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My final reducing advice can be summed up in two words: think small. Don’t rummage around in your past—or your family’s past—to find episodes that you think are “important” enough to be worthy of including in your memoir. Look for small self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you still remember them it’s because they contain a universal truth that your readers will recognize from their own life.
I myself was invited to blog for them a little over a year ago, following an article of mine that their “blogging editor” came across in another publication. Per this link, it was possible to sign up until recently to just try and become a contributor through this new portal they had created. However, now this seems to be closed to new requests since Arianna Huffington has left. Things seem to be evolving, so my only suggestion is just to keep tabs on it, write to editors, try and make an inroad. Frustrating, yes. Good luck!
William, Thank you! I emailed the link to myself to have it handy after I’ve familiarized myself with items that made it onto Huffington Post. I’d be proud to have something of mine show up there, to get a chance to support them. I mostly write fiction novels but I’ve been published in FAMILY CIRCLE MAGAZINE (a non-fiction piece) and am not averse to opening up my market.
But if you prefer the other route—to write about your younger years from the wiser perspective of your older years—that memoir will have its own integrity. One good example is Poets in Their Youth, in which Eileen Simpson recalls her life with her first husband, John Berryman, and his famously self-destructive fellow poets, including Robert Lowell and Delmore Schwartz, whose demons she was too young as a bride to understand. When she revisited that period as an older woman in her memoir she had become a writer and a practicing psychotherapist, and she used that clinical knowledge to create an invaluable portrait of a major school of American poetry at the high tide of its creativity. But these are two different kinds of writing. Choose one.
Week 3: Writing About Grief, Pt. 1
This week we begin our exploration into works on similar themes that utilize different writing styles and approaches. As students are often writing about illness, trauma, or the death of a loved one we begin with an examination of writing about grief. How does one write about a delicate emotional subject without becoming excessively sentimental? How can we approach this subject in new and thought-provoking ways? The lecture and readings will begin to answer these questions.
Week 5: The Realm of Memory, Pt. 1
For our final theme we turn to memory and childhood, an especially popular area in personal writing. How do we fill in the gaps in our memory when writing about the distant past? Should we create a retrospective narrator, or write as if we are still our long-ago selves? These and other questions will begin our discussion.
I mention this because one of the questions often asked by memoir writers is: should I write from the point of view of the child I once was, or of the adult I am now? The strongest memoirs, I think, are those that preserve the unity of a remembered time and place: books like Russell Baker’s Growing Up, or V. S. Pritchett’s A Cab at the Door, or Jill Ker Conway’s The Road from Coorain, which recall what it was like to be a child or an adolescent in a world of adults contending with life’s adversities.
Week 6: The Realm of Memory, Pt. 2
This week we conclude our exploration of memory and childhood by reading work from writers who take a fresh approach to this subject. Participants will submit a chapter or essay of up to 3,500 words on a subject of their choosing for peer and instructor review.
Week 2: Personal Writing Today
This week’s readings will focus on writers from the 20th and 21st century, as we continue our investigation of how personal writing has developed. We will consider how these writings differ from those presented in Week 1, and what techniques participants can take from this contemporary writing to apply in their own work.
Week 1: Roots of Personal Writing
During this week we’ll take a look at some work from writers who helped develop the field of personal writing long before memoir writing became the chic thing to do, and consider how they chose their subject matter and created their signature styles.
Week 7: Food for Thought, Pt. 1
Our theme now shifts to writing about food and meals. Though food writing can be a category all its own, food and eating also play an important role in personal writing. Food is strongly tied to our emotions and our culture, and we can all think of a momentous meal in our lives. This week we will begin to look at how different writers approach this subject. Participants will submit a chapter or essay of up to 3,500 words on a subject of their choosing for peer and instructor review.