In Unspeakable Things, I collapsed timelines, added dialogue and detail and characters, and in the end, it's the truest thing I've ever written. And now I'm contemplating writing a memoir. My whole gig (18 novels and counting) has been working through pain and trauma and joy and life in fiction (see my TEDx Talk below), but now...now I'm wondering about the power of memoir.
When aspiring memoir writers attend my workshops, they all have the same concern: how do I tell this story without rocking the boat (hurting my family, shocking my coworkers, losing friends...)? Sometimes the question isn't that clear. Sometimes they ask if they can use a pseudonym (yes, but it's harder to sell the book), change the names of the guilty (yes, and unless there is a public record of the guilt or the guilty signs off on it, you'll definitely want to do this), or write it as fiction (always).
I get it. My mom, dad, and sister are no longer speaking to me, not because of Unspeakable Things but because I was no longer willing to keep silent about the trauma in our home. Claiming your story often comes with consequences, but I find you deal with your past or it deals with you, and I was tired of it dealing with me. I wanted to live in the sunshine.
My life is better in so many ways since I began writing and now claiming this story (and I think the raw truth inside the novel is why it landed me a book contract in the big leagues), but I miss my mom and sister. All this is to say: I get it. If you're thinking of writing memoir and you're afraid of the consequences of telling your story, I get it. But I also think memoir offers healing--for writer and reader--that fiction doesn't.
I don't know this for sure, but I'm going to check it out, starting with reading the books below and writing some exploratory essays. My goal is to create some online memoir writing modules, a memoir-writing retreat, and possibly even write my own memoir. You'll hear it all first.
In the meanwhile, let me know if you have any writing questions I can answer now, and big love to you.