Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Summer Stock

Surfers on the Oregon Coast in August.

It may be fall here in Portland, but summer is still ahead for Australia. If you're not quite ready to set our warmest season aside (along with your flip flops, beach blanket and sunscreen), you can still enjoy the bare feet and warm breezes of summer in the new anthology from Australian publisher Pure Slush. 

Among the stories in Summer (as this volume is aptly titled), is my flash fiction piece "Aptitude," which is basically a true story. O.K., I've never worked as a computer programmer, and I don't have a sister. But the feeling of being trapped in a job that sets your teeth (or maybe every single molecule in your body) on edge is a feeling I once knew well. While such experiences are character-building, at the time, all you want is to find the closest exit.

This issue from Pure Slush also includes evocative poetry by Janet Malotky, Mercedes Webb-Pullman and A.J. Huffman - to name just a few of the talented contributors.

To get a copy of Summer (as a print or e-book), you can visit http://www.lulu.com/shop/pure-slush/summer-pure-slush-vol-12/paperback/product-22836559.html

Friday, September 2, 2016

Anything Goes

This is an exciting time for memoir writers because when it comes to form, everything is up for grabs.

Some lines from recent memoirs. Left to right:
 Mary Norris, Ruth Reichl, Ann Patchett.*

If you're a songwriter, you can write lyrical musings like Patti Smith's M Train. For experimental writers, there's more free-form, surreal work such as Maxine Hong Kingston's Woman Warrior. Prefer pictures to words? Try creating a graphic memoir like Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. Letter aficionados can put together a collection of their own correspondence, foodies can structure their reminiscences around recipes, and people with more out-there interests can surprise us with their passion for jigsaw puzzles or punctuation rules.

At the memoir table, there's room for everyone -- including writers of traditional works that begin with childhood and move on to adult adventures. Age, too, is no barrier for contemporary memoir. We all have a wealth of stories, whether you’re a recent college grad or a retiree.

Of course the current freedom in memoir writing can also be a curse. Advice-givers always say to write what you know, but with so many topics and forms to choose from, where do you start? You may think you want to write about your trip to India then realize you'd rather focus on your college romances or the grandmother who taught you to golf. With first-person writing, we often have two kinds of memories: the ones we want to write about and the ones that want to be written.

For female writers who want help getting started, I'm teaching a class on Creative Memoir for Women this fall. In this group, we’ll read excerpts from a wide range of personal narratives, then we’ll mine our own memories as we write from prompts, generating material for potential essays, stories, poems, journal entries or hybrids of these genres. I'll also suggest assignments to help each participant keep her pen moving outside of class.

Whether you want to record your memories for future generations or you have a yen to explore your experiences through writing, I invite you to join this encouraging group and see what rises to the surface.

Creative Writing for Women

Mondays, October 3 - November 14
10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
$12 to drop in for a class or $70 for all 7 weeks
All experience levels welcome
Taborspace, 5441 SE Belmont, Portland 

* Mary Norris, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2015.

Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Live, Random House, New York, 2015.

Ann Patchett, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Harper Collins, New York, 2013.

Graphic by F. Ferguson, 2016.