMATION AWARD published during the previous year. Dead- Awards women and trans artists in the line: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: Delaware Valley region who write for $10,000 cash. Contact: Ernest J. Gaines
social change. Deadline: May 15. Entry Award, c/o Baton Rouge Area Founda-
P JAMES LAUGHLIN AWARD fee: None. Prizes: Up to $2,500. Contact: tion, 402 N. Fourth St., Baton Rouge, LA
Offered to poets in support of a second Leeway Foundation, The Philadelphia 70802. Email from website.
book of poetry. Only manuscripts already Building, 1315 Walnut St., Suite 832,
under contract with publishers are eligi- Philadelphia, PA 19107. 215-545-4078.
ble. Deadline: May 15. Entry fee: None. F N P GIFT OF FREEDOM AWARD
Prizes: $5,000 cash prize, weeklong resi- Awarded to a female writer biannually. The
dency at The Betsy Hotel in Miami Beach P LENORE MARSHALL POETRY extensive application process requires
and distribution of book to Academy of PRIZE women to let go of all doubts and fully envi-
American Poets members. Contact: Recognizes the most outstanding book of sion building the creative life they are worthy
James Laughlin Award, The Academy of poetry published in the U.S. in the previ- of. Deadline: Nov. 2. Entry fee: $35. Prizes:
American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite ous year. Self-published books not eligi- $50,000 awarded to one writer to complete
901, New York, NY 10038. 212-274-0343, ble. Submitted by publisher. Deadline: her project. The remaining genre finalists
ext. 13. May 15. Entry fee: $75. Prizes: $25,000. receive $5,000. Contact: A Room of Her
Contact: The Lenore Marshall Poetry Own Foundation, Gift of Freedom Award,
F JANET HEIDINGER KAFKA PRIZE Prize, The Academy of American Poets, P.O. Box 778, Placitas, NM 87043.
Awarded annually to a woman who is a 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY
U.S. citizen and who has published a 10038. 212-274-0343, ext. 13.
book-length work of prose fiction (novel,
short stories or experimental writing) in F N P O MASSACHUSETTS
2015. Particularly interested in calling F NEW YORK FOUNDATION FOR CULTURAL COUNCIL ARTIST
attention to the work of a promising but THE ARTS FELLOWSHIP FELLOWSHIP
less established writer. No self-published Awarded to writers living and working in Awards fellowships based on writers
books. Publisher must submit entries. the state of New York. Writers may be at artistic quality and creative ability. Open
Deadline: Feb. 1. Entry fee: None. Prizes: any stages of their professional career. to legal residents of Massachusetts. Dead-
$7,500. Contact: University of Rochester, Genre rotates every year. Deadline: See line: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes:
Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, Susan B. website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: $7,000. $12,000 for fellowship, $1,000 for finalists.
Anthony Institute for Gender and Wom- Contact: New York Foundation for the Contact: Massachusetts Cultural Council,
ens Studies, 538 Lattimore Hall, RC Box Arts (NYFA), 20 Jay St., 7thFloor, Brook- 10 St. James Ave., 3rd Floor, Boston, MA
270434, Rochester, NY 14627. lyn, NY 11201. 02116. 617-858-2700.

44 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

Get up-to-date information on
markets at

F N P C Y MCKNIGHT ARTIST sippi River. Categories judged for fiction, USA Literary Awards, 8549 Wilshire Blvd.
FELLOWSHIPS FOR WRITERS creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, #355, Beverly Hills, CA 90211.
Provides Minnesota residents with an poetry, childrens and young adult litera-
opportunity to work on their writing for a ture, graphic literature, translation,
concentrated period of time. One award drama, journalism, screenplay and tele- F PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR
in childrens literature alternates annually play. Deadline: Dec. 31. Entry fee: $35. DEBUT FICTION
between writers for children under the Prizes: $1,000 and a one-year PEN Center Awarded to a first novel or collection of
age of 8 and writers for older readers. USA membership. Contact: PEN Center short stories published in that calendar
Four fellowships alternate annually
between writers of poetry and writers of
creative prose. Applicants must have pub-
lished a book in their genre or published
at least five pieces of original work in no
fewer than three literary journals. Dead-
line: See website. Entry fee: None. Prizes:
5 fellowships of $25,000. Contact: The
Loft Literary Center, Suite 200, Open
Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S.,
Minneapolis, MN 55415. 612-215-2575.

