In the 4th century, Saint Augustine wrote, “The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose; it will defend itself.” Write Your Memoir Like an Animal will help memoirists set their own lions of truth loose, and will also help them become lionhearted writers, attacking the page with ferocity and grace. Combining facts about animal behavior with meditations on the process of writing memoir and innovative memoir writing exercises, the class will offer a fresh spin on the field of biomimicry, in which engineers takes design cues from the natural world—studying the way kingfishers enter the water without a splash in order to make bullet trains quieter, for instance, or taking inspiration from the scalloped edges of whale flippers to make wind turbines more effective. We as writers can be similarly moved by the elegance and power of the animal world and, through its example (as well as the example of writers like Melissa Febos, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Carmen Maria Machado, Kiese Laymon, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil) write our own most potent, authentic, deeply embodied stories.
Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperOne), Dictionary Poems (Pudding House Publications), the novels The Book of Dead Birds (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver’s Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement, Self Storage (Ballantine) and Delta Girls (Ballantine), and her first novel for young readers, My Life with the Lincolns (Holt), which won a Silver Nautilus Book Award and was chosen as a state-wide read in Wisconsin. 2017 brought the release of two books: a collection of poetry, The Selfless Bliss of the Body (Finishing Line Press) and a memoir, The Art of Misdiagnosis: Surviving My Mother’s Suicide (Beacon Press.) Her novel in poems, Many Restless Concerns: The Victims of Countess Bathory Speak in Chorus (A Testimony) was published by Black Lawrence Press February, 2020.
Gayle’s poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies (such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, O, The Oprah Magazine, Longreads, Salon, The Rumpus, The Nation, and The Mississippi Review, and many others) and have received several awards, including the QPB/Story Magazine Short Story Award, a Barbara Mandigo Kelley Peace Poetry Award, a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and Notable Essays in Best American Essays 2016, 2019, and 2020.
Gayle is the founding editor of the online journal, Lady/Liberty/Lit and currently teaches in the low residency MFA programs at Antioch University Los Angeles and Sierra Nevada University.