Assay@ #AWP17: Call for Saturday Bloggers!

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Thank you to everyone who has volunteered to report on Thursday and Friday panels at AWP! We’re really excited to hear your perspectives. Here’s the call for Saturday panels: if you’ve already signed up for a Thursday or Friday spot, feel free to sign up for another!

If you’d like to claim a panel to write about, let us know in the comments (and we’ll cross it off our list here). While these are not the only panels you could report on, remember that Assay is most interested in nonfiction, craft, and pedagogy. We’ll let others cover the fiction and poetry. We’re looking for summary of the panel/panelists, poignant quotes, and personal reactions–aim for 500-700 words. The goal is to give those who aren’t there a good idea of what went on. These reports are also a way that we include writers, teachers, and readers who may not be able to attend the conference. It’s a wonderful act of literary citizenship, and in advance, we’re grateful for your time. Please feel free to cover reading events, and it would be great to seek out reading events with a focus on diversity and write those up.

Once your blog post is ready, use Submittable to send it to us, along with a one or two line bio and we’ll post them ASAP. Be sure to include the original panel information, so we can include that with your post. We want to post these on a rolling basis as the conference is going on, but please finish up your panel submissions no later than a week following the conference. Deadline for conference reports: Feb. 19, 2017.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so we can tag you when it’s published!

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Come Write With Us at #AWP17: Call for Guest Bloggers for Friday Panels

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 5.17.02 PMThank you to everyone who has already volunteered to blog about a panel or two, and if you haven’t claimed one yet, now is the time.

Let us know in the comments if you’d be willing to write a blog post about a panel/event/bookfair. If you signed up for a Thursday post, feel free to sign up for multiple events.

Check out Friday’s schedule below of panels and if you’d like to claim a panel to write about, let us know in the comments (and we’ll cross it off our list here). While these are not the only panels you could report on, remember that Assay is most interested in nonfiction, craft, and pedagogy. We’ll let others cover the fiction and poetry. We’re looking for summary of the panel/panelists, poignant quotes, and personal reactions–aim for 500-700 words. The goal is to give those who aren’t there a good idea of what went on. These reports are also a way that we include writers, teachers, and readers who may not be able to attend the conference. It’s a wonderful act of literary citizenship, and in advance, we’re grateful for your time.

Once your blog post is ready, use Submittable to send it to us, along with a one or two line bio and we’ll post them ASAP. Be sure to include the original panel information, so we can include that with your post. We want to post these on a rolling basis as the conference is going on. You can find the Thursday call here. You can find the Saturday call here. Please finish up your panel submissions no later than a week following the conference. Deadline for conference reports: Feb. 19.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so we can tag you when it’s published!

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Come Write With Us At #AWP17! Call for Guest Bloggers–Thursday, February 9

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Going to the AWP Conference and Bookfair in Washington DC? It’s Assay’s first table at AWP’s bookfair and it’s our first panel, so we’re really excited to count down the days!

We’re looking for guest bloggers to write up reports of nonfiction and pedagogy panels, readings, interviews, and more, because we haven’t figured out how to clone ourselves and be in three places at once. (I’m sure I’m not the only one having a hard time deciding which panels to go to.) We’re also looking for bookfair reports and other write-ups of the goings-on. So many things to do and see.

Check out Thursday’s schedule below of panels and if you’d like to claim a panel to write about, let us know in the comments (and we’ll cross it off our list here). While these are not the only panels you could report on, remember that Assay is most interested in nonfiction, craft, and pedagogy. We’ll let others cover the fiction and poetry. We’re looking for summary of the panel/panelists, poignant quotes, and personal reactions–aim for 500-700 words. The goal is to give those who aren’t there a good idea of what went on. These reports are also a way that we include writers, teachers, and readers who may not be able to attend the conference. It’s a wonderful act of literary citizenship, and in advance, we’re grateful for your time.

Once your blog post is ready, use Submittable to send it to us, along with a one or two line bio and we’ll post them ASAP. Be sure to include the original panel information, so we can include that with your post. We want to post these on a rolling basis as the conference is going on. We’ll post the Friday and Saturday calls for bloggers in the next few days. Please finish up your panel submissions no later than a week following the conference. Deadline for conference reports: Feb. 19.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so we can tag you when it’s published!

