Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened.” Vivian Gornack, The Situation and the Story: The Art of the Personal Narrative.
Finding an Authentic Voice in Memoir: A Memoir Moment
How often has an author’s voice captivated you more than the events in the story? What about that voice is compelling? And how can I, as a writer find a voice that fits the story I have to tell?
While the events in the story may be important, the author’s voice is what keeps me caring about the character enough to want to keep turning the pages.
These are all questions I ask myself whenever I embark on a new writing project.
When we share our stories, we bring our experiences to life.
Using our authentic voice is how we enhance our stories to engage the reader. Click to Tweet
For example, I just finished Penelope James’ memoir, Getting Rid of Ian: A Memoir of Poison, Pills and Mortal Sin…in two sittings, staying up way past my bedtime because I was so mesmerized by the narrator’s voice that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Though the underlying story was compelling, it was the voice that created the suspense and passion of the story.
Finding that right voice for the story…
But, sometimes, our voice gets stymied and goes into hiding.
As I have shared on more than one occasion, I am struggling with my work-in-progress memoir about being the mother of an addicted son. Not because of the story but because it involves my children, particularly my adult son. It’s about the impact his addiction had on me as his mother and on his sister. And, in reality, it’s not so much about him as it is about the lessons I learned from him.
I’m plowing my way through the process, knowing that it can’t be rushed while also believing it is an important story to tell.
I wrote this reflection in Author, Artist, Activist Jan Phillips‘ workshop , “When a Woman Writes: Opening Our Eyes, Ears and Hearts to the Power of Our Words”at the recent IWWG conference in response to the prompt,
Note to Self…
Voice, where are you? Hidden in the deep recesses of my soul?
I need you to come out and play with me. Without reservation, without fear, without shame.
With confidence in all you are and can be IF you’ll give yourself a chance.
I can’t know you if I can’t find you.
I can’t nurture you if you stay so hidden.
What are you afraid of?
How can I help you find your way into the light?
I need you, I love you .
Help me find you.
Then in Writing Teacher and Author Lisa Freedman‘s workshop, “What Kind of Fools (or Shamans) are We?” the next day, I wrote this in response to selecting the following words from a grab bag of tiles with these words on them: “Moon, Scream, Bitter, Midnight.”
No more excuses. I have a voice and I must use it, not just for myself but for others who need to hear my words.
The story is yet to be told because I am reluctant to go there. I mean really go there.
Trudge through the woods at midnight and scream at the moon. Fill the cool night air with hot, bitter words. Let them rise up to vaporize into ashes that scatter and blow away.
Set yourself free of the burden of hanging on.
The reality is until my son who is currently reading the manuscript accepts the story, I am on hold. I wrote my truth but I know there’s more … I know I need to keep digging deeper.
Even though it is my story, it is about him and my daughter and I have to be respectful of their feelings and their voices.
I am hopeful that they will see the value of sharing our story to help others. My son is not the same person today as he was all those awful years ago. Of course, neither am I nor is my daughter. I am in awe knowing what we have overcome and how we have all grown. He has turned his life around–one day at a time– and in turn affected us. My daughter remains open to the story.
If, in the end, I feel I cannot publish the story because of the sensitivities related to my children, I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I wrote my truth to the best of my ability.
It’s still a work-in-progress, Perhaps it will take on a different form or maybe I’ll write it just for us though I am hopeful it will be the right story and I will publish it for the right reason.
Time will tell.
In the meantime, I am certain that I will honor my truth one way or the other and I will find a way for my voice to be heard.
I’ll be attending The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City this week with the goal of honing in on the vision and theme of my story. The Pitch Slam is a great opportunity to practice my pitch in front of agents. I will also see my son and hear his response. Stay tuned for lessons learned on 8/28/17.
How about you? What do you do when you feel your voice is hiding? How do you find your authentic voice and “break open”?
I’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~
“Why Write a Book Such as My Eye Fell Into The Soup? By Denis Ledoux”
Denis is the founder of The Memoir Network and has written a series of books about his wife Martha, who died of breast cancer. My Eye Fell Into The Soup is his latest story about his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis and includes her journal entries and his responses.
“Interview with William Kenower,Part 1 : What is Fearless Writing?”
“Interview with William Kenower, Part 2: Fearless Writing for Memoir Writers”
William (Bill) Kenower is the author of Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence. He is Editor-in-Chief at Author Magazine and interviews writers and authors on his online radio program, Author2Author.