Natalie Serber is teaching a memoir writing boot camp at Literary Arts this fall, beginning September 17, 2017. Click here for details and to register! Natalie Serber is the author of the story collection Shout Her Lovely Name, a New York Times Notable Book of 2012 and a summer reading pick from O, the Oprah Magazine, and an Oregonian Top 10 Books of the Pacific Northwest and an Indie Next Pick. Her memoir, Community Chest, was published by Two Sylvias Press. Her fiction has appeared in The Bellingham Review, Gulf Coast, Inkwell, and Hunger Mountain. Essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, O, the Oprah Magazine, Salon, The Rumpus, The Oregonian, The San Francisco Chronicle, Fourth Genre, and Hunger Mountain.
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
I’m not going to lie, I hate the name of this class: Memoir Bootcamp! Do we really need to militarize our art? But I get the impulse. All of us makers want to get work done, and the accountability this class offers is a huge boon to getting words on the page. Memoir Bootcamp is a place to make a commitment to your work and feel the support and inspiration of a writing community. It’s hard to sit at your desk, alone, facing uncertainties and the often jerky attitude of your inner critic. This class is a great place to let in the light, to share your work and read the work of your peers, to gain perspective on where you are on the path to your finished memoir, to hone writing tools like characterization and dialog and setting, and hopefully to discover a new truth of your own story.
What do I mean by that? Truth is a slippery thing. We all think we know our story, we own what happened, and yes, we do, but so does our sibling, or our partner, or our child. They all have their own true versions of the story. I believe it is through the act of writing that we make discoveries about who we were, who we are, and who we want to be. If we aren’t making discoveries as we make our art, how can we expect our readers to make discoveries along the way? As a matter of fact, I encourage you to stop reading this right now, go to a blank page and write. Write about a time you knew you were in trouble. How did you know? Has your perception changed? Write about a secret you never told anyone. Why have you guarded that story? Write about a fading memory that sticks with you. See what you discover.
What I love most about this class is, well of course, reading all the amazing stories, gaining access to the inner lives of the people around the table, and what I love next best is watching a community form.
2016 was a difficult creative year for me, so I decided to approach 2017 with a Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind attitude. I enrolled in multiple workshops and writing immersions. I’ve put myself on the vulnerable side of the workshop table, exposing my hatchling stories, nurturing essays and memoir pieces that cut close, owning my opinions of the work of my peers. It has been an amazing reminder for me of the grace around the table. I’ve said it many times, maybe if you’ve been in my workshop you’ve heard me, being around a table of writers with heads bowed, pen moving over page, a particular enlarged silence engulfs the room. That generous space is one of my favorite places to be in the world.
If you have a story that has been gnawing at you. If you are a maker that feels inhibited and needs a kick in the pants to get moving. If you’ve already got a secret draft of your memoir and are ready for some discussions around your work. If you want community and a chance to (metaphorically) drop and give me 40 push-ups, I hope you’ll come sit around the workshop table in the beautiful and inspiring Literary Arts space.
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