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#cnfwc16 — Twelve Quotes Full of “Insight and Inspiration” from the 2016 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference

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  1. “A draft is full of sentences that are auditioning. – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. “With an outline you’re not going to write about what you don’t know you know.” – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. “Save your seedlings.” – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. Try writing by hand, because “your fingers are connected to your arm, the veins to the heart.” – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. Instead of saying that the reader has to do some work, think of it this way: “The reader likes to participate.” – Dinty W. Moore

 

  1. “First draft writing is like no other kind of writing – you have to go into the woods and keep going. Second draft writing – you have to see the forest for the trees.” – Kristin Kovacic

 

  1. “The title is the door to your essay – but a door works both ways.” – Kristin Kovacic

 

  1. “Wherever you have the wrong set of feelings, that’s a fruitful place for an essayist to be.” – Kristin Kovacic

 

  1. “The biggest thing an editor can do for you is get [you] out of your head” – Jason Bittle

 

  1. “Immersion is about waiting. It’s not about finding a story to fit inside your pre-constructed ideas, but letting a story unfold.” – Maggie Messitt

 

  1. “If you don’t have belief in your own gut, develop it.” –Adriana Ramierz

 

  1. “Burst upon the page.” – Lee Gutkind  

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Find out more on Twitter at #cnfwc16 or at the conference website: www.creativenonfiction.org/conference.

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Randon Billings Noble author photoRandon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her work has appeared in the Modern Love column of The New York Times; The Millions; Brain, Child; Los Angeles Review of Books; The Georgia Review; Shenandoah; The Rumpus; Brevity; Fourth Genre; Creative Nonfiction and elsewhere. A fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a resident at the Vermont Studio Center, she was named a 2013 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow to attend a residency at The Millay Colony for the Arts. Currently she is a nonfiction editor at r.kv.r.y quarterly, Reviews Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and a regular reviewer for The A.V. Club.

#cnfwc16 — Personal Essay at the Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference

2016_ConferenceBanner_3_HThe 2016 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference worked hard—and well—to address the many subgenres of creative nonfiction, but as a personal essayist I was most excited to hear Kristin Kovacic speak on the panel “Revising Essays and Short Work.”

Kovacic identified herself as a writer of personal essays and spoke of them with both fluid eloquence and sharp intelligence.

“First draft writing is like no other kind of writing,” she said. “You go into the woods and you have to keep going.”

“Second draft writing – you have to see the forest for the trees.” And this is where you start to revise.

For personal essay, revision involves distance. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in your own story, your own thoughts, your own feelings. But to ensure that you achieve a level of necessary distance, Kovacic asks three vital questions (adapted from Patricia Hampl’s excellent book I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory):

  1. How many things is this about? (Don’t ask what this essay is about but how many things.) Then make a list.
  2. How are these things connected? (That’s where the surprises come.)
  3. Who do I represent? (This is a great question through which to achieve distance, which, in turn, shows the importance of the story.) Are you representing an innocent abroad, a third wave feminist, an only child, a motorcycle rider? How do you write differently as a representative as opposed to an individual?

After answering these questions you can turn to details. The details of the story you’re telling have to bridge two things: what happened, and how you make sense of what happened.

“The artful part,” Kovacic said, “is how you track your thinking. The creative part is following a mind a work.”

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Kovacic also suggested to always title your essay, even if your first title serves as a temporary, working title. “The title is the door to your essay – but a door works both ways. It’s an invitation” but it’s also an indication of what your essay is about. You may find that your essay’s content – and therefore title – changes drastically in the revision process.

Other helpful tips included:

  • “A resonant work picks up meaning each time you use it; a repetitive word doesn’t.”
  • “The best place to look about how to stick your ending is back at the beginning.”
  • “There’s a lot of mea culpa in this work that makes it honest.”
  • “Wherever you have the wrong set of feelings – that’s a fruitful place for an essayist to be.”

For more wise advice from Kristin Kovacic, find her teaching at Carlow University or the Chataqua Institute, or read her essay “On Usefulness” for guidance by osmosis.

Find out more on Twitter at #cnfwc16 or at the conference website: www.creativenonfiction.org/conference.

