by Jerry Waxler
I grew up surrounded by icons of the American Revolution: the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Valley Forge National Park. Even in elementary school I felt proud of the role my region played in the birth of the nation. Now that I’ve grown up, I feel another surge of pride, this time about the contribution our region is making to the Memoir Revolution. With our substantial infrastructure of writing programs and groups of every variety, it’s a wonderful place for writers. However, in most cases, we life writers have had to tag along with the more numerous fiction writers. Now, I’m thrilled to announce an event that celebrates the growing movement toward writing stories about real people.
At the free Memoir Summit on the beautiful campus of Rosemont College on Philadelphia’s Main Line, four authors and teachers share their passion for the genre. The goal is to inspire writers and aspiring writers to come together for an afternoon, deepen their understanding of the genre, and gain insights into how to turn their own lives into stories.
The first speaker, Beth Kephart offers her awesomely enriched point of view, as a writer of both memoir and fiction. She has published 16 books, five of which are memoirs. She writes prodigiously about memoir on her own blog, and recently published a book for memoir writers called Handling the Truth. The book has been mentioned in Oprah’s magazine O. Beth teaches memoir writing at the University of Pennsylvania and was recently honored as one of the 50 most influential Philadelphia Writers. Come and be influenced!
Linda Joy Myers will be joining us from Berkeley, California. She is the founder of National Association of Memoir Writers, and a passionate proponent of the healing and sharing that comes from writing your story. As a therapist, teacher and memoir writer, she steers readers and students toward the elegant solution of applying storytelling to the puzzles of life. Her books include her own memoir, Don’t Call Me Mother: A Daughter’s Journey from Abandonment to Forgiveness and a handbook for memoir writers called Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story. She hosts an online Memoir Telesummit, and so it is fitting that she is an honored guest at this first Philadelphia Memoir Summit. Come and learn about the healing power of writing your memoir.
Robert Waxler is a professor of literature at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He teaches his college students how to use literature to gain insights into their own lives. When he himself encountered difficulties in the lives of his two sons, he turned to the written word to help him make sense of the profound emotions. He recorded his journey of grieving and healing in his two memoirs, Losing Jonathan and Courage to Walk. Robert Waxler co-founded an organization called Changing Lives through Literature that partners with the judicial system to offer selected convicts an alternative sentence. Instead of going to jail they read and discuss novels. The method leverages the power of the written word to help people grow. Come and let Bob Waxler share his views with you about how turning your life into literature can help you, as well.
I have been following and writing about these three speakers for years. The essays on my blog go deep into the experiences of Beth Kephart in Slant of Sun, Linda Joy Myers in Don’t Call Me Mother, and Robert Waxler in Losing Jonathan and Courage to Heal. And I’ve interviewed all three. I love what they are saying and doing. In their books about reading and writing, they are as passionate as I am about promoting literature by helping and encouraging you to write your life.
When I first became intrigued by memoirs in my fifties, I realized that until then, I had immersed myself in fiction stories. Memoirs gave me an opportunity to apply the principles of literature to the process of living. Once I began to do so, I gained an exciting way to look at myself and others. After I read each memoir, I ponder its meaning and share my findings on my blog.
After doing this hundreds of times, I published Memoir Revolution, which chronicles the birth of the life-into-story movement of the twenty-first century. As the fourth speaker at the Philadelphia Memoir Summit, I’ll share perspectives on the Memoir Revolution and offer six steps to help you get started and keep going on your own memoir. Come and join the revolution!
This fascinating interplay between life and literature is also the subject of Robert Waxler’s book in progress called Linguistic Beings: How Literature Helps us To Understand Ourselves and the World. From his manuscript, I learned there is a name for the process of carefully thinking about what you read. Waxler quotes Sven Birkerts who said, “[Deep Reading means] we don’t just read the words, we dream our lives in their vicinity.*” The term Deep Reading perfectly describes how memoir reading and writing help us become “more human.” By writing your own memoir, you can dream your life in the vicinity of your words, and offer others the opportunity to do the same.
Whether you’ve already written about your life, or are only considering it, come join these speakers and an audience of other aspiring memoir writers. Together, we can spend an afternoon dreaming about writing in the vicinity of each other.
Here is a longer quote about Deep Reading from Robert Waxler’s manuscript, reprinted with permission: “Deep reading is a risky but rewarding encounter with our rhythms and needs, our own feelings and emotions, and it offers a way of making sense of that encounter. Through such reading, we discover how we are all connected to others and to our own evolving stories. We experience our own plots and stories unfolding through the imaginative language and voice of others, and we desire to move on.” Robert Waxler
For more information about the Memoir Summit click here.
For more information about Philadelphia’s annual writer’s conference, click here.
Links to Articles about these speakers
Interview and seven part blog about Beth Kephart’s “Slant of Sun”
Use this memoir as a study guide: lessons 1 to 3
Lessons 4-5 from Beth Kephart’s Memoir, Slant of Sun
Four More Writing Lessons from Reading a Memoir
Memoir Lessons: Mysteries of emerging consciousness
Memoir Lessons: Moms, Quirks, Choices
Lessons from Kephart: Labels, Definitions, Language
Memoir Lessons: Buddies, Endings, and Beyond
Interview with Beth Kephart
Blog about another talk I gave with Robert Waxler: Revealing Death and Other Courageous Acts of Life
Essay about Robert Waxler’s Courage to Walk
My Interview with Robert Waxler, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
For brief descriptions and links to all the posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.
To order my how-to-get-started guide to write your memoir, click here.