l e

h a b

e n c

n q u
Provides grants in prose (fiction and cre-

ative nonfiction) and poetry to published
writers. Enables recipients to set aside
time for writing, research, travel and gen-
eral career advancement. Fellowships in
prose and poetry available in alternating
years. Deadline: See website. Entry fee:
None. Prizes: $25,000. Contact: Litera-
ture Fellowships, National Endowment
for the Arts, 400 7th St., S.W., Washing-
ton, DC 20506. 202-682-5034.


Mount Hermon oers a one-of-a-kind atmosphere in the redwood mountains for
Awards books published in 2015 that rep- writers at every skill level, from not-yet-published to multi-published, and oers
resent Pre-K grade 3, grades 4-6 and help to writers in a wide span of genres and in every phase of a writers career.
grades 7-12. Deadline: March 15. Entry
fee: None. Prizes: $500 in each category.
Contact: Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Execu-
tive Director, The Poetry Center, Passaic
County Community College, One College
Blvd., Paterson, NJ 07505.


Accepts work produced or published in ''3"3&+%'++*'$$##
2015 by writers living west of the Missis-


year. Self-published books or ebooks are tions. Contact: A Room of Her Own Northern Colorado Writers 2451 S.
not eligible. Deadline: Dec. 31. Entry Foundation, Administration, P.O. Box Timberline Road #4-108, Fort Collins,
fee: $50. Prizes: $20,000, a fellowship at 778, Placitas, NM 87043. CO 80525. 970-556-0908.
the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming and
a one-week residency at the University
of Idahos MFA Program in Creative
MIT,14N-221A, 77 Massachusetts Ave., Offers emerging writers of any age and Provides residencies to authors of fiction,
Cambridge, MA 02139. 617-324-1729. background a fellowship to finish a sig- poetry, nonfiction and plays. Submit nificant writing project. Open to writers resume, samples and recommendation
of literary scholarship, fiction, drama, letters for consideration. Deadline: See
N RICHARD J. MARGOLIS AWARD education, science and the media. Resi- website. Entry fee: $40. Prizes: Private
Awards a nonfiction journalist or essay- dency in the San Jos area during the housing and studio space among more
ist whose work combines warmth, academic year (Sept. 1 May 20) is than 20 other writers and artists. Con-
humor, wisdom and concern with social expected. Deadline: Jan. 2. Application tact: Virginia Center for the Creative
justice. Submit at least two articles, fee: None. Prizes: $10,000 stipend. Con- Arts, 154 San Angelo Drive, Amherst,
published or unpublished, maximum 30 tact: Steinbeck Fellows Program, Martha VA 24521. 434-946-7236.
pages. Deadline: Check website. Entry Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Stud-
fee: None. Prizes: $5,000 stipend and ies, San Jos State University, Room 590,
month-long residency at the Blue Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San P WALT WHITMAN AWARD
Mountain Center, a writers and artists Jos, CA 95192. 408-808-2067. Given to a poet who has not published a
colony in the Adirondacks. Contact: book-length collection of poems. Sub-
Richard J. Margolis Award of Blue mit 48-100 pages of poems. Online sub-
Mountain Center, c/o Margolis & Bloom, missions only. Deadline: See website.
535 Boylston St., 8th floor, Boston, MA F N P O SUSTAINABLE ARTS Entry fee: $35. Prizes: $5,000, publica-
02116. FOUNDATION WRITING AWARD tion by Graywolf Press and an all- Awarded to individual writers with fami- expenses-paid six-week residency at
lies. Applicant must have at least one theCivitella Ranieri Centerin the
F N PHILIP ROTH RESIDENCE IN child under the age of 18. Preference Umbrian region of Italy. Contact: Acad-
CREATIVE WRITING given to residents of the San Francisco emy of American Poets, 75 Maiden
Open to fiction and nonfiction writers Bay Area. Awarded biannually to fiction, Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY 10038.
working on a first or second book. nonfiction, poetry and play writers. Patricia Guzman, Programs Assistant.
Awarded to poets on alternate years. Deadline: See website. Application fee: 212-274-0343, ext. 13.
Deadline: Feb. 1. Entry fee: None. $10. Prizes: Awards of $6,000 typically
Prizes: Four months residency at offered to multiple applicants in each
Bucknell Universitys Poets Cottage round. Contact: Sustainable Arts Foun-
and a stipend of $5,000. Contact: dation, 1032 Irving St. #609, San Fran- F N WILLIAM SAROYAN INTERNA-
Stadler Center for Poetry, Bucknell cisco, CA 94122. Email from website. TIONAL PRIZE FOR WRITING
Hall, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Two prizes awarded biennially for newly
PA 17837. 570-577-1853. published fiction and nonfiction books. F N TOP OF THE MOUNTAIN BOOK Encourages original, innovative work AWARD from new or emerging writers. Book must
Send first 20 pages of a full-length fic- have been published during 2014-2015.
O SHAKESPEARES SISTER tion or creative nonfictionmanuscript, Self-published and ebooks are also eligi-
FELLOWSHIP plus a one-page synopsis by email. ble. Submit by regular mail. Deadline:
Provides a female playwright with the Contest is open to both published and Jan. 29. Entry fee: $50 Prizes: $5,000
time and resources to develop a new unpublished authors. Submission must Contact: Administrator of The Saroyan
play. Open to women who have written be a previously unpublished work. Prize Committee, Stanford University
at least one full-length play. Deadline: Winner will be announced at the Libraries, 557 Escondido Mall, Stanford,
Check website. Entry fee: None. Prizes: Northern Colorado Writers Confer- CA 94305. Sonia Lee. 650-736-9538.
$10,000 cash prize and residencies at ence in March. Deadline: Feb. 1. Entry
three geographically distinct institu- fee: $25 Prizes: $1,000. Contact:

