What My Spectaculars expect from the memoirists they read, in today's HuffPo

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Readers of Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir know that—while I greatly vary the way I teach, the books I share, and the writers I invite to the classroom—there is one consistent essay I assign early-ish in the teaching season. A 750-word response designed to shake out ideas, ideals, and possibilities.

This year My Spectaculars produced such extraordinarily charming and elucidating responses to the assignment that I decided (with my students' permission) to knit together elements so that we might always have a record of Us. I've called the piece "How to Write a Memoir. Or (The Expectations Virtues)" and shared it on Huffington Post.

The piece, which begins like this, can be found in its entirety here.
I call them My Spectaculars. Together, we read, we write. We rive our hearts. We leave faux at the door. We expect big things from one another, from the memoirists we read, from the memoirists who may be writing now, from those books of truth in progress.

But what do we mean by that word, expectation?

It's a question I require my University of Pennsylvania Creative Nonfiction students to answer. A conversation we very deliberately have. What do you expect of the writers you read, and what do you expect of yourselves?

This year, again, I have been chastened, made breathless, by the rigor and transparency of my most glorious clan. By Anthony, for example, who declares up front, no segue: ......
(Read on, I exhort you. Find out.)

There is a single student voice missing from this tapestry—my Sarah. You are going to be hearing from her next week or so, after a page or two of her brilliance is published and cross-linked here. Trust me, you will be changed by Sarah's words.

For now, I leave you my students. Read, and you'll call them Spectaculars, too.


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