Selected Works

Craft essays, short works
Craft essay in October 2015 Brevity
Memoir
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The Lovely Bones

You could say Iím a ghostwriter. All memoirists are. We commune with the spirits of the past, inhabit old haunts, sift through the bones of the people we once were (and once knew) in an attempt to reanimate what was and illuminate what is.
Our ghosts are real. Or at least as real as we remember them. One thing we cannot do is make stuff up. And we donít need to. We have more than enough material to conjure life on the page. But thatís part of the problem. What do you do with it all - all that experience, all that emotion? What spooks those of us who write from life the most is this dilemma: how to wrangle this vast, unwieldy life of ours into a well-shaped story.
Fiction writers have the old tried and true (and yes, trite) basic plot triangle to turn to for structure. Conflict leads to a crisis/climax point which forces the protagonist to confront something (either themselves or a foe). The outcome of this changes everything and leads to resolution.
While narrative nonfiction writers can borrow from fiction and use some of the same techniques, the very nature of the material we are working with dictates we approach storytelling in a different way. Fiction writers start with nothing and create a world. Memoirists start with an entire universe that already exists. We are more like sculptors than painters, relying on the advice of Michelangelo, who supposedly said he made the statue of David by taking away everything in the stone that was not David. We create story by carving and cutting to the bone.
That means deciding who and what we want to pull out of the block of stone. When I sit down to tell a story, I have to ask, whose story is it - the child who longed to be accepted? The young woman who stood up to her fears? And what is the heart, the very essence of the story I want to tell? The answer to that question leads to structure.
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Craft essay in October 2015 Brevity