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Randon Billings Noble author photo

Randon Billings Noble is an essayist. Her work has appeared in the Modern Love column of The New York Times; The Millions; Brain, Child; Los Angeles Review of Books; The Georgia Review; Shenandoah; The Rumpus; Brevity; Fourth Genre; Creative Nonfiction and elsewhere. A fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a resident at the Vermont Studio Center, she was named a 2013 Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Creative Fellow to attend a residency at The Millay Colony for the Arts. Currently she is a nonfiction editor at r.kv.r.y quarterly, Reviews Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and a regular reviewer for The A.V. Club.

 

#cnfwc16 — Connecting at the Creative Nonfiction Conference

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The ballroom fills with guests chatting, donning their red lanyards reading CREATIVE NONFICTION in white text. I sit three rows from the front, sipping complimentary coffee, looking around and wondering if I will make any friends. This is my first big conference, and these large socializing groups remind me of the high school cafeteria, searching for a face I know in the sea of grinning faces on the first day of school.

It doesn’t take long, however, and this isn’t like high school at all. I meet Ruth, a freelance journalist sitting next to me, and then Jackie, another twenty-five year old like me, eager to learn more about creative nonfiction. Soon we are talking about writing over coffee and I am at ease with my new peers when Anjali, conference coordinator, introduces Lee Gutkind, the godfather of Creative Nonfiction.

“Hey, Hi,” he says, holding up a friendly hand. He is glad we are here and to see how the conference has grown, how the genre has grown over the years. He tells us that Creative Nonfiction, the magazine, started twenty-three years ago in his dining room in Squirrel Hill, PA. That before, people laughed at the genre and its silly title “creative nonfiction,” that it was a struggle to legitimize the genre in the beginning.

“And now,” he continues, “we are growing like mad…. It’s a movement, not a moment.”

And over the next few days that’s what it feels like.

Jackie and I find that we are registered for the same classes, and later we go to lunch in the city. Over lunch in the park we exchange ideas, we scrawl notes on napkins, recommendations of writers the other should check out. We ask questions about creative nonfiction as a genre, the ethics, the faultiness of memory, and what we think still needs to be written about. And while meeting agents and editors is great, this is also why we come here. To share what we know in the hopes of learning more about ourselves and the craft of writing creative nonfiction. The conference could have any number of great classes and teachers, all fine and good, but it’s just as much about the small connections, the conversations at lunch, the discussions in the hallway of the hotel that make this conference so worth it.

Find out more on Twitter at #cnfwc16 or at the conference website: www.creativenonfiction.org/conference.

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image1-3Annalise Mabe is completing an MFA at the University of South Florida, where she writes poetry, comics, and nonfiction. Her work has been featured/is forthcoming in Brevity, The Offing, The Rumpus, Booth, Word Riot, Hobart, and was nominated by The Boiler for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. She reads for Sweet: A Literary Confection and is an editor at Saw Palm: Florida Literature and Art. She lives in Tampa, Florida, where she teaches composition and creative writing at USF.

#cnfwc16 — Report from the Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference

2016_ConferenceBanner_3_HCreative Nonfiction’s (CNF) motto is “True stories, well told.” It’s also true that their annual conference held over Memorial Day weekend in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania tried to please everyone. More than 150 writers at varying stages on their journey gathered for three themed days of panels and presentations: “Write,” “Revise,” and “Publish.”

The first day offered master classes with Lee Gutkind, Dinty W. Moore, and others. The second day featured the harder work of revision through research and adaptations. The final day focused on the realities of the publishing industry and do’s and don’ts of writing book proposals, agent queries, and platform building.

Rather than the traditional literary readings or workshops, the CNF staff hosted a nightly happy hour. Long lunch breaks encouraged attendees to explore the restaurants, cathedrals, and museums within walking distance. CNF also offered twelve conference scholarships to their “Writing Away the Stigma” fellows.

For a novice writer, Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference really was “three days full of insight & inspiration.” For the already well-published writer, it was refreshing. If attendees sought individual access to agents, editors, and publishers, they were generous and available. For CNF fans, small really was a better way to learn to tell a true story.

Find out more on Twitter at #cnfwc16 or at the conference website: www.creativenonfiction.org/conference.

