Wow, what a meeting! We held our first-ever elections (to elect an interim board until regular elections in October). The following folks were elected by voice or paper vote: Lynne Spreen, President; CJ Hernley, Vice President; Marj Charlier, Treasurer; Melissa Eiselein, Recording Secretary; and George Gurney, Member at Large.
After elections, we were pleased to recognize Raymond “Rusty” Strait for service to the San Jacinto Valley. Ray is a prolific author, having produced thirty books and now a regular contributor to The Valley Chronicle (in addition to a dozen other activities. Ray advised us to “stay busy—you’ll never get old!”)
Ray has been a guiding force in support of authors and writers in the Valley. He has started numerous critique groups. (For suggested guidelines on how to effectively run and utilize a group, click here). As Jim Hitt pointed out, the Guild would not exist were it not for Ray’s early efforts. Vicki Allen-Hitt and I also spoke of Ray’s having been instrumental in our writing careers. As a result of his lifetime support and literary contributions, the Guild awarded Ray honorary lifetime membership.
Our latest issue of StraitJacketsMagazine is out. The cover designed by Vicki Allen-Hitt is strikingly beautiful, as is the writing inside. Click here to enjoy the Spring issue.
Our panel of memoir writers, Melodie Earickson, Sandy Schuster-Hubbard, and Vicki Allen-Hitt led a helpful discussion of the art and practice of memoir.
Sandy began with a discussion of the (minimal) risk of libel when publishing memoir. She shared a disclaimer used by Cheryl Strayed.
Sandy writes about “resilience and grit,” and how she learned to survive, having lost her mother at the age of two. She wishes her mom had left “something, anything—even a recipe card!” Sandy encouraged us to write, to leave something of ourselves for our loved ones.
Some of her tips: think of your memoir as a story, with a character arc, a “through-line,” and a point, message, or take-away. Go to writing conferences, because other people will trigger your own memories, and pretty soon, you’re writing. Balance dark and light in the narrative; nobody loves a flawless hero; and remember that a memoir must be written using the same principles as good fiction (if the intention is to sell it.)
Sandy shared two pages of tips for writing a solid memoir, which you can see here. One audience member asked, “Can you do a memoir if you had a happy childhood?” Sandy recommended A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel.
Vicki Allen-Hitt said she writes to understand her family better, and to let people know what it means, and how, to be a survivor. She still checks with her mother, age 101, about family history, facts, and tidbits. Memory can be imperfect but do the best you can. “Just write. Let the urge move you. Once you’ve written, then you can decide how to organize it.” At conferences such as the current LA Festival of Books, Vicki signs up for “every single talk on memoir.”
“Write the truth,” said Vicki. This led to a vibrant discussion on just what exactly is the truth. Diane Donahue told us about a study showing that one year after the 9/11 terrorist attack, witnesses disagreed with their own memoirs as to exactly what happened. The consensus was that the truth may be relative, but sometimes life wisdom gleaned from an experience ends up being more important than the degree of truth.
People are afraid that if they write memoir, “people won’t like me,” but you can’t be worried about that. Vicki shared with us two pages of popular memoirs from which we can learn. To see that list, click here.
Melodie Earickson says her stories have been “trying to be told,” and recently they are emerging, especially when she visits her mother’s grave. The writing has been emotionally healing (a note struck by all three panelists). As to craft, dialogue is critical. Don’t overwhelm your reader with a recital of events. Make it feel as if the event is happening in real time, with conversations, even if they are re-imagined. Melodie brought a collection of how-to articles on memoir, the links to which are listed below.
Thanks to our panelists who sparked the discussion, and our audience who participated in it. This was one of our most vibrant discussions yet.
Remember that our May meeting will feature a conversation with Dave Putnam. Dave was in law enforcement for years, and he is now award-winning author of numerous crime thrillers. He’ll share writing tips and strategies, both general as well as specific to police procedural/crime thrillers. That’s Saturday, May 27, 2017. All our meetings begin at 9:30 a.m. and are held at the Hemet Library on Latham Street.
That wraps up this summary! I enjoyed our meeting, and I hope to see you next month.