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A Memoir is a Can of Worms

I had a client recently begin her memoir on a lark. Pretty quickly she realized that this process is not for the faint of heart. And there’s probably nothing that can soften that.

For a memoir that is any good, we have to go there, and we have to stay there. And we’re going to have to write all about what it was like on the inside beneath the revenge fantasies that may have prompted us to write this thing in the first place.

I believe this is where opening a can of worms as a simile can be applied…because those worms might not be great looking and they might go in every direction and they are impossible to get back into the tin, once the lid has been pulled jaggedly back.

Murderer!

I’m sure by now we all know about William Faulkner’s dictum to “Kill all your darlings.” (And if you aren’t, you can read up on it: here.)

A client gave me this “thank you” for all the words I cut from his manuscript. I’m not going to lie, I was a little creeped out at first.

But then I got into the spirit. Yes, that is part of why you need an editor.

  • Because you repeat material without developing it;
  • Because we got the point 100 words ago;
  • Because what you’re talking about now has no bearing on the subject, even though it might also be true;
  • Because you think you’re being cute but you’re just being annoying;
  • Because the best thing you’ve written in ten pages should get a chance to stand out more fully in relief.

These are some of the answers to the question, When is murder not a crime?

 

Beyond the Classroom: AWP

This coming Friday I will have the pleasure of participating in the Association of Writing Professionals (AWP) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

Stuart Horwitz AWP panel photoBeyond the Classroom

The panel is Beyond the Classroom: Teaching Outside Academia: presenting MFA students and graduates with creative ways to expand their careers and supplement their incomes by exploring other teaching channels.

Everyone on the panel is an entrepreneur who’s developed his or her own approach to teaching (see below for more information on the players). And everyone contributed free digital content to help you jump-start your own freelance career.

Going to miss AWP? Don’t worry. Click HERE for the packet, containing:

  • Becoming a freelance editor
  • Creating an online course
  • Converting your material into digital content, like a course or e-book
  • An example of a virtual course: Time to Write workshop
  • An epic list of technology gizmos and apps to make your life easier

Beyond the Classroom panel at AWP

My esteemed panel colleagues

  • Jane Friedman is our panel’s resident genius on all things digital. She has taught at UVA and the University of Cincinnati, and formerly held positions at VQR and Writer’s Digest. She’s a columnist for Publisher’s Weekly and her essays have appeared in collections by University of Chicago Press, Seal Press, Milkweed Editions, and McPherson & Co.
  • Gabriela Pereira is the founder of DIY MFA, an online education company. She earned an MFA from The New School and now develops online writing courses. She’s the author of the book DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community. She also hosts DIY MFA Radio, where she interviews authors and publishing experts about the business and art of writing.
  • Andi Cumbo-Flyod is a writing coach, skilled at helping writers get to the heart and soul of their work. She edits manuscripts, runs a robust community for some wonderful writers, and researches people who were enslaved in the American South. Her books include Steele Secrets, The Slaves Have Names, and Writing Day In and Day Out: Living a Practice of Words.
  • Julie Duffy is the founder of the annual StoryADay May short story challenge. She runs the online community associated with that challenge. Previously, she worked in author services in Xlibris so she can speak to how self-publishing can be part of an effective revenue model for writers and writing teachers.