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Memoir Boot Camp - Larry Smith - Class 3

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Session 3
GettingTo What Matters Quickly and
Succinctly
Taught by
Larry Smith
E L EV AT E Y O U R M E M O I R
B O OT C A M P
“Let Me In You Narrative Whore.”
Six words are a way to start.
Blank pages are scary—
for everyone.
For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
—Ernest Hemingway
Ex-wife and contractor now have house.
—Dale Peck
Wasn’t born a redhead; fixed that.
—Andie Grace
Bags under my eyes are Prada.
—Mary Lazarus
One life. Six words. What’s yours?
Marge’s loyalty, Lisa’s perspicacity, Bart’s
attitude.
—Simone Vars
I have Asperger’s. What’s your excuse?
—Ben Sheldon
Clawed my way out of Tennessee.
—Zak Nelson
One life. Six words. What’s yours?

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Memoir Boot Camp - Larry Smith - Class 3

  • 1. Session 3 GettingTo What Matters Quickly and Succinctly Taught by Larry Smith E L EV AT E Y O U R M E M O I R B O OT C A M P
  • 2. “Let Me In You Narrative Whore.” Six words are a way to start.
  • 3. Blank pages are scary— for everyone.
  • 4. For sale: Baby shoes, never worn. —Ernest Hemingway
  • 5. Ex-wife and contractor now have house. —Dale Peck Wasn’t born a redhead; fixed that. —Andie Grace Bags under my eyes are Prada. —Mary Lazarus One life. Six words. What’s yours?
  • 6. Marge’s loyalty, Lisa’s perspicacity, Bart’s attitude. —Simone Vars I have Asperger’s. What’s your excuse? —Ben Sheldon Clawed my way out of Tennessee. —Zak Nelson One life. Six words. What’s yours?
  • 7. Divorced by Friday. Married by Elvis, —G.M. Rouse
  • 9. Fierce Woman now. Only black girl. —Courtney Kemp, showrunner, Power
  • 10. grew, peaked, shrunk, Started small, vanished. —George Saunders
  • 11. One Million Six-Word Memoirs® “Let’s dub this American Haiku.” —St. Louis Post Dispatch “You could spend a lifetime brainstorming.” —The New Yorker
  • 13. Each word must be chosen wisely.
  • 14. How do you eat an elephant?
  • 15. Life: a series of small moments
  • 16. Memoir: a series of small stories
  • 17. [honesty + reliable narration] After Harvard, had baby with crackhead. —Robin Templeton [specificity + imagery] We were our own Springer episode. —Tyler Sheldon [write like you talk > you do you] Barrister, barista. What’s the diff, Mom?” —Abigail Moorhouse All the same writing rules apply
  • 19. All writers need a Jewish mother
  • 20. Former boss: “Writing’s your worst skill.” —Amy Tan (ten books and counting...)
  • 21. Face your demons, then harness them. —Jeanette Walls Chances are, your editor is right. —Elizabeth Gilbert Can't say something nice? Try fiction. —David Baldacci Six-Word Advice: Writers on Writing www.sixwordmemoirs.com/advice
  • 22. p. 68 Hire a dog trainer and then be unavailable the next three months through no fault of your own. Make sure that for the initial visit you have hurt your back and can’t move anything except your eyes and mouth screaming. After he leaves remember everything you did badly as a mother and begin to get depressed. Have a falling out with a beloved daughter and get so you can’t see straight. Call your psychiatrist after a year and discover she is out of town the next three weeks. Listen to your friend who suggests you think about whether dogfights and family fights have any similarities and if you can apply what you have learned about one to the other. Realize that you know nothing about either and can do nothing about anything. Examples
  • 23. p. 135 When my mother returns, I will no longer be her baby girl. I am sitting on my grandmother’s lap when she tells me this, already so tall my legs dangle far down, the tips of my toes touching the porch mat. My head rests on her shoulder now where once, it came only to her collarbone. She smells the way she always does, of Pine-Sol and cotton, Dixie Peach hair grease and something warm and powdery. I want to know whose baby girl I’ll be when my mother’s new baby comes, born where the sidewalks sparkle and me just a regular girl. I didn’t know how much I loved being everyone’s baby girl until now when my life as a baby girl is nearly over. Examples
  • 24. p. 83 What did my mother know?What did my father father know? And again: What did my mother mother know?What did my father know? In yogic In yogic philosophy the concept of samskara— the Sanskrit translates into scar or pattern—is understood as a karmic inheritance, a blueprint we’re born with and cycle through again and again over the course of our lives. As Michael and I made our way down theWest Coast, the wheel spun around and around, each time catching in the same exact notch—the place of a thousand questions that really all could be reduced to the same two questions. All the while, I scribbled on index cards: - Dystopia. - Feeling (then) as if I were under glass. Feeling that way again now . . . - Speech from Richard III about nail in horseshoe. Examples
  • 25. p. 6 I come from a family of gamblers. And my future, it turned out, was their biggest gamble . . . . . . . Whenever I think of the country I left, I think of water. As the years and decades passed, as the gulf between and me grew deeper and wider, I’ve stepping into any body of water in the country that I now call my home. . . . When people think of borders and walls, they think of land. I think of water. painful to think that the same water that connects us also divides us, dividing Mama and me. I left the Philippines on August 1, 1993. I was twelve years old. Examples
  • 26. Writing Prompts • Write a list of things that are significant moments or ideas you have about your life. Free associate around a theme or topic. Stick to the list. •Write reflections in the “you" voice as AbigailThomas did—a series of commands that tell a cautionary tale or reveal layers of truths you might not want to say directly. • Select a passage from your work in progress—a theme or idea where you shift into another voice, try writing a series of snapshots instead of a narrative.
  • 27. Share
  • 28. Next Week Session 4: Theme: Your Memoir's Very Foundation Taught by Reyna Grande **Same Zoom link and password each week**