“It is dangerous and illegal to walk on the highway.”
—Quote from the Michigan driver’s ed manual 
I grew up in Detroit, Motor City, and so my delight in carless transportation has always seemed a bit perverse. But anybody who is a writer knows the feeling. What we do might not be dangerous or illegal, but it can sometimes look a little crazy from the outside.
Currently Browsing: Writing Life

Letter to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self

In my first-year memoir class, we cover Bill Roorbach’s excellent craft book, Writing Life Stories, in a year. My favorite chapter is the one about voice. The first exercise is to write a letter to someone, a letter you won’t send. Roorbach says, “This exercise always produces the best writing of the term up to the time I assign it. . . . When we address a particular person . . . we know what’s vital and...

Country Roads, Take Me Home

It was the week Prince died. Music was on our minds, so I gave my class this writing prompt: Write about music you loved or music you hated. Let it take you back in time, in your head and on the page. We did a three-minute meditation, then wrote, nonstop, for fifteen minutes. This was mine: I don’t remember my mother singing me lullabies. But I know she did because I sing them to my own children. When my son, my...

Writing Joy

In every memoir class I teach, we do a writing exercise. I used to find it difficult to write along with my students. I was too busy looking at the clock, planning what to say next. Or maybe I worried they would judge me. What, you’re the teacher and all you could come up with is that? But now I do the three-minute meditation and the fifteen-minute exercise, too. If they’re willing to be vulnerable and raw in...

The Retrospective Voice: Why Memoir Matters in an Age of Shootings

Yesterday—yet again—a lone man opened fire on a school and killed people just because they were there. My Facebook feed filled with pleas to DO something about this epidemic. I sat at my computer and prepared a lecture for my next memoir class, wondering if there’s anything we writers CAN do. Memoirists are sometimes accused of being solipsistic. Why write about your own life, instead of big, important...

Maybe It Happened This Way

Somewhere, almost lost in the thousands of words I’ve read this week about the misrepresentations in the The Rolling Stone article that recounted a horrific gang rape of a girl named Jackie at a University of Virginia frat house, were these three sentences: “It’s not about what Jackie remembered, it’s about what actually happened. This wasn’t a how-I-coped-with-trauma memoir. This was supposed to be...

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