Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
When I started teaching autobiography and memoir workshops at Rollins, I relied on certain primary texts to demonstrate the variety of ways writers approach telling life stories. Vivian Gornick’s Fierce Attachments. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club. Scott Momoday’s iconic House Made of Dawn. Kathleen’s Norris’ The Cloister Walk. Students were inpspired seeing the imaginative ways life stories have been represented. But no matter what you think you want to do with a given story line, getting started with a life writing project can overwhelm even the most experienced writer.
At those moments of overwhelm, I reminded my students of three brilliant sentences by Kathleen Norris. Her advice: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” In my opinion, that’s just about the best advice a writer can receive, and may trump all the how-to books out there.
Still, at times we need to read a book, or take a class or a workshop offering skilled direction from someone experienced in the form; to learn useful strategies; and, most importantly, to stay focused and dedicated to the process. In my own writing life, it’s been important to move back and forth between seeking instruction and “paying attention and practicing astonishment.”
If you find yourself in a place where instruction and inspiration from an experienced practitioner would help, we have a sweet deal for you.
January 16, 2016, Patricia Charpentier, founder of Writing Your Life, is offering a workshop called Stop Talking and Start Writing Your Life Story. Join us if you would like to stop talking about the family memory you’ve always wanted to get down on paper and finally craft a plan that will bring it to life in writing. In one afternoon, Patricia will inspire you to start writing the story that wants to see the light of day.
Patricia Charpentier has spent the last fifteen years helping people write their life stories—from life histories to memoirs. She takes people from that first tiny desire to bring a memory to the page, through crafting that memory into a story, then into the transformative process of revision, and finally, directs the oh-so-important editing stage. (And if you’re working on a book-length life story, she has the design team to put it in print. She can shepherd your project from that small, bright glimmer of an idea all the way to a beautiful book in your hand.)
So join us on Saturday, January 16, for a productive afternoon of learning and writing. Find details and reserve your seat here.