Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis
Coming to Thunder Bay

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pitch Perfect Day One.

Day one in New York at the Spring Big Apple Writers' Conference.  I practice my pitch at breakfast in the hotel, mumbling to myself. I had written it at home but I still had a day to tweak and memorize.
Maureen Murdock, author of Unreliable Truth and leader of workshop: Elements of Memoir Writing.

The first day was devoted to memoir. I have had a few successes writing short memoir pieces but most of the women at the conference were doing complete books. A few were working on self help and only two on us had finished novels.

What is memoir? our workshop leader, Maureen Murdock asks. It is insight plus dramatic tension.  it is not autobiography but a selected aspect of life. There is always a universality to memoirs. The hallmark of memoir is the intimacy with its audience. The struggle for emotional truth is central to a memoir. In memoir the author speaks directly into your ear, confiding everything from gossip to wisdom. 

Maureen threw out ideas as if sparks were flying from her finger tips.  Every sentence had weight. Then she had us all writing. My pen flew.  The essence of memoir is the track of a person's thoughts struggling to achieve some understanding of a particular life event.  Memoir often answers these questions: Who am I? Where am I going? What is my tribe? What is my purpose?

She gave up writing prompts. What was the moment when everything changed? Later we read each other our stories. I wrote about long forgotten events, events that had deep meaning for me. The air in the room was charged with ideas, creativity. Did I buy Maureen's book, Unreliable Truth? You bet. Only occasionally in life do you run into true wisdom.  The book distils the brilliance of Maureen Murdock. It was easily the most energizing workshop of my life.

Me with Maureen Murdock, workshop leader extraordinaire.

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