Joan Leof’s collection of essays Matryoshka: Uncovering Your Many Selves Through Writing Personal Essays and Questions for Reflection is intended to share her personal experience essays in a way that encourages others to write from their experiences.
After reading her collection and asking Joan’s permission to reprint one of her essays for Writing It Real members, I emailed her questions I hoped she’d answer for writers of personal experience. Here are her words on writing from personal experience:
Over what span of years did you write the essays in this collection?
Half of the essays are new, written in the last three years. Five were published in the 80s-early 90s. Four are spin offs from material in the memoir I wrote from 2007-2011 (Fatal If Swallowed).
How did you use them in your own work with other writers before publication?
While I don’t share the actual essays with writers in my groups until each is originally published, I always refer to the creative process that guides me. That includes keeping a SEED LIST of ideas. This can be anything from one word, to one paragraph, a theme, issue, newspaper clipping – anything that sparks something in me as having potential. I emphasize having trust that the idea will sprout in its time and take on a life of its own. For instance, something that’s been on my SEED LIST for decades finally became an essay recently with an ending that I could never have imagined. I had to “live” the ending before I could actually complete the story. Keeping open to recycling options is also encouraged. A previous essay could be tweaked and resubmitted. Or it could be reprinted as is somewhere. A theme or description can be extracted for a new essay. Continue reading
We have two new podcasts ready for you to listen to. They are conversations with Meg Files and with Jack Heffron. It was fun and informative having two of my favorite writing and teaching colleagues as guests this summer on my KPTZ FM radio program, In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life.
Below are links to those two programs as well as links to previous Writing It Real articles featuring Jack and Meg’s writing and thoughts about writing. It’s a feast!
Writing It Real Articles by Meg Files
Writing It Real Articles by Jack Heffron
Adam L. Diament, the author of Kosher Patents: 101 Ingenious Inventions to Help Jews be Jewish, is a practicing patent attorney in Beverly Hills, California. He earned a B.A. in Religious Studies with an Emphasis in Judaism from the University of California, Berkeley in 1997 and a law degree from the University of San Diego … Continue reading
“If I’d only known what was in this book forty years ago, how much more money would I have made and how fewer problems would I have encountered?” Karen wonders. Isn’t that true for all of us in our lives—if we knew what we know now we could have done better at what mattered to … Continue reading
When Marlene Samuels found a publisher for her deceased mother’s World War II memoir, The Seamstress: A Memoir of Survival, her editor at Penguin-Berkeley had two conditions. She would have to ensure the accuracy of all the book’s facts (the names of every town and city in Eastern Europe during the early 1900’s up to … Continue reading
This book is a big one—in every way. In its 813 beautifully designed pages and over 450 gorgeous photos and images, a story unfolds not only of fine handpress printing but the man who printed works by many great 20th Century writers as well as prepared food for them and others in his own kitchens … Continue reading
Tarn Wilson delivered this paper for a panel on “Hydra-Headed Memoirs & Well-Connected Essays” at the 2015 Nonfiction Now conference. I am delighted to have her permission to post her words for Writing It Real readers. Tarn’s lovely memoir is The Slow Farm. She uses her experience writing it to inform other writers about her … Continue reading
In this excerpt from Jack Heffron’s book project that combines fiction and nonfiction, you’ll notice the strength of Jack’s scenes and dialog, exactly the craft skills he will be teaching this year at the June 9-12 Writing It Real conference. In the book, Jack told me, the protagonist, Jack Finney, is a retired advertising executive who recently has been … Continue reading
This week, Judy Reeves, author of the new book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, shares her thoughts on writing practice. Here article serves as a good review for all of us who are busy concentrating on revising and publishing and may have begun to overlook the idea of what a writing practice is and offers. She … Continue reading
Phyllis Washburn sent me a copy of the book she’d written, Good Morning Sam, which includes many of her husband Ralph’s photos. In photos and words, theirs is the story of the mute swan Sam, whom they named when he accepted them as part of his natural world. Over the years, the couple saved Sam … Continue reading
As both an accomplished writer and a career librarian, Carol Smallwood knows a lot about what women ask when they wish to learn about the writing and publishing process. Over the years, I’ve received email invitations from Carol asking for contributions to anthologies whose subjects have rung true as extremely useful for women writers. I … Continue reading
Jody Gentian Bower’s new book, Jane Eyre’s Sisters: How Women Live and Write the Heroine’s Story, is sure to change some minds about the path of women’s literature. I am pleased to post the following interview with Jody. I know readers will find both her thinking and her commitment to the process of creating her … Continue reading
Robert Epstein has invested years in conceiving and writing books, among them a series of impressive haiku anthologies. This National Poetry Month, I am delighted to post an interview with him that gets to the heart of how haiku connects us to the sacred and demonstrates what we come to poetry for — to understand and to share … Continue reading
Before embarking on a third revision of A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief, an intense book-length personal narrative, I worked with writer, photographer and shamanic practitioner Pam Hale Trachta for guidance in knowing what I wanted to do in developing my manuscript. Because it is about my son’s death in … Continue reading
Not long ago, Writing It Real member Dorothy Ross wrote to me about her newest project — recording the narratives she’s written about her life for her family to have in the form of audio files. I listened to a few of them and was so pleased to hear her physical voice. I immediately wanted … Continue reading
Esther Helfgott’s life-long writing habit helped her weather her husband Abe’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and the grief of slowly losing their thirty-year partnership. Using writing as a tool to handle this profound life change, she created the moving memoir, Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems. When her husband Abe died, she began writing the … Continue reading
The following essay by Susan Bono is the title essay from her new collection What Have We Here: Essays about Keeping House and Finding Home. We reprint it this week with her permission. To learn more about Susan’s writing and the place of the personal essay in her writing life, please see last week’s interview. What Have We … Continue reading
For writer and small press publisher (Tiny Lights) Susan Bono, the last thirty years have mostly been about trying to stay ahead of a husband, growing kids, aging parents, and an eccentric old house, in spite of detours, deadlines, unexpected changes, and inevitable losses. But through it all, she’s been taking notes. In her collection of … Continue reading
After reading that I’d mentioned an interview he did with Marion Woodman in a Writing It Real article, James Kullander contacted me. After reading the whole article, he offered permission to share another essay originally published in the December 2007 issue of The Sun magazine. “My Marital Status” takes a moving look at love and commitment, at what … Continue reading
Often when I try to write about my mother the same details surface. In my childhood memories she is always busy either working or participating on different committees; when she is home she is tired and does not like to cook. Now that I am an adult, my mother and I talk on the telephone … Continue reading