28 Jul, 2020

Podcast Interview: How to Get Started Writing Family History Stories and How to Make Them Interesting for the Next Generation

July 28th, 2020|Tags: , , |

That's me in front of my grandparents' former house in Liberec, Czech Republic, August 2002 I'm happy to share that I'm featured on this week's edition of the Genealogy [...]

2 Nov, 2018

Creative Nonfiction and Memoir: What’s the Difference?

November 2nd, 2018|Tags: |

A new student asked me to explain the difference between creative nonfiction and memoir, and so I thought I'd clarify this here today. If one person asks, I figure, more [...]

30 Nov, 2017

Book Companion Post: Writing About Family

November 30th, 2017|Tags: , , |

My last visit with my brother-in-law Louis this summer As a memoir writer and particularly as the author of a family memoir, I am often asked how my [...]

5 Jun, 2016

Grandpa and the Tractor

June 5th, 2016|Tags: , , |

Father's Day is coming and so it is fitting that my essay about my grandpa, titled The Tractor, should be published this month on Thread, a literary magazine. Writing about [...]

5 May, 2016

Writing Exericse: A Startling Sound

May 5th, 2016|Tags: , , , , |

Have you ever been startled by a sound you had never heard before? Stopped in your tracks, wondering what the hell was going on? Felice Benuzzi's unique adventure memoir No [...]

2 Mar, 2016

A Navy Blue Sigh – Reading The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber

March 2nd, 2016|Tags: , , , |

"Eventually, I hear footsteps crunching along the side of the house through the glazed snow and my mother's navy blue sigh through the frozen air." from The Language of Baklava [...]

24 Dec, 2015

One Reason to Write Memoir

December 24th, 2015|Tags: |

This is not a drawing of the actual stone bridge mentioned in Traces, but it is pretty close to what I still see in my imagination.  Here's one reason to [...]

21 Sep, 2015

A Memoir of the Pain of Suicide and the Gift of Siblings

September 21st, 2015|Tags: , |

Kelley reading at her book launch party at the Book Cellar in June September is Suicide Awareness Month, and on this occasion I want to present you with the beautiful [...]

7 May, 2015

Thank You, Abigail Thomas

May 7th, 2015|Tags: , , |

Once in a while a book comes along that is like an old armchair. You simply don't want to get up. You could read on and on until your butt [...]

24 Feb, 2015

Interview with Sarah Wildman

February 24th, 2015|Tags: , , , |

In December I interviewed Sarah Wildman about her book Paper Love. This was a particular privilege because Paper Love is my kind of story: figuring out what happened in a [...]

19 Jan, 2015

Mini Memoir Workshop @ Hemingway House

January 19th, 2015|Tags: , |

I'll be teaching a Mini Memoir Workshop at the Hemingway Birthplace Home as part of my gig as writer-in-residence. It will be a series of four evening classes in February [...]

2 Oct, 2014

Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want to Know

October 2nd, 2014|Tags: , |

Isn't this a great title? It's a great book, too; one of the most skillfully wrought I have read in a long time. Things I Don't Want to Know is [...]

30 Jun, 2014

Glen Finland on the Power of Storytelling

June 30th, 2014|Tags: , , |

Meeting other formidable writers is one of the great benefits of attending a writers residency. And so, last January, I had the great fortune of meeting Glen Finland during my [...]

15 Jun, 2014

In Honor of Father’s Day

June 15th, 2014|Tags: , |

I'm rerunning my six-word Dad memoir from three years ago, that sadly will always be true because, even 29 years after he died, the tears can still creep up on [...]

3 Jun, 2014

Is My Story Dramatic Enough?

June 3rd, 2014|Tags: |

Last week my essay "Is My Story Dramatic Enough?" was published in the Washington Independent Review of Books. Its foundation was laid one evening when one of my students stopped [...]

29 May, 2014

Living with Chronic Pain

May 29th, 2014|Tags: , |

I can't write about the book I recently finished and liked so much, Lynne Greenberg's The Body Broken, without going into my own experience of chronic pain, which is why [...]

14 Feb, 2014

Leaving Russia

February 14th, 2014|Tags: , , |

With the Winter Olympics currently happening in Sochi, Russia, it fits that my review of Maxim Shrayer's memoir Leaving Russia just appeared in the Jewish Book World. Thanks to this book, I feel [...]

