Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Flash Memoir

Some people have asked about the classes I teach. Even though I’ve published both novels and the short story (YA and for the general reader), I feel more qualified to offer instruction in memoir writing.

I think because there is always material for the writer/student to draw from. Basically I just have to help them connect to memories and get that down on paper. 

One way to do that is a class I’ve devised based upon the New York School of poets. I call the seminar Flash Memoir. Like flash fiction, we’re imposing narrow quidelines, namely anything from 500 to 1,500 words. But also flash in the sudden lightning that word implies. Most memories or connection comes to us in a flash. Ever read Proust? All it can take is a small cookie or a smell to conjure up in our minds something buried or relegated to the insignificant. 

I recently wrote a quick flash memoir titled Sense of Smell. It started with the scent of lilacs and ended up in my parent’s kitchen at the house where I grew up. It was basically one side of an 8/5 x 11 sheet of paper, but it was more than that. It contained fragments of a family and hints of dysfunctionality and a certain nostalgia. That’s sometimes hard to do.

So my class helps students 1) connect with memories by providing prompts, reading selections, etc 2) helps them structure the writing.

We all have memories. But what makes them worth writing about it that often, like metaphor, they stand for something else. Helping the student extract meaning or INSIGHT from something as simple as say an Easter egg hunt, or the buns at the local bakery, or a shade of lipstick. The memory is up to them, but following it to its end is what my seminar Flash Memoir is essentially about.

Often it is as easy as aiming for a target and intentionally missing—leaving the reader to hit the bull’s eye.

So if you or your school are interested in Flash Memoir, contact me through this website and we’ll see what we can do to set something up.

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