10/20 Beginning the Memoir with Thomas Larson
Many of us have lived fascinating lives whether inwardly or outwardly, during childhood long ago or as adults in the last decade. But when it comes to writing a memoir, where do we begin? The day of our birth? The day we left home? The beginning or end of a relationship? Memoir is most successful when it is not the “story of a life,” but a focused part of that life—a dozen summers spent working on a grandfather’s farm; a long relationship with a dying relative; the first year of law school.
In “Beginning the Memoir,” we will discuss how to choose a subject, plan, focus, and begin a memoir. What makes for good subjects in memoirs? Examples include a relational memoir, one focused on mother and daughter or father and son; a memoir of passionate interest, a love of reading or mountaineering; a memoir of a phase or era, time spent in Mexico, a divorce, the death of a favorite uncle.
We also explore the differences between autobiography and memoir and address the necessary technique of self-disclosure. Handouts provided.
Thomas Larson is the author of Memoir and the Memoirist and, most recently, The Saddest Music Ever Written: The Story of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” He writes personal essays, memoir, nonfiction, and music and literary criticism. He is also the editor of A Year in Ink, the Ink Spot’s first anthology in 2008. He is a contributing writer for the San Diego Reader where, since 1999, he has specialized in narrative nonfiction and profiles. Larson’s work has appeared in many literary magazines and journals, among them The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, Southwest Review, Antioch Review, Agni, Counterpunch, Chicago Reader, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and New Letters Anchor Essay Annual: The Best of 1997. www.thomaslarson.com
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