& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
Sue William Silverman is the author of two memoirs. Her first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, won the AWP award series in creative nonfiction. Her second, Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction (W. W. Norton), is also a Lifetime Television original movie. Her poetry collection is Hieroglyphics in Neon, and her latest book, Fearless Confessions: A Writers Guide to Memoir, is published with the University of Georgia Press. She is associate editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, and teaches in the MFA in Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has appeared on such national TV shows as The View, Anderson Cooper-360, and CNN Headline News. Find out more about Sue by visiting her website: www.suewilliamsilverman.com.
Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir
By Sue William Silverman
Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir is a guidebook for people who want to take possession of their lives by putting their experiences down on paper. Enhanced with illustrative examples from many different writers as well as writing exercises, this guide helps writers navigate a range of issues from craft to ethics to marketing and will be useful to both beginners and more accomplished writers.
The rise of interest in memoir recognizes the power of the genre to move and affect not just individual readers, but society at large. Sue Silverman covers traditional writing topics such as metaphor, theme, plot, and voice, but also includes chapters on trusting memory and cultivating the courage to tell one's truth in the face of forces--from family members to the media--who would prefer that people with inconvenient pasts and views remain silent.
Silverman draws upon her own personal and professional experience to provide an essential resource for transforming life into words that matter. Fearless Confessions is an atlas that contains maps to the remarkable places in each person's life that have yet to be explored.
Published by University of Georgia Press
Paperback: 272 pages
Check out the trailer for Fearless Confessions below!
Book Giveaway Comments Contest!
If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Sue's book, Fearless Confessions: A Writers Guide to Memoir, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, and comments, at the end.
We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!
Interview by Jodi Webb
WOW: Prior to Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir you wrote two memoirs. What made you decide to write a "how-to" book?
Sue: Initially, anger motivated me to write Fearless Confessions.
I got angry by how many in the media--such as book critics--misunderstood and belittled memoir, mainly those written by women or those considered "other." For example, we've been accused of navel gazing. The word "confessional" is used in a demeaning way, suggesting that we're whining or complaining, along those lines.
So even though most of my new book is devoted to the craft of writing, I also include a chapter about what it really means to be a confessional writer--and the importance of memoir. I wanted to show how the word "confessional" is actually very positive. I hope more and more of us write memoir, especially since it's such a popular form, one that many like to read!
WOW: Bring us all up to speed. So often when I go into a bookstore I see a section labeled Bio/Memoir but do they belong in the same section? How are autobiography and memoir different?
Sue: They really are different!
Biography and autobiography are usually written about or by celebrities--movie stars, politicians, sports stars--and cover the whole of that person's life in a fairly factual way.
For example, in his autobiography My Life, Bill Clinton writes about his entire life, a kind of chronology of "first this happened, then this happened, and then this next thing happened." There's little or no reflection. It's based on his life of action, so is told more historically than impressionistically.
Ms. Ordinary Woman, however, like me, writes a memoir that's usually a slice of a life, not a whole life, and is based on memory, metaphor, and reflection--as opposed to historical "facts" that can be checked in newspapers. Memoir tends to follow one narrowly defined theme and is a journey, of sorts, to gain understanding about events.
For example, in my first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, I wrote to ultimately reach some understanding about growing up in an incestuous family. In Love Sick, I wrote to discover the impact sexual addiction had on my life.
WOW: So how does a Ms. Ordinary Woman decide which slice of life to write about?
Sue: When sitting down to write, ask yourself: What subject seems urgent? What are my obsessions? Which event(s) in my life must be told? Which images or events won't let go of me?
Maybe you want to focus on a recent divorce. Maybe you're obsessed with what it felt like growing up on a farm in Kansas. Maybe you feel a real urgency about being raised in a military household, where you had to move to a new place every few years.
Whatever your life, you'll be able to discover a slice of it that would make an engaging memoir.
WOW: But what about the real people that populate our memoirs? Do many memoirs remain unwritten (or unpublished) out of concern for the characters portrayed in them?
Sue: The memoirist James McBride says, "Fear is a killer of good literature." So, yes, I think many memoirists are afraid of committing their stories to paper. And while I understand this fear--especially since it took me many years to overcome it myself--I would still urge potential memoirists to write anyway--regardless of the fear.
One way to overcome fear, at least initially, is to pretend to write just for yourself, ignoring (as much as possible) the fact that others might one day read your story. For me, while writing, I always pretend no one else will ever see my work. And, in any event, it's my choice whether I'll ultimately share it with anyone or not.
I tell myself I'm writing this book, first and foremost, because I must. Which is true. The act of writing, itself, is of primary importance. This is where the spirituality of artistic endeavor resides. Focus on the words, themselves, during the creation process. Worry about the outside world later.
In order to be creative and fully engage in the process, writers must give themselves permission to set aside the fear about what the outside world might think.
WOW: Do you think the primary purpose of writing a memoir isn't necessarily publication but a more personal purpose with publication just an added bonus?
Sue: Certainly one can write for oneself--to try to figure things out. The writing itself is crucial because it is only during the writing process that I fully understand any given event or experience. I hardly know what I think until I write it!
