Monday, October 21, 2013

Memoir "Takeaway" Reflections

When we gathered on Saturday, lit the candle and began our memoir workshop, we learned  about first drafts, taming the inner critic and mapping significant turning points in our lives.  We learned the need to balance the light with the dark in shaping our story's narrative arc.
At the end of writing and rewriting, what do we have?  We hope we have the icing on the cake: the takeaway.  This is  our message, truth, or lesson we proffer to our readers.

What have we learned from our grief, loss, trouble, heartache or poor choices? The reader wants to know. 

Learning to write a life story is not a cerebral or didactic exercise.  It's a dynamic journey of  the human heart in all its truth, messiness, beauty and passion. Our Women's Writing Circle provides the safe "container" to hold our truths and explore the "takeaway" in the companionship and reflection of other writers.

My takeaway at the conclusion of the excellent memoir workshop taught by Linda Joy Myers, founder and president of the National Association of Memoir Writers, is this: The most precious tool to tackle the gargantuan task of writing our life stories is community and connection.   In the midst of sharing and reading to each other, we hear stories that echo the innermost recesses of our hearts.  We learn compassion and empathy, insight and appreciation for the human condition . . . and in doing so it helps us create characters that come alive and scenes that deliver an impact. It makes for better writing. 

Writers have always needed other writers, other artists; like-minded souls to bounce off ideas, to help see through the angst and doubts and encourage leaps of faith. Hemingway and Fitzgerald knew this as did Gertrude Stein who provided the gathering place. And so this past weekend we experienced many powerful moments and heard heartfelt writing in our own small "salon." I was especially gratified that Kathy Pooler traveled from upstate New York to be with Linda Joy and me and offer her support to our Women's Writing Circle.  And many thanks go to Linda Joy for her informative presentation brimming with professional content.

And so  I would like to share some of the "takeaway" reflections from our Love, Truth and Craft: A Memoir Workshop.  I asked the writers who attended to answer these questions.  What did I bring with me?  What am I taking away? 

Here's what they said.

Kathy Pooler, Linda Joy Myers and Susan Weidener
"I brought the desire to start writing again and wanting to share my voice and support others to find their voices.  I took away more ideas to write, more creative thoughts, more a sense of community and the security of being with like-minded people."

"I brought, curiosity, excitement, enthusiasm. I left in awe of all the stories that were read, about the many ways a story can be told."

"I brought to this workshop questions about the form and structure of memoir writing.  I had feelings of inadequacy about my ability to write my story and lack of purpose as to whether I should even continue this quest.  I am taking away structures, especially the timeline and development of scenes and characters.  I am inspired by women telling their stories and my ability to be open and supportive in moving forward on my journey to tell my story."

"I brought the desire to learn the craft and to understand why others are driven to write their memoir.  The program was outstanding; reputable authors, fantastic preparation, knowledgeable teachers with good experience and camaraderie."

"I brought my dragon and got to put it to bed in different ways.  I take away a boost - energetically and intellectually."

"I brought a willingness to learn and share.  I left with increased inspiration, more knowledge about writing scenes, weaving light and dark in memoir.  I take away a renewed appreciation for the value of listening to others' voices."

"I brought some concerns about my work-in-progress memoir and I left with a renewed sense of connection and purpose relative to my story.  As always there is so much richness when we share our stories."
Gathered in the Circle for a memorable day.

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