I'll be at the Write Here in Ephraim Writing Conference at Snow College this weekend teaching courses on memoir writing as well as book marketing and publicity. If you're in the area, admission to the conference is free so you're welcome to learn what you can from all the writers that will be there. You can find the full schedule for the conference, registration information, and other details here. A full list of authors that will be attending can be found here. Hope to see some of you there!
I'll be presenting a workshop on writing Powerful Non-fiction at the Utah Valley University Book Academy, October 6, 2011. The workshop will focus on writing memoirs and how to write ordinary moments in such a way that they convey meaning and turn them into thought-provoking stories.
More information on the conference, including registration information, can be found here.
On Saturday I'll be teaching a memoir writing workshop at the Write Here in Ephraim event in Ephraim, Utah. The event is sponsored by the Ephraim Library and is free and open to the public. It will be held at the old South Ward Chruch at 105 E 200 S. The doors to the event open at 8:30. Workshops start at 9:00 a.m and will run until 5:00 p.m. My workshop, Memoirs: How to Tell Your Story, will start at 9:15 a.m. and run until 10:00 a.m. I'll be showing ways to bring personal stories to life as well as covering the dos and don'ts of memoir writing. I'll also be on an author panel at 3:15 about the path to publication.
Even if you don't want to see me, there are other great authors who will be giving writing tips including Julie Coulter Bellon, Rachelle Christensen, Michael Young, Jewel Adams, Tristi Pinkston, Gregg Luke, Clint Johnson, and more.
Here's a complete schedule:
9:00 A.M. WELCOME – PRIZE DRAWING
E-Books - JEWEL ADAMS Welcome to the wonderful world of E-books! Got a great novel you want to publish but can’t find a publisher? Or would you like to have full control of your novel an make it available to purchase until you find a publisher? Or do you just plain not care about finding a publisher and want to fly solo? - E-books aren’t just the future of book reading or a temporary fad, they are here to stay. Learn why you should give publishing E-books a go and take advantage of the wide open market. Come to understand that an E-books isn’t “just an E-books,” they are just as important as traditionally published books. Get tips on how to market your E-books and learn about the numerous outlets in which to sell your books and share your work with the world.
Memoirs: How to Tell Your Story - ABEL KEOGH- Writing a memoir is a great way to share a personal experience. Learn how to bring your story to life in such a way that will wow readers and keep them engrossed from page one to the end. In addition we’ll cover the dos and don’ts of memoir writing as well as how to know whether you have a story that agents, publishers, and readers will want to read.
Fish Slap: What’s your writing motivation? - BRON AND SHIRLEY BAHLMANN Many people say they want to write a book but never follow through. Yet if, say, a fish slapped their face every time they missed a deadline, the result might be the opposite. In the absence of raw fish, what separates the sayers from the doers? A humorous and informative look at various motivational strategies for writing.
"A Serious Look at Comedy" – BERIN STEPHENS
Essential Elements of Suspense – GREGG LUKE: A brief overview of each element and how each contributes to writing nail-biting suspense. Q&A to follow. Key Points covered: Characterization, Pacing, Anticipation, Detailing, Resolution.
Finding Time for our Talents– JULIE COULTER BELLON - Have you ever wished there were more hours in a day? Wondered how you can fit it all in? Is being a writer a dream you have yet to accomplish because you just don't have time? This class will give you some insight, tips, and inspiration on how to maintain that balance of developing your writing talent with the other demands on your time. Julie Coulter Bellon, the author of seven books, a mother of eight children, and a teacher at BYU, will share all her secrets for how to have it all.
My Journey as a Writer and How I Got That Book Published – CHERI CHESLEY
Writing Mystery – JOAN SOWARDS - There is nothing more fun than losing yourself in a great mystery novel than writing one! Every story can have a touch of mystery. Learn the tools, terms, and how to diagram a story, along with basic plotting and good writing elements, no matter if your mystery is a cozy or hard-boiled.
Blog Tours and Book Promotions – It's a Piggyback Ride – RACHELLE CHRISTENSEN - Learn the secrets of effective Internet marketing for you and your products/books including author promotion, blog tours, blog hops, giveaways & more. How can you increase your blog readership and followers? Find out how Rachelle promoted her blog, increased her followers to over 500 in one year and got paid to do it.
Author Panel – Habits of Published Authors –Heather Justesen, Berin Stephens, Rachelle Christensen, Tristi Pinkston, Clint Johnson, Karen Hoover
12:15 –MIX AND MINGLE with guests
Story Construction 101- REBECCA TALLEY - A story needs a strong foundation and certain building blocks to be successful. Learn what you need to include in your blueprint to begin building your story. After we learn what essential materials we'll need, we'll use our tools to begin construction as a class. Come prepared to share your creative ingenuity.