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Melissa Scholes Young’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poets & Writers, Poet Lore, and other literary journals. She teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. and is a Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Fellow. Follow her on Twitter @mscholesyoung

Visit Us at AWP2016!

The AWP conference is next week in Los Angeles, and we will be available several places to meet you. Please stop by and say hello!

Editor, Karen Babine

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Karen’s AWP 2016 schedule

> March 31, Thursday, 3pm – 4:15pm, Panel at AWP — “Old Neighborhoods, New Locales: How Place Shapes Our Writing and Our Literary Identities” — “R250” — Room 408 B:

Los Angeles Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
with Michael Steinberg (moderator), and Karen Babine, Renee E. D’Aoust, Phillip Lopate, and Mimi Schwartz

> April 1, Friday, 10:00am, at Mid-American Review Book Fair Exhibit Space # 1143: Karen will be signing copies of her book Water & What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life

 

Taylor Brorby, Contributing Editor

Taylor Brorby

Taylor’s AWP 2016 schedule

> Thursday 1pm to 3 p.m. — Taylor will be at the Orion Magazine table in the book fair

> Thursday at 6 p.m.: Taylor will be at the Black Earth Institute Reading at Stories Books and Cafe

> Friday from 9am to 10 a.m.: Taylor will be at the Orion table

> Friday at 10:30 a.m.: Taylor is on a panel on “Invisible Ethics in the Classroom”

> Friday from 1pm to 3 p.m.: Taylor is at the Fracture book signing at the Flyway table in the book fair

Managing Editor, Renee E. D’Aoust

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Renee’s AWP 2016 schedule

> Thursday, March 31, 12pm – 1pm, at the Book Fair, Gazing Grain Press at the George Mason University Exhibit Space #708: Renee will be with Gazing Grain Press (at the GMU booth) signing copies of the mini “Hound Cycle,” an excerpt which Grazing Grain released last year. (Her “Hound Cycle” was a finalist in the Grazing Grain chapbook contest.)

> March 31, Thursday, 3pm – 4:15pm, Panel at AWP — “Old Neighborhoods, New Locales: How Place Shapes Our Writing and Our Literary Identities” — “R250” — Room 408 B: Los Angeles Convention Center, Meeting Room Level
with Michael Steinberg (moderator), and Karen Babine, Renee E. D’Aoust, Phillip Lopate, and Mimi Schwartz

> Friday, April 1, 9am-10am, at the Book Fair, Etruscan Press at the Wilkes University Exhibit Space #1100: Renee will be signing Body of a Dancer at the Etruscan Press table in the Book Fair.

> Friday, April 1, 12pm – 1pm, at the Book Fair, AWP’s main exhibit space # 1011: come by AWP’s main table to talk about AWP’s “Writer to Writer” program. Renee serves as a mentor in this program, which connects writers with published books to writers first setting out.

Assay’s Call for Submissions and “In the Classroom” Review

imageEditor’s Note: I want to be sure that regular readers of “In the Classroom” have seen Assay’s call for our spring issue.

 

Assay Call for Papers: Diversity in Nonfiction

Our spring issue will take up issues of diversity in nonfiction, so please send us your articles, conversations, and pedagogy that address diverse nonfiction texts, underrepresented authors, and varied educational environments. Deadline for full consideration is January 1, 2016.

 

Thank you for spreading the word and submitting!

Our “In the Classroom” series will continue next Monday (and wrap up our fall series) with a piece from Jen Palmares Meadows. You can read Jen’s super Assay panel post about “The Beasts Amongst Us” from NonfictioNOW here. You can also read a Jen’s great NonfictioNOW posts about “The View from the Slush Pile” over at BrevityPart I and Part II.

We’ve had a super year with our “In the Classroom” series, covering “Favorite Essays to Teach” and “Writers to Read.” A few examples: we started this fall with Jessica Handler writing about Joan Didion, continued with Sophfronia Scott writing about Robert Vivian (“dervish essays”!), and last week Stacy Murison wrote about Brian Doyle. Erin Davis wrote about teaching Jess Walter’s “Citizen Vince” and Dinty W. Moore wrote about teaching Debra Marquart’s “Hochzeit.” There was all that and more.

