Annie Dillard once said You have to take pains not to hang on the reader’s arms, like a drunk, and say ‘And then I did this and it was so interesting.’ What is it, exactly, that makes personal narrative truly engaging? What makes great memoir what it is versus simply a recollection of experience or an information dump? In this generative memoir workshop, I will explore the concept of curation in the writing of memoir; together, we will focus on the separation of wheat from chaff within the narrative, and learn how to find the kernel — the heart of the story — that teems with life, even at its most deceptively subdued. Through readings, exercises, and the sharing of work, you will practice writing with intimacy and clarity, and learn to hone — and trust — your own distinct voices and experiences, and to find the extraordinary in the mundane. Readings will include Pico Iyer, Annie Dillard, Mark Doty, Pam Houston, Vivian Gornick, and others.
Elissa Altman is the award-winning author of the upcoming hybrid
craft memoir, On Permission (Godine, 2024) and three
memoirs: Motherland, Treyf, and Poor Man's Feast. Her work has
appeared in LitHub, Orion, Narrative, The Rumpus, On Being, The
Washington Post, and beyond, and has been widely anthologized. A
winner of the James Beard Award for narrative food writing, she has
appeared live on the TEDx stage, at the Public Theater in New York
with Wallace Shawn, regularly on NPR, and in 2020 was a finalist in
memoir for the Lambda, Connecticut, and Maine Literary Awards.
She lives in Connecticut.