I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of swapping stories with a group of friends, maybe out on the patio on a summer’s evening, or back in the pre-pandemic days at a dinner party. Someone starts to tell a story and then hesitates and says something like, “I really shouldn’t be telling you this.” Maybe…

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It’s 1974, and I’m eighteen years old. I drive a slant-six Plymouth Duster, and I wear my hair long and my jeans tight. I hang out at John Piper’s pool hall, where I play the pinball machines. When the weather’s good, I play basketball on the schoolyard. My game has never been better. I’m young…

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Last week, I made a post about the reflective first-person narrator’s attempt to make meaning from a past experience. I talked specifically about the art of fiction. The reflective narrator has always been essential to writers of memoir, and that’s where I’d like to put my focus now. Writers of memoir simultaneously serve as players…

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The peonies are late this year. Here we are, Memorial Day weekend, and the buds have yet to open. When I was a boy, my mother made arrangements from peonies and irises in coffee cans anchored with gravel in their bottoms, and we drove from country cemetery to country cemetery, leaving those flowers on the…

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There’s a point in Sue William Silverman’s new memoir, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, where she’s writing about getting a phone call from her doctor, telling her she has an E. coli infection in her bladder. He prescribes the antibiotic, Macrobid. For Sue, who readily admits her hypochondria, the idea of taking the…

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I have a small iron hammer, threaded at its end, that belonged to my father. Someone, although I don’t know who, made this hammer and threaded it to screw into the end of one of the hard plastic holsters where my father’s hooks usually fit. This way, my father, who’d lost both of his hands…

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I’m teaching a creative nonfiction workshop this semester for people who, for the most part, have never worked in the genre. I remember my own first steps into memoir. I had my first tenure-track teaching position, and I had to teach a graduate level cnf workshop. At that point, I’d published my first book of…

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Facts alone do not a memoir make. First this happened, then this happened, then this happened. A sequence of memories is easy enough for anyone to recall from a particular period of time in his or her life. It may even be easy to see the causal links between the events on a timeline. Because…

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When it comes to writing memoir, we can never give full expression to an entire life. We have too much from which to choose—too much time, too many moments, too many characters, too many questions. We can, though, find a narrative arc that, if handled skillfully, will contain more of the past, the present, and…

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Last night, at The Ohio State University, we commemorated the conferring of MFAs on this year’s class with a gala reading from their work. We call this event Epilog. I’ve always wondered why whoever named the event didn’t go with the preferred spelling, Epilogue, but, no matter, the meaning is the same: an addition that…

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