At our last residency for the Goddard MFA in Creative Writing in Vermont, we had three amazing and successful alumni return to talk to our current students. Mary Johnson, author of An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life, spoke with Kenny Fries and me about the pitfalls and pleasures of crafting a resonant, universal story from our daily “here’s what happened next” life. We spoke for over a hour, and I am pleased to be able to share it with you here.
Here’s a sample from the beginning:
My question (one of many!) to Mary: “There are those things we are afraid of…that we don’t want to relive. Could you talk about what you left out of your memoir, and why, and how you got what you did onto the page?”
Mary: “Fear was a big thing for me…putting it down on the page for anybody to see was really scary. Kenny was my advisor for my first two semesters at Goddard. I had written a few things… During one particular packet, I started to write the sex stuff. And it was really hard for me. I wrote this piece and I sent it off, and when I came back from the post office, I wrote Kenny an email and said, ‘I just sent my packet to you, please don’t open it. I will send you another one.’ And he wrote me back and said, ‘Oh! So at last you have finally written something worthwhile!’”
2012.01.11 Transformation From Personal Experience to Published Memoir from Goddard College on Vimeo.
Looking forward to a March 10th discussion in Baltimore on “the intersection of place, time and culture in literature and in the lives of women” with four amazing women:
Leila Cobo, a Fulbright scholar from Cali, Colombia, novelist, pianist, TV host, and executive editor for Latin content and programming for Billboard. She is considered one of the country’s leading experts on Latin music. She is the author of Tell Me Something True. Her second novel, The Second Time We Met (Grand Central Publishing), will be released February 29, 2012. (www.leilacobo.com)
Jacqueline Luckett, author of Searching for Tina Turner and the newly published Passing Love (Grand Central Publishing). She participated in the Voices of Our Nations (VONA) writing workshops and, in 2004, formed the Finish Party along with seven other women writers-of-color. (www.jacquelineluckett.com)
Bernice L. McFadden, author of seven critically acclaimed novels, including Sugar and Glorious. She is a two-time Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist. In her new novel, Gathering of Waters (Akashic Books), McFadden brings her own vision to the story of Emmett Till and the town of Money, Mississippi. (www.bernicemcfadden.com).
Linda A. Duggins, moderator from the Hachette Book Group.
More details here