7 Oct, 2013

Writing about Real People

October 7th, 2013|Tags: , , , |

Writing about real people, especially family, is probably the number 1 issue writers of personal stories worry about. But it is not just an issue for nonfiction writers... In my [...]

26 Sep, 2013

Shocked by Patricia Volk

September 26th, 2013|Tags: , |

My review of Patricia Volk's Shocked is my first review of a memoir for the Jewish Book World. I looked forward to this assignment because I have a thing for the French fashion [...]

22 Jul, 2013

Why Writers are Fortunate

July 22nd, 2013|Tags: , , |

For our June class, my Advanced Memoir Workshop at StoryStudio Chicago read Rosanne Cash's memoir Composed. It's not the kind of memoir I would have chosen to read myself, but [...]

17 Jul, 2013

Rebecca McClanahan on Writing about Family

July 17th, 2013|Tags: , , , |

With her memoir The Tribal Knot - A Memoir of Family, Community and a Century of Change, RebeccaMcClanahan did what many of us wish we would do – "do something" [...]

1 Jul, 2013

Report from a Literary Hybrid/Book Arts Workshop

July 1st, 2013|Tags: , , |

Ellen Sheffield's Book Arts Studio at Kenyon College One of my housemates at the Kenyon Writer's Workshop was Mimi Chiang, and not only did we hit it off right away, [...]

19 Jun, 2013

A Memoir Doesn’t Have to Be a Book

June 19th, 2013|Tags: |

This is my life at Kenyon College right now - sunlight filtering throug the trees along the Middle Path, where we writers tread to meet for our various workshops. I [...]

24 Apr, 2013

It’s OK to Lie in Memoir

April 24th, 2013|Tags: , |

If memoir is the genre of truth, how could it possibly be acceptable to lie? Wasn’t James Frey fried because he lied? And yet, I venture to say that it [...]

3 Apr, 2013

@ the Kenyon Writers Workshop

April 3rd, 2013|Tags: , , |

Just a quick note to share that I will be a fellow at the Kenyon Writers Workshop this summer (June 15-22), which means I will get to assist the wonderful [...]

1 Apr, 2013

The Many Lives of a Story

April 1st, 2013|Tags: , |

Today I bring you what I think is a most inspiring post: My longtime student Diane Hurles has shared here before how she managed to find her voice as a memoir [...]

28 Mar, 2013

What is Memoir?

March 28th, 2013|Tags: , , |

The often incorrect use of the term memoir is a pet peeve of mine; after all, it is my genre. It's what I write primarily, and what I teach. So [...]

18 Mar, 2013

Leslie Maitland on Writing from a Different Point of View in Memoir

March 18th, 2013|Tags: , |

My author Q&A with Leslie Maitland appeared in the Washington Independent Review of Books last week. Her memoir Crossing the Borders of Time, about finding her mother's first love whom she [...]

10 Dec, 2012

My Most Meaningful Read of 2012: Secrets and Spies – The Harbin Files

December 10th, 2012|Tags: , , , |

Of all the books I read this year, the one I have thought most about, talked most about and continue to think about is Mara Moustafine's Secrets and Spies - [...]

12 Nov, 2012

Guest Blog by Shirley Hershey Showalter: Writing About Faith

November 12th, 2012|Tags: , |

As announced last Monday, I am happy to welcome Shirley Hershey Showalter as a guest blogger today. We met in the online world last year; I was initially intrigued by her [...]

7 Nov, 2012

The Privilege of Teaching Memoir

November 7th, 2012|Tags: |

Photo by Patty Michels, taken during my Advanced Memoir Workshop. Seems I am out and about this week, because I am thrilled to announce that my essay "The Privilege of [...]

5 Nov, 2012

Writing About Family

November 5th, 2012|Tags: , , |

My grandmother and me at my wedding I'm thrilled to be guest blogging on Shirley Showalter's blog today. Topic: Writing About Family. It's the hairiest issue in writing memoir, at least [...]

29 Oct, 2012

Would you still write if you knew you’d never get published?

October 29th, 2012|Tags: , |

A good friend of mine, also a writer, challenged me with that very question a while ago. She had had an agent for one of her novels, but the project [...]