46 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

EDITING WITH PANACHE. Editor-writer is an DONT HAVE TIME to submit your creative
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the digit nload
of The Wl edition
read an riter to
from Jo xcerpt
Evison's nathan

Jonathan Evison
Your Life This Is
, Ha
Chance! rriet

ovelist Jonathan Evison with such regularity, I dont know tory and continued to
didnt have an easy path to how anybody survives without a diverge at key points
commercial and critical sense of humor. Since the begin- throughout her life. The
recognition. He wrote ning, it has been a goal of mine novel is an exploration of
seven novels that were never pub- as a novelist to evoke the widest those points, so I thought
lished. He supported himself as a bar- range of emotional responses it an effective tack to
tender, landscaper and car salesman. Im able. Im not trying to edify report from both sides of
And he kept writing. All About Lulu anybody so much as Im trying those decisions and cir-
(2008) was his breakthrough novel; it to make them reflect emotionally, try- cumstances and actions that
won the 2009 Washington State Book ing to awaken their empathy. came to define her. And in terms of
Award. Known for skilled character organizing these vignettes, the pro-
development and humor in unex- Unconventional formats cess was very organic. Its generally an
pected storylines, Evison creates narra- For starters: the failure of the early event or an association in the real-
tives that are both poignant and fun. drafts. They were too linear suffocat- time story that triggers the flashback.
His latest This Is Your Life, Harriet ing, in fact. Harriets real-time third- Or one of the flashbacks triggers
Chance! is about a 79-year-old person narrative was in sore need of a another association.
woman who, during a cruise, reflects counterpoint. The second person voice
back on events and relationships in her talks directly to Harriets character; it Voice
life. Evison alternates between past and prods her and cajoles her and teases Truly, I just try to get out of my own
present and uses both second- and her and chastises her, but ultimately, it way and inhabit the characters. I
third-person point of views. is sympathetic to her plight. The voice strive to get inside of them and leave
is an alternate version of Harriet, myself in the dust, so I can consider
Variety whose life began to diverge from Har- their situations and dilemmas from a
Its funny to me that everybody is so riet at a certain point early in her his- perspective that is not my own. If I
quick to point out how differ- can focus well enough to get
ent each one of my novels is, there, the rest comes pretty natu-
and I dont disagree, but rally. The things they think and
really I only have one major say and decide to do seem inevi-
theme: reinvention. I have to table. The voice arrives out of
believe that we can be the thin air. When Im writing char-
people we want to be, or at acter well, its not a very cerebral
least inch our way closer to process. I feel the events rather
our idealized selves. It all than think them. Ive gotta be
starts with character for me, inside the body and the psyche of
and I suppose, yeah, I want to my subject. If I can smell the cof-
explore a very divergent fee on my own breath, I know
range of characters, and my Im not doing my job. My job is
novels reflect that. to jump through that empathic
window and report on the
Humor human condition. Period.
Its well documented that
tragedy and humor are inex- Allison Futterman has been published in
tricably linked. Frankly, the Charlotte magazine and writes frequently
way life kicks us in the teeth for The Charlotte Observer.

