How do memoirists re-enter the mysteries of past experience?
The answer, for many of us, resides in our ability to ‘play’ with the past and find enjoyment in exciting literary techniques memoirists and fiction writers have passed down to us. To that end, our writing exercises will focus primarily on imagery and perspective: imagery, because a few carefully curated sensory details can often illuminate the past in extraordinary and surprising ways; perspective, because speaking about the past with authority always involves looking at it from a unique angle. The combined force of these two tools can offer up a fresh take on the past that gives us the distance and freedom to play with our stories and shape them into what they need to become.
We will be considering excerpts from memoirs and other nonfiction pieces (and occasionally excellent autofiction) as a way of solving any problems we have encountered thus far in our memoir writing. Though writers are not required to have completed a draft of a memoir, they should come to the class with fully formed ideas for projects.
Garrard Conley is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Boy Erased, which has been translated in over a dozen languages and is now a major motion picture. Conley is also a creator and producer of the podcast UnErased, which explores the history of conversion therapy in America. His work can be found in the New York Times, TIME, VICE, CNN, BuzzFeed, Them, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Huffington Post.