January 6 – 27, 2018
Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
All classes meet at Literary Arts, 925 SW Washington
Instructor: Jennifer Denrow
For writers at all levels
Explore the lyric essay and come up with your own definition of what constitutes a lyric essay and learn what this form can offer. The first half of the class you’ll immerse yourself in the lyric essay, reading a variety of texts that have fallen into this category, all the while doing writing exercises that will aid us in the construction of our own work. During the second half of class, participants will workshop the essays they’ve been constructing and attempt to come to some conclusion as to why this form has burgeoned in recent years.
Jennifer Denrow is the author of California (Four Ways Books) Her chapbooks include How We Know it is That and From California, On. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Denver and is the recipient of a fellowship in Creative Writing from the National Endowment for the Arts.
SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE: Scholarships pay for the entire class tuition. All of our writing classes have at least one scholarship position available, made possible by a generous gift from Dennis Steinman. To apply, email Susan Moore, Director of Programs for Writers, at email@example.com with your name, contact information, and list three classes in order of preference. Please note that preference is not guaranteed. All scholarships are subject to availability.
CLASS LIAISONS: All classes have one liaison position. Liaisons receive free tuition in exchange for light duties before and after each class meeting. Contact Susan Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org more information.
Register here: https://literary-arts.org/product/winter-2018-writing-the-lyric-essay/
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The Personal Memoir
These resources discuss some terms and techniques that are useful to the beginning and intermediate creative nonfiction writer, and to instructors who are teaching creative nonfiction at these levels. The distinction between beginning and intermediate writing is provided for both students and instructors, and numerous sources are listed for more information about creative nonfiction tools and how to use them. A sample assignment sheet is also provided for instructors.
Last Edited: 2010-04-21 08:09:36
Because the personal memoir is more demanding than the personal essay, for both writer and reader, it doesn’t fit into introductory courses as well as the personal essay. An intermediate level course is a good place to introduce the memoir. However, if the instructor takes the time to explain and introduce the memoir form, it can be adapted for introductory courses.
Difference Between the Personal Essay and the Memoir
While the personal essay can be about almost anything, the memoir tends to discuss past events. Memoir is similar to the personal essay, except that the memoir tends to focus more on striking or life-changing events. The personal essay can be a relatively light reflection about what’s going on in your life right now.
Where the personal essay explores, free from any need to interpret, the memoir interprets, analyzes, and seeks the deeper meaning beneath the surface experience of particular events. The memoir continually asks the following questions:
- Why was this event of particular significance?
- What did it mean?
- Why is it important?
In this sense, the memoir is heavier than the personal essay, and it mines the past to shed light on the present. The memoir seeks to make sense of an individual life. The questions that are left unanswered in Wole Soyinka’s essay from the personal essay resource, Why do I Fast? are answered in the memoir.
Generating Ideas for Personal Memoirs
Moore’s memoir exercise from The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction is useful in both beginning and intermediate courses:
“Make a list of six to ten events or circumstances in your own life, or the lives of those very close to you, that still provoke your curiosity. Mine your own life for the events and circumstances that still raise questions in your mind. Once you have the list (and this list should be private - don’t share it with others - and don’t hold back because you think someone else will be looking), pick one of the questions on the list that you are willing to explore.“
The potential questions Moore asks in this exercise are meant to be answered in the memoir. While the memoir tries to make sense of experience, it also shares something in common with the personal essay - the exploration of the question, and the process of trying to arrive at an answer, is at least as important as the answer or resolution you may arrive at.
Writing the memoir is not a simple Q & A with yourself; rather, the complicated process of trying to seek the answers is what makes the memoir engaging to write, and read. Here is an example from Carlos Fuentes’ How I Started to Write:
What happened to this universal language, Spanish, which after the seventeenth century ceased to be a language of life, creation, dissatisfaction, and personal power and became far too often a language of mourning, sterility, rhetorical applause, and abstract power?
Fuentes is constantly questioning and answering, interpreting and analyzing his experience, trying to make sense of why and how he did what he did in order to become a writer. He seeks answers and tries to make sense of his life by interpreting his own experience, the cultural and political life of his time, the meaning of language and literary influence, and by stepping over imagined nationalist borders.