We’re grateful to all who contribute to what we trust is a valuable resource for teachers, students, readers, and writers. As you finish your fall grading and make your holiday writing plans, keep Assay in mind!

Assay@NFN15: You Lived Through It; Do We Have to Read About It?

Editor’s Note: Sejal Shah’s panel report concludes our coverage of NonfictioNOW. Thank you, all, for your generous contributions, which made it possible for those unable to attend to take part. See you at AWP 2016!

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Sandi Wisenberg (Moderator), Elizabeth Kadetsky, Thomas Larson, and Janice Gary

Panel description: Much has been written about the therapeutic benefits of writing for survivors of traumas such as war, disasters, slavery, disease, rape, incest. Writing is generally agreed to be good for the mental health of the amateurs. When does nonfiction writing about trauma rise to the level of art? What makes some artful, and others, self-serving? The answers are subjective, but we will explore the questions and hazard some answers. Speaking as writers, readers, and editors, we will examine successful and unsuccessful creative nonfictions and tease out our reasons for making those judgments.

 

Sandi Wisenberg:

The title of Sandi Wisenberg’s piece is “Notes on Distance and Density.” In it, Wisenberg looks at Joan Didion’s “Goodbye to All That,” an essay (“The Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy Horse: a Triology”) by the writer Judy Ruiz; Wisenberg also mentions Toni Morrison’s writing about slave narratives “as a form of autobiography”—and says that within this genre, Frederick Douglass is able to convey an “exploration of inner life.”

Wisenberg asks, “What if, in describing your desperation on the page, you fought against revealing this desperation on the page?” Joan Didion “famously recorded the despair of her twenties in ‘Goodbye to All That,’ but “her distance contains her feelings of crisis.” Didion writes, “I was not yet then guilt-ridden about spending afternoons that way [beer can cut, gazpacho, crying, etc.] because “I still had all the afternoons in the world.” Wisenberg describes Didion’s iconic essay as an elegy for the single life and the time we all had then.” She notes, “The analysis makes the piece. Didion knows even her feeling of being unique is universal.”

Wisenberg also mentions writing letters (blue aerogrammes!) when she was in Paris at 20 (and “miserable as usual”) and later keeping a blog when she was diagnosed with breast cancer—and about both of these forms of writing (letter and blog) as places where there is both emotion and also opportunity for writing that is not only in the midst of the suffering; she suggests there is more of opportunity in the blog than in the aerogram, but does not dismiss the aerograms and what can be found there, as well.

 

Thomas Larson:

Tom Larson began his talk, “My Trauma, My Deconstruction,” with a discussion of his memoir, The Sanctuary of Illness: A Memoir of Heart Disease, in which he wanted to “chart the psychological and relational rapids of [his] three heart attacks, which struck between 2006 and 2011.” He discussed the transformative power of the trauma memoir. “I believed (and still do) in the transformative power of the trauma memoir.” He asks himself, “Why was I chosen? Perhaps once I write the story, I’ll have a better idea. Which, at best, can only be inconclusive. Trauma is that experience which should have killed us but didn’t.” Larson says his audience is less of those “who are from where I am now and more of those who lie with my pre-heart-attack self.” As examples, Larson brings up Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, The Drowned and the Saved, and The Leftovers, and describes them as “death-obsessed.” “We authors,” he explains, “often mistake making it through as proof of a cracked or purposeful design.”

Larson asks, “Where was my book when I needed to read it? If I wouldn’t have read me, why did I, why do I, expect others to follow suit?” Larson says, “I do know memoir as preventative medicine often does not work… our lives are slumbers, we see in retrospect.” Larson says he does not know why some “tragic/redemptive stories” work on readers and others don’t. He quotes Carl Jung, who said most people seek self-knowledge, but they fail because they start out too late and run out of time. Larson wants to think “the trauma memoir might be of assistance in this awakening.”

 

Elizabeth Kadetsky:

In her talk, “Flash Memories and Misery Memoirs,” Elizabeth Kadetsky spoke first about the stigma and popularity of what historian Ben Yagoda termed “the misery memoir.” She also discussed the more reputable tradition of memoir “as testimony—documents of a communal justice.” This category included ethnic American and African American autobiography and Holocaust memoirs—some of the most popular titles include Eli Wiesel’s Night and Malcolm X’s autobiography.