48 F )74,?8A4? G February 2016

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XBarbara Ridley relaxed on the
front porch of her cabin at
Camp Denali, 90 miles into the
interior of Denali National Park
in Alaska.


Student breakthroughs
We asked educators Jake Wizner and Kathryn Gullo about
the biggest breakthrough moments a student has made
while writing a memoir in class.

One story that stands out comes from nearly two decades
ago and involves a quiet Chinese girl who submitted a
searing memoir of domestic abuse and her familys struggle
to rebuild their lives. Several years ago, this student found
me on Facebook. Via email, I asked her what she remembered
about writing her memoir in my class. Here is part of her

I remember being excited about writing my memoir I

remember discussing it with my mom and having her read
it over. She cried, but it was not crying over sadness. It was
crying because she was relieved. She was proud that I was
able to reflect on it. Before that writing assignment I never
spoke to anyone in my family about any of it. I had been in
therapy for a couple of years, but I never spoke about it (not
even to my therapist) The final memory I had relating to
the memoir was receiving the award at graduation on
outstanding achievement in writing. I never saw myself as a
good writer; that was the first time I was not self-conscious
about what I wrote.

This student later told me that writing her memoir had been a
stepping-stone to her senior project in high school
interviewing victims of domestic violence and her decision
to study psychology in college.

The most recent biggest breakthrough moment happened
today. A colleague was trying to help a student write about
his life. She pointed out that the transformational story about
losing his father was, in her words, his Jedi story. It was SKimberly Gooden
interesting to see her probe this students thinking and really enjoyed a family
help him identify how to tell about what changed his life. You vacation to Santa Fe,
could see this student playing with the ideas that he New Mexico, and
transformed himself and the importance of that. She particularly liked San
helped him see the redemption. And the best part? She Miguel Chapel, which
was masterfully teaching writing even though she her claims to be the oldest
usual job is to teach math. church in the U.S.



By Elizabeth Ivanovich

ibrary conferences can be ideal Indie writers dont have to face the
places for authors to promote conference juggernaut alone. Jean Libby,
books and assess publishing author of John Brown Photo Chronology
trends. New writers may not and publisher at Allies for Freedom in
know where to begin, especially when Palo Alto, California, has attended sev-
they lack the guidance (and funding) of eral California Library Association and
a major publisher. Luckily, there are locally-based ALA conferences. My
plenty of strategies for indie and self- books are often more appropriate for
published authors. other regional conferences, she
Time and cost may seem prohibitive observes, but it is too expensive for me
when it comes to attending a confer- to go. To solve this problem, she has
ence, but there are options for authors employed conference exhibition agen-
who live within commuting distance. At cies, such as The Reference Shelf. The
the American Library Association organization assists with promotion and
Annual Conference in San Francisco placement, ensuring that Allies for Free-
last June, I purchased a one-day admis- dom has a conference presence when
sion pass for the exhibition floor. While Libby cant attend personally.
I was sorry to miss the speeches and Though there are several reputable
panels available to full registrants, pub- agencies, Libby warns: Watch out for
lishers and librarians generously gave the services who want you to send
advice and encouragement in the exhi- them several copies to promote your
bition hall. I made some sales and met a books. They turn around and sell them
few of my literary idols in the process. to dealers, who then undercut your
As a self-published author who price on the Amazon and eBay market-
works at the San Francisco Public places. If agencies seem too fraught,
Library, Grace Mattioli knows both sides try a creative solution such as bartering
of the conference equation. Though she to cut costs. A friend offered to rent
had attended ALA twice before to find Mattioli a table at the 2015 ALA Con-
career opportunities, in June 2015, Mat- ference in exchange for consulting ses-
tioli presented her novels Olive Branches sions on indie authorship.
Dont Grow On Trees and Discovery of an Finally, remember your reason for
Eagle as an exhibitor. As a librarian, I attending the conference: promotion.
was seeking and gathering information, Libby suggests pursuing local news cover-
she notes, and as a vendor, I was pro- age of your book to coincide with the
viding and dispersing information. event. Meanwhile, Mattioli emphasizes the
While other promotional methods importance of a prepared, rehearsed pitch
may have yielded more direct sales, that includes any accolades or reviews
Mattioli is very pleased with the out- from reputable sources. Be outgoing,
come. It gave me an opportunity to especially as librarians can be shy, Mattioli
spread awareness of my books to library says. Let librarians know how your books
staff from around the world, she says. will contribute to their collections, and
In doing so, I was able to make many how patrons will love your books.
valuable professional connections that
will continue to benefit me as a librarian Elizabeth Ivanovich is the author of Going
and an author. Coastal: Santa Cruz County and Beyond.
so that my sister
would have some-
thing to open.


