Narrowing Down: An Approach to Memoir Writing
When we attempt memoirs there are two potential sources of overwhelm: 1) the complexity of our life; 2) the complexity of writing truthfully. These complexities are like vortexes—we can’t afford not to enter them (lest we wind up with breezy writing), nor can we afford to drown in them (lest we offload our traumas onto the reader). The antidote to overwhelm invariably involves acts of narrowing. Narrowing in scope and scale, but most of all, narrowing down on points of entry. It is a principle as old as Proust’s madeleine “moment,” the portal through which he entered a five volume masterpiece.
This will be a hands-on workshop for people attempting, or thinking of attempting, a memoir. We will look at acts of narrowing down that allowed memoir writers to enter their material with the right voice and focus. There will be time for participants to discuss their projects. We will also be writing, using models and protocols to help us find our own portals—and go through them.
Diana Goetsch (www.dianagoetsch.com) has published eight collections of poems, dozens of nonfiction articles, and is currently at work on a memoir forthcoming from FSG. Her work has appeared in leading magazines, newspapers and anthologies including The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, The American Scholar, The Chicago Tribune, the L.A. Times, Best American Poetry and The Pushcart Prize anthology. She is a renowned teacher of writing, having taught at numerous universities, MFA programs, and conferences. Most recently, she was the Grace Paley Teaching Fellow at The New School.