Writing for the Peanut Butter Crowd: Essentials of Picture Book Writing – LINDA GARNER - In this Picture Book Primer you will learn that writing picture books is not necessarily kid stuff. All the rules for good writing apply to picture books but with less margin for error. If you’ve ever wanted to write a picture book, you’ll love this class. “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children”. Madeleine ‘L Engle
The Long and Short of It: Writing and Selling Short Fiction – MICHAEL YOUNG - Writing and selling short stories is a fun and rewarding way to improve your writing and to gain a readership. Writing short stories, however, takes a different skill set than writing longer works and also are sold in a different way. Learn some of the techniques you'll need to craft quality short fiction and the ins and out of getting it in print.
"Chuck the Junk - Self-Editing for Word Hoarders" – MICHAEL KNUDSEN - Most writers are terrified when they read through their first draft --it can be rough, ugly and bloated with excessive verbiage, lame adverbs, and entire scenes that go nowhere. But there's hope! We'll look at rough text at all levels and toss the dingy bathwater while keeping your baby!
Fragile--Handle With Care: Writing on a Sensitive Subject - LINDA GARNER- -Death, suicide, divorce, abuse, war, depression, drugs, pornography, religion, eating disorders, bullying, hate. Do you have an interest in a subject that is hard to talk about? Just because it’s a sensitive subject doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. The walls are coming down. Lots of people are talking about subjects that used to be taboo. You can write about anything, if you handle with care.
How to Become and Idea Factory- KAREN HOOVER
Author Panel in the Big Room – The Path to Publication: Panelists – Carole Thayne Warburton, Mike Knudsen, Julie Bellon, Rebecca Talley, Abel Keogh, Gregg Luke, Cory Poulson
Children's Literature Game Show – CLINT JOHNSON Simple, Strange, Sophisticated, and Stupid Questions for Smart Kids (and Kids at Heart)--The game show that teaches more than you ever wanted to know about writing and writers, some of which you will certainly regret later. Prove your superiority in a humorous and educational contest that explores the world of children's literature, from its comical quirks to personalities and events that profoundly shaped our world. Numerous participants of all ages are selected from the audience and given the chance to compete for fun and glory and prizes!
5:00 P.M. END
Hope to see you there.
Publishers should be kicking themselves. For the second time in less than a week, a critically-acclaimed memoir has been exposed as a fraud.
In "Love and Consequences," a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.
The problem is that none of it is true.
Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.
This story comes less than a week after it was revealed that the Holocaust memoir, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years” by Misha Defonseca, was a complete fabrication, and it's been only two years since most of James Frey's best-selling “A Million Little Pieces” was proven to be wildly embellished, exaggerated, and falsified. The accuracy of another best-selling memoir, “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” by Ishmael Beah are also being raised after series of articles by an Australian newspaper. (Beah, stands by what he wrote.)
What's going on here? Are publishers too lazy to investigate stories that seem too good to be true? Do authors feel their story won't be published or taken seriously unless they make up parts of their life?
Granted, memoirs are an imperfect art and are only as good as the author's memory. But there's a difference between recalling that an advent happened on a Monday when it, in fact, happened on Wednesday, and simply making up scenes, characters, or an entire life.
Whatever is happening, it's not good for the memoirs genre. Not only does it make it less likely that publishers will pass on memoirs in the future, but that readers are less likely to purchase a memoir when browsing bookstore shelves.
To restore readers' trust in the genre authors and publishers need to come up with a voluntary set of standards to which they're willing to adhere. Though not a comprehensive list, here are three ways to start.
1. If asked by the publisher, authors should be prepared to verify as much of the story as possible. This includes names and contact information of people who can corroborate the story, places, and approximate dates when events occurred. This may not always be easy to do if someone is writing about events that happened several decades ago but the author should be willing to authenticate as much as the story as possible. If authors knew there was a good possibility their story could be vetted before it hit the press, it would probably discourage liars like Seltzer and Frey from trying to get published.
2. Publishers need to be willing to investigate. If the scenes, dialogue, or the overall narrative sounds contrived or too good to good to be true, it's time to do some fact checking. Reviewers of Love and Consequences mentioned that the dialogue seemed "embellished" and scenes felt "self-consciously novelistic at times." Such red flags should lead the publishers to do some simple fact checking. A background check and a few phone calls could have been done quickly and revealed that Seltzer's story was a lie.
3. The reader should be notified up front if names and places have been changed or events have been compressed or told in a different order than they actually happened. Some memoirs have such a disclaimer but it's by no means an industry standard. If authors changed something, let the readers know why it was done. Such a disclaimer doesn't make a memoir any less powerful but goes a long way to establishing trust with the reader.
Memoirs can make powerful and entertaining reading. Standards would go a long way to rebuilding readers’ trust in a genre that is suffering from brazen acts of dishonesty and deceit. Without some standards in place, future memoirs run the risk of being bypassed by readers altogether, or worse, becoming classified as fantasized fiction.
Note: This article was originoally published at A Ton of Authors and a Wannabe blog