This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!

by Jonathan Evison
Yes, Harriet, you were an exceptionally quiet child.
Too quiet.
November 4, 1936 Exhibit A: December 31, 1936. For the rest of their

(Harriet at zero) lives, your parents will regale you, and anyone who will lis-
ere you come, Harriet Nathan, tiny face ten, with a rollicking story about a certain New Years Eve
pinched, eyes squinting fiercely against the party on the north end. The story involves a bassinet into
glare of surgical lamps, at a newly renovated which your father, in a moment of stoned clarity and
Swedish hospital, high on Seattles First Hill. admirable foresight, fastened you by your ankles and arm-
Its an unseasonably chilly Wednesday in autumn, and the pits for safety, using his own necktie, and a leather belt
papers are calling for snow. Roosevelt by a landslide, they from the hosts closet. The party is a triumph, as the story
proclaim! Workers grumbling in Flint, Michigan! In Spain, goes, with Bacchus leading the charge. The music is brassy,
a civil war rages. the walls are thrumming. So frenzied the celebration, in
Meanwhile, out in the corridor, your father paces the fact, that amidst their merrymaking, revelers fail to notice
floor, shirtsleeves rolled to the elbow. Clutching an unlit the upended bassinet in the corner. That is, until whiz kid,
Cuban cigar, he checks his wristwatch. Hes got a three Charlie Fitzsimmons, the firms youngest partner, lipstick
oclock downtown. on his collar, ladies underpants adorning the crown of his
By the end of the week, Harriet, youll leave the hospital head, nearly trips on you on his way back from the spodee.
wrapped in a goosedown swaddler knit by your ailing It will not be the last time Charlie Fitzsimmons takes
grandmother. Your father will miss his three oclock today. notice of you. Would you look at that glass of milk?
But lets not get ahead of ourselves, here. They dont call it he shouts.
labor for nothing. Lets not forget the grit and determina- For an instant, the party is struck dumb, as everyone
tion of your mother. All that panting and pushing, all that turns their attention to the corner. Look at Harriman
clenching and straining, eyes bulging, forehead slick with Nathans girl!
sweat. Lets take a moment to appreciate the fact that she Shell make a hell of a judge, observes Charlie.
wont begrudge you any of it, And of course, hilarity ensues.
though youll always be your The story never fails, and youre the
fathers girl. punchline, Harriet.
Here you come, better late than There you are, for god only
never: a face presentation. Not the knows how long, upside down,
boy your father so desperately your poker face turning from red
wanted, but here you come, any- to blue to purple, your little gray
way, all six pounds, three ounces eyes gazing impassively at the
of you. Button nose, conical head, world, as your parents ring in a
good color. A swirl of dark hair prosperous 1937.
atop your little crown. And a You never made a peep.
healthy pair of lungs, too. This is your life, Harriet. The
Listen to you wail, as the doctor beginning, anyway.
slaps your fanny: your cries,
phlegmy and protracted. Hear Excerpt reprinted with permission
them? These are virtually the last from Jonathan Evison 2015,
sounds you will utter until well Algonquin Books.
after your second birthday.