Kadetsky said that during the 1980s the “impetus to testify about one’s individual versus communal trauma began to win respect.” Kadetsky attributes this in part to the trauma studies movement. She mentioned Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub’s book, Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, Judith Herman’s essential Trauma and Recovery and the idea that in order to heal, the one who has undergone the trauma must speak and must be heard. Kadetsky uses the example of Eli Wiesel—in Night— who asks the question ‘How does one describe the indescribable?’ She said, “This question—how to describe the indescribable—is the task set forth for the writer who seeks to rise above the misery memoir.” She suggests that the answer lies perhaps in the actual definition of trauma, which has been medicalized as a syndrome in the DSM as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Kadetsky says that trauma is “experienced in an immediate way that bypasses the narrativizing constructs of the brain that give context and meaning to most experience.” She said that it seems some of the success of successful trauma memoirs may be owed to moments that “mimetically illustrate the experience” of PTSD by “using elements of writing craft such as…insistent images from the past, intrusive thoughts that disrupted chronology, and even a kind of deflection or avoidance.” As examples, Kadetsky lists Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, JoAnn Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter,” and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. Kadetsky notes that Didion successfully invokes the state of grief through repetition, fragments, and disconnected memories, artfully rendered.

In her own experience, Kadetsky has written three essays about an episode that led, in the six months after, to her mother’s death and her sister’s homelessness. Kadetsky said that she kept the question, “Why would your story matter to me?” in mind when writing and recreating her own experience.

 

Janice Gary:

Janice Gary’s presentation is titled, “Given Sugar, Given Salt: On Trauma and Memoir.” Gary begins with these lines: “You work with what you are given,” from a Jane Hirschfield poem in Hirschfield’s collection titled, “Given Sugar, Given Salt.” Gary addresses the sense we as writers might have (quoting an agent)—once there’s a great memoir in the field—there doesn’t need to be another one on the same topic written. Gary says, “As nonfiction writers, as writers of memoir, we work with the shapeless, clay-like material of our life. Given sugar, we write about sugar, given salt, we write about salt.” She made the point that “given trauma, we write about it- not because we think it is sensational material, [but] because we cannot not write about it.”

Gary points out that there is a “very high bar set for memoir—especially those dealing with trauma—and a lot of prejudice…. A writer has to be willing to face their own reluctance and societal pressure not to tell just to get it on the page.” Gary discussed her own memoir, Short Leash. She was afraid no one wanted to hear about her rape or read another memoir with a dog in it. But then Gary also read “beautiful memoirs about difficult lives” including Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face; Gregory Orr’s The Blessing; Richard Hoffman’s Half the House; Katherine Harrison’s The Kiss. Gary said, “In all of these books, it was the writing that held me in thrall, not the subject matter. These books and authors transformed life into art.” She cited Dani Shapiro in Still Writing: “The thing you’ve been writing is not a diary…contrary to the notion you have …you have chosen every single word, you’ve crafted each sentence.”

Gary said she has read many moving and beautiful memoirs. In one memoir she found to be not as successful, Margo Fraguso’s Tiger, Tiger, there was too much scene, scene, scene, and not enough reflection. “The what happened—trauma itself—is not what a memoir should be about.” Gary quoted John Updike who said, “Literature is the most subtle self-examination known to man.” The writer examining her life, attempting to “discover who they are in relation to what has happened to them—that’s what I look for in a memoir—trauma or no trauma. Writing about what is supposed to be kept silent is not only a literary, but also a political act.”

At the end of her remarks, Gary answered the panel’s question (asked in the panel’s title), “You Lived Through It; Do We Have to Read about It?” She said, “No, you don’t have to read it. Just don’t tell me not to write it.”

 

Q &A: Included Hope Edelman asking about reader response in the age of Internet criticism—the ability to reach us easily; cyber violence against female memoirists. One of the only kinds of bullying allowed now. Criticisms often posted online became personal attacks.

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Sejal Shah’s writing has been nominated for Best American Essays and the Pushcart Prize. Her lyric essays and short stories have appeared in various places including Brevity, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Kenyon Review, The Literary Review, and The Marginsas well as being featured in The Huffington Post. She lives in Rochester, New York. www.sejal-shah.com.