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Writer Ianthe Brautigan talks about applying fiction-writing techniques to memoir, the power of cookies, and rising up to contribute your best. What sort of writing had you done before you started working on your memoir?
I was actually a Theater Arts major, and I was going to the Junior College, and I fell in love with my English 1A class and ended up writing nonfiction essays. At that point I realized that I was going to be torn between the two worlds, and I decided to choose writing.
I still went to New York and worked for Roundabout Theatre and was in the theater world and toyed with that for a little while.
I got my undergrad in English Literature at Sonoma State, which was the best thing I could have ever done…. Going back to my memoir, God, I had started that in the form of poetry right after my dad died. And as you might imagine, it took a long time.
Was the transition from short stories to poetry to memoir writing difficult, or did you feel like you were finding your natural genre? I love writing short stories. Can you elaborate on that — how fiction-writing techniques can play a role in memoir writing? Well, you just are set free.
How much of the way you approach structure and description in memoir writing is driven by the linear flow of events versus stepping back and applying a frame to life?
Well it has to be truthful. Memoir has to be truthful. If you just wrote that down, in three sentences it would be done. You would start to go, where was I? What kind of tennis shoes was I wearing? Did you develop techniques for bringing your memories to the surface?
Part of that had to do with getting all his stuff. I have some of that and so looking at that stuff again… Objects triggered memory? Was that true for places too? Did you try to revisit specific locales? I could only go back in my mind.
Tom McGuane had this great thing he told me. Ianthe Brautigan on the Web: Yes, he was a friend, along with Jim Harrison. And you just kinda have to go with it. You have to accept what it is. I will never write like her in a million years. I have a very distinct style.
And then you have to find a structure for it…. I read a million memoirs. I was reading books that had writers who were willing to take on way beyond what I had suffered, like Primo Levi, Natalia Ginsburg.
Do you think you have the strength to do it?
One of the things I wondered was what the aftermath was like in terms of your creative life. Your memoir was also a healing process.
What was your writing life like when the book was finished? To be honest, it kind of sucked.
How did you cope with that? Well, it has to do with, I would say, writer discipline. I know, I know. But they were in Nebraska just last week!History/Politics/Current Affairs BRIAN C.
ANDERSON Brian Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of City Journal, author of the acclaimed South Park Conservatives: The Revolt Against Liberal Media Bias (Regnery, ). MARK BAUERLEIN Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University and a Senior Editor at First initiativeblog.com is the author of the national bestseller The Dumbest Generation: How the.
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