I get to return to my old stomping ground of San Miguel de Allende this summer because I've been asked to be a writer in residence and teach a memoir writing course. When I was first invited I thought, huh? Mexico in July? That's the best time to be where I live in Wakefield, Quebec. I wait all year for July. I'm waiting for it right now. But then I found out that San Miguel is actually lush and green in the summer with desert flowers blooming and crazy rain storms blowing through every afternoon to liven things up. Maybe five weeks in San Miguel is just what I needed, I thought. Besides, it sounded like a great opportunity. So I said yes.
The best part will be getting to sink my teeth more deeply than ever before into the art of memoir writing. I love teaching memoir. And I have a new memoir, Stolen Child, coming out in Canada and the U.S. in September. I am passionately interested in the qualities that make memoirs good and the qualities that make them, well, not so good.
Here's my workshop description for San Miguel Literary Sala's Summer Writing Workshops
The Art of Memoir and Travel Writing Workshop
“Memoirs are held together by happenstance, theme, and (most powerfully) the sheer convincing poetry of a single person trying to make sense of the past.” Mary Karr
Our lives are interlaced with stories: intriguing, fascinating, funny, tumultuous, sad, extraordinary, revelatory, heartfelt, and unique to each of us alone. This workshop offers you tools and insights from the master memoirists, as well as the instructor’s own experience writing three memoirs, to help transform the stories of your life into a literary work. Memoir writing isn’t writing your whole life. It is writing stories from life, from any time of your life—whether it’s the year you spent in a rocky relationship, your years growing up in a hardscrabble neighborhood, the road trip you took at 18 to search for your father, the Himalayan hiking adventure you finally embarked on when you turned 65—any story you feel is worth telling. Through discussions of specific topics about memoir and travel writing, and in-class exercises that are fun and thought-provoking, you’ll learn how to craft your stories into interesting and inspiring narratives. There will be assignments and you will be encouraged to share your work with the instructor and fellow participants for feedback. In a supportive environment, you’ll explore the creative doors that open as you commit your memories to paper. You have a story to tell, probably a lot of stories. The challenge is to find your way inside the story and bring it to life with fresh details that are unique to you. This course aims to help you find the keys.
In this workshop you will learn that to be an effective memoir writer (which includes travel memoir) you must lead the reader directly into the time and place you’re describing, always remembering that your experience can only be conveyed through concrete original details. The more precise you can be in describing these details the more vivid a picture you paint in the reader’s mind. Through in-class exercises, you will work on portraying a physical reality that uses all the senses and exists in the time you’re writing about—a singular fascinating or terrifying place peopled with objects and characters the reader can believe in. Emotional stakes need to be set high—why is the writer passionate about delving into the past? In deciding what to write about: what haunts you? What are your obsessions? What stories never leave you? As for the writing itself, how can you make every single sentence more interesting, more alive, more lyrical and true? We will read excerpts from well-known memoirs and discuss what works—how the author actually brought a scene to life—and you will then try to employ these techniques in your own writing. For the travel writing section, we’ll discuss ‘finding’ the story and how this isn’t something you can anticipate before leaving; traveling for a story as opposed to traveling for travel’s sake; how to frame and craft your stories; how the ‘quest’ makes for a good travel story; the various types of travel writing; how to begin your stories to catch the reader’s (and an editor’s) attention, and tips on getting published in today’s rapidly changing market. The workshop aims to be inspiring, creative and most of all, fun. The ideal would be if each student could bring to the first three-hour class a piece they’ve been working on, or at the very least, an idea of what they’d like to work on, so we not only “break the ice” by getting to know each other, but the instructor and fellow participants can offer constructive advice.
Click below for more on San Miguel....
All About San Miguel by Laurie Gough
Ten Things You Probably Don't Know About San Miguel de Allende
Note: For those of you thinking of starting a blog or website with weebly, don't! It is so glitchy that you feel like throwing something out the window. It won't even let me highlight the links above in colour, or add more pictures of San Miguel. Ahhh!