However, if you want to take it a step further, by publishing the work, you're then able to share your experiences with others--maybe those who aren't able to give voice to trauma--or to any experience for that matter. Memoirs can act as emotional guides, as it were, to help readers better understand the complicated maze of the psyche. Every memoirist I know receives letters from readers letting the author know how much their book helped them to understand their own lives. That's incredibly powerful.
WOW: I've never thought about how one person's memoir can help another person. You're right, it is powerful. So why do so many memoirs I read seem to be about negative experiences--abuse, imprisonment, mental illness?
Sue: Rather than use the word "negative," I would probably use the word "painful" experience.
The reason why we tend to write about dark events in our lives is to better understand them. Probably, "joy" is easier to understand--doesn't need as much soul searching--whereas painful experiences do require more work to sort out.
At its heart, writing memoir is a journey, an exploration.
WOW: You've included some excerpts from memoirs at the end of each of your chapters. Can you suggest some additional writers aspiring memoir writers can read?
Sue: Oh, that's always so difficult to choose a few. Instead, what I'd like to suggest, is that you review my reading list for contemporary creative nonfiction! You can find it as an appendix at the back of Fearless Confessions, but I also have a copy of it on my website, at www.suewilliamsilverman.com. This list is separated into categories, such as illness, childhood, coming-of-age, relationships, mental health issues, etc., so you can find a subject, as well as an author, that you might wish to read.
WOW: So what's coming up next for you?
Sue: Ongoing, I still teach writing at the low-residency Vermont College of Fine Arts. You can also find my blog tour schedule on my website's Blog Tour & Events page.
In terms of writing, I'm working on another creative nonfiction book called The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White, Anglo-Saxon Jew. It's not nearly as dark as my two memoirs!
WOW: Thanks for visiting with us Sue and we can't wait for a glimpse at your next slice of life!
Want to join Sue on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.
Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!
AUGUST 3, 2009 Monday
Sue will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. Stop by and share your comments! One lucky commenter will win copy of Sue's book!
AUGUST 4, 2009 Tuesday
Stop by Thursday Bram's blog and read her review of Sue Silverman's book, Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir.
AUGUST 5, 2009 Wednesday
What is truth? Sue stops by Donna Volkenannt's blog, Donna's Book Pub, to discuss the definition of truth in memoir writing.
AUGUST 6, 2009 Thursday
Sue takes a trip to Japan to Suzanne Kamata's blog, Gaijin Mama, to share her ideas about the Redemptive Power of Writing.
AUGUST 7, 2009 Friday
Sue stops by Beth Morrissey's blog, Hell Or High Water, to chat about the importance of women's voices in the literary world. Not to miss!
AUGUST 9, 2009 Sunday (7 PM, EST)
Stop by the Writer's Chatroom tonight at 7 PM, EST, and chat with Sue William Silverman!
AUGUST 10, 2009 Monday
Sue stops by Annette Fix's blog to chat about the process of memoir writing. That's something these two have in common and are passionate about, so it should be an exciting discussion!
AUGUST 12, 2009 Wednesday
Sue stops by Mary Jo Campbell's blog, Writer's Inspired, for an author interview. Stop by today to hear more about Fearless Confessions.
AUGUST 14, 2009 Friday
Sue stops by The Divine Miss Mommy for an author interview and book review!
AUGUST 17, 2009 Monday
Today, Sue chats with Susan Johnston at The Urban Muse to figure out what makes a memoir writer tick. Not to miss!
AUGUST 18, 2009 Tuesday
Sue stops by Mike's Writing Workshop to discuss the "Five Redemptive Paths through Memoir."
AUGUST 19, 2009 Wednesday
Sue visits C. Hope Clark's blog for a discussion about "Using Savory Words to Write Memoir."
AUGUST 21, 2009 Friday
Today Sue stops by Rebecca Laffar-Smith's blog, Writer's Round-About, to answer questions submitted by the readers. If you would like to ask Sue a question, please visit Writer's Round-About and submit your question before August 17th. Sue will also tell us how to use all our senses to bring a memoir to life. And there will be a book giveaway! Comment today for a chance to win a copy of Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir. In addition, Rebecca will be posting her review of Fearless Confessions on August 10th. Be sure to check that out!
AUGUST 24, 2009 Monday
Sue stops by Shai Coggins' blog for an author interview. It should be a lively discussion!
AUGUST 26, 2009 Wednesday
Sue visits the Memory Writers Network blog for an author interview. Also, be sure to check out Jerry Waxler's post about the "gutsy-ness and horror of revealing yourself," which was inspired by Sue Silverman!
SEPTEMBER 1, 2009 Tuesday
Stop by So a Blonde Walks Into a Review to learn how Sue overcame her fear of telling (and writing) secrets. Also, enter to win Fearless Confessions!
SEPTEMBER 3, 2009 Thursday
Stop by for a fabulous interview of Sue with Erika Dreifus, a book reviewer for The Writer.
We may have several more dates to come, so be sure to check out our Events Calendar HERE.
We hope you are as excited about the tour as we are! Mark your calendar, save these dates, and join us for this truly unique and fascinating author blog tour.
If you have a blog or website and would like to participate in Sue Silverman's blog tour, or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at: firstname.lastname@example.org
** Please feel free to copy any portion of this post.
Oh, be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Sue's fabulous book Fearless Confessions: A Writers Guide to Memoir.