19 Oct, 2012

Author Q&A: Wenguang Huang

October 19th, 2012|Tags: , , , |

I wonder what it means if I don't even notice anymore that my writing has gotten published? Have I reached a level of publication success where I can go, "Oh [...]

8 Oct, 2012

On Owning a Story

October 8th, 2012|Tags: , |

When you write memoir, sooner or later you come upon the issue of, "Is this my story to tell?" - "What about the other people in the story?" As with [...]

25 Sep, 2012

My Six-Word Jewish Memoir

September 25th, 2012|Tags: , , |

I've shared Debbie Lekousis' Star of David origami work before, but I love it so much I thought I'd share it again as it is sort of fitting for today. [...]

19 Sep, 2012

Why Chapter Headings Are Useful

September 19th, 2012|Tags: , , |

My Advanced Memoir Workshop was fortunate to host Wenguang Huang, author of The Little Red Guard, for an immensely informative Q&A session back in July. (Lucky for us, he lives in [...]

31 Aug, 2012

The Door of Memory

August 31st, 2012|Tags: , |

A door in the Bund area of Shanghai - a photo from one of my recent memories I subscribe to the Foundation for a Better Life's daily email, and once [...]

25 Jul, 2012

Sara Mansfield Taber on Airing Secrets

July 25th, 2012|Tags: , , |

The Washington Independent Review of Books just published another author Q&A I did, this time with Sara Mansfield Taber, author of Born Under an Assumed Name. I did not get [...]

6 Jun, 2012

Reading: Tracy Crow’s Eyes Right, Confessions from a Woman Marine

June 6th, 2012|Tags: , |

I am happy to announce that my very first book review beyond the pages of this blog is up at the Washington Independent Review of Books. It's actually not a [...]

24 May, 2012

Reading: The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

May 24th, 2012|Tags: , , , , |

Edmund de Waals' memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes was my favorite memoir of 2011, and yet I am still trying to figure out why because it defies so many of the [...]

13 May, 2012

A Momoir for Mother’s Day

May 13th, 2012|Tags: , |

Picture of me holding my daughter, Summer 1996 I'm reposting my Mother's Day post from last year, mainly because I still like my six-word "momoir"  inspired by SMITH Magazine's project in [...]

2 Apr, 2012

Lee Strickland on Learning to Reflect in Memoir

April 2nd, 2012|Tags: , |

Today I'm sharing another insight from my formidable fellow instructor at StoryStudio, Lee Strickland, on the challenges of writing memoir. Says she, "I thought my job was to narrate but [...]

26 Mar, 2012

Lee Strickland: “I was Always a Memoirist…”

March 26th, 2012|Tags: , |

Recently, my Advanced Memoir class at StoryStudio Chicago was fortunate enough to host, in person, Lee Strickland for an author Q&A, discussing her essay "Girl, Ruined," published in The Sun [...]

24 Mar, 2012

A Story in a Few Sentences

March 24th, 2012|Tags: |

Sondra Radvanovsky as Aida at the Lyric Opera of Chicago Last night I took my two older kids to see a performance of Verdi's opera Aida at the Lyric Opera [...]

21 Feb, 2012

First Person versus Third Person

February 21st, 2012|Tags: , , |

 Checking my notes at the writersandcritters conference Today I'm sharing the recording of a short conversation on the merits of writing in first, second or third person that we got [...]

16 Feb, 2012

The End in Memoir

February 16th, 2012|Tags: , |

Here's a little chuckle for you on a genre that often leaves little to chuckle about. Last Sunday I went to a memoir event: Moment Magazine was presenting the winners [...]

28 Nov, 2011

Finding Focus in Writing

November 28th, 2011|Tags: , |

Finding focus in our writing is a big challenge, especially when you're writing personal narrative. How do you whittle down a big life into one small story? My tips: Use a [...]

7 Nov, 2011

I Want to Write My Story, But Is It Worthy?

November 7th, 2011|Tags: |

I love it when students share their concerns with me, and ask questions that I am sure many writers ask themselves. Today I am sharing one such question (with my [...]

29 Oct, 2011

Blog Mash Up: Submission Opportunities, Interesting Insights and Memoirs

October 29th, 2011|Tags: , |

Tracks in the snow on our cabin's deck this morning... While I've been trying not to freeze (see photo) at the writers conference I'm attending in northern Virginia where it [...]

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