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Memoir Boot Camp - Claire Bidwell Smith - Class 1

Memoir Boot Camp: Session 1. Writing About Other People, taught by Claire Bidwell Smith

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Session 1
Writing About Other People
Taught by
Claire Bidwell Smith
E L E V A T E Y O U R M E M O I R
B O O T C A M P
What to Consider When
Writing About
Real People
Should you tell them you are
writing about them?
Differing memories and experiences
Emotions
Legalities
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Memoir Boot Camp - Claire Bidwell Smith - Class 1

  • 1. Session 1 Writing About Other People Taught by Claire Bidwell Smith E L E V A T E Y O U R M E M O I R B O O T C A M P
  • 2. What to Consider When Writing About Real People
  • 3. Should you tell them you are writing about them?
  • 10. p. 199 My father didn’t come to Poughkeepsie to tell me something I already knew about the familial impact of racial terror in our nation. He didn’t come to tell me something I suspected about the violation of his mother and his brother. He was running, ducking, deflecting, and he didn’t want to run, duck, or deflect anymore. I felt all of what he told me but I knew there was more his body needed to say. That night, I saw in that slumping, sleeping black man the ten-year-old black child who ran away from home because he tired of the beatings his father gave his mother and siblings. I saw the fourteen-year-old black child charged with hiding the money his father made from bootlegging. I saw the sixteen-year-old black child forced to share his valedictorian honor with a white student with a lower GPA. I saw the nineteen-year-old black child who sold weed to make it through college. I saw the twenty-year-old black child who proudly repped the Republic of New Afrika . . . I saw the twenty-seven-year-old black child who sent his son and ex-wife postcards every week. Examples
  • 11. -= p. 43 She grew up in a big white house in a good neighbor- hood. My grandfather struggled with depression, and his wife was stern with desperation. The four girls, fueled by jealousy, driven by competition, tore at one another in their claim for parental approval. The Thoroughbred, my grandfather called my mother. Penny was pudgy, with red hair and freckles; Pammy was plain but perfect; and Phyllis, “Oh, Phyllis . . . ” My mother’s sister Phyllis died at thirty-three. She died of a cat scratch, of blood poisoning. Phyllis was an alcoholic. Every story I’ve ever heard about her is the kind you forget immediately, the details at once jumbled even as you’re crossing the threshold of the room you heard it in. There’s much I don’t understand about my mother growing up, about the venom whispered after lights out, about the pinches, the dress stealing, the silent treatment, the lap claiming. I only saw the aftermath. Examples
  • 12. p. 5 Freeman Diallo. When I gave birth to you, I had labored for twenty-four hours. The first words ever said about you came from your father. “He’s beautiful.” They cut you out of me, a thin, wavering bloody line, and then my flesh stretched wide for you, and you were born brown mixed with red like the clay of the Black Belt. I had barely dilated, only a centimeter. Like I couldn’t bear to let you go. And the obstetrician said that in another time in history I wouldn’t have made it. Too small, too tight. Thank God you came into this world when you did. Thank God for the scalpel that broke you into this time. Examples
  • 13. p. 85 Charlie introduced me formally, stiffly, to each man. Pleased to meet you, kid, said Joey D, a giant with a tuft of gingery hair atop his spongy orange head, and features glued to the head at odd angles. He seemed to be made of spare parts from different Muppets, like a Sesame Street Frankenstein—head of Grover, face of Oscar, thorax of Big Bird . . . Joey D had the manic energy of a small man. He speed-walked, fluttered his hands, spoke in word spasms that left him winded. Like hay fever sneezes, whole sentences exploded from his mouth in one burst Oceansgoingtoberoughtoday! Examples
  • 14. Writing Prompts • Write about someone you loved deeply without using the word love. Show through action, dialogue, and setting. • Write a character sketch about someone you didn’t like, someone who hurt you, or a person you felt you could never forgive. Show the person through action and dialogue. • Enter into your work-in-progress, noticing opportunities to write about other people. Write a new scene.
  • 15. Share
  • 16. Next Week Session 2: Likeability and Culpability Taught by Terese Mailhot **Same Zoom link and password each week**