Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Writing in Peralta


I’m at Peralta again, tutoring a residential writing course. Ten people, mainly from England and America have come to spend a week eating Tuscan food, drinking Tuscan wine and spending blissful free time just writing. They are all eager, passionate, all with different reasons for being here, but a common ambition - to put words down on paper and pick up as many tips as they can from professional authors.
My co-tutor is Mary-Rose Hayes, a British novelist who lives and publishes in America. She also teaches fiction at the University of Arizona. It’s an interesting combination, but I’m discovering that creative writing is taught in much the same way on both sides of the Atlantic. My approach is looser and more concerned with motivation and inspiration, sharing rather than 'teaching', but we both have the same respect for the ‘tools of the trade’ - narrative technique, the structuring of a plot, the creation of vivid characters.
Today I’m doing a workshop on life-writing, and it’s interesting for me to have to reflect on and analyse what I do for a living. My love of biography is easy to explain - I’m fascinated by people’s lives. But autobiography - or ‘Me-moir’ - is something I’ve always shied away from. Writing a blog is the nearest I’ve come to writing about ‘me’.
I know that I should - my grandfather wrote about his Irish family, passing on stories from far back into the 19th century, as well as keeping a World War I diary until he was blown up at Ypres and invalided home. Back in England, as a war hero, permanently disabled, he found it difficult to settle. Eventually he married my grandmother - another Irish immigrant family - and their first home was a small two room cottage in the old workhouse.
My father, when he came to write his memories down, wrote vividly about the elderly inmates, remnants of the old system, who stayed there until they died and the workhouse was bulldozed to the ground.
So I know I should be continuing this tradition of family history. One day, I keep telling myself, one day .... But maybe I should start soon? And why this reluctance to write the ‘I’ word?

5 comments:

  1. A beautiful post as always.
    No doubt partly inspired by your current locale.
    How I would love to attend one of your workshops, especially in such a location.
    Bread and fresh olive oil and for that matter any other Italian food - heaven.

    I sympathise with your difficulty at autobiography. I quite enjoy posting my little anecdotes on my blog, but writing anything in a more serious way seems too intimate.

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  2. What a wonderful gig, Kathleen, working with keen writers in such a place...

    About the dreaded 'I' word - well in a way it carries just another story - more authentic for its basic truths, perhaps. I recently posted about the taboos associated with putting one's head above the parapet. I suppose entering th dreaded 'I' world is leaping over the parapet. This has to happen in posting blogs or they would be - and sometimes are - tawdry and artificial.
    In the academic world the 'I' word can bring down plumes of fire in one's head lest the dreaded (overestimated and often spurious) 'objectivity' of the scientific approach is breached.
    In all our writing the dreaded 'I' is buried beneath the story, the biography, even the academic monograph, although she may go by some other third-person name.
    So thought provoking! And on a Thursday night too. Thank you Kathy
    wxxx

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  3. Oddly though I tend to write my fiction in first person. Even if it means multiple narrators to get through a story!

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  4. Your post is so true...I lack the courage to write a memoir or personal story - though I teeter on the edge of it with all my stories. I often wonder if my success will eventually lie in finding the courage to break free of my fear and write my own truth...

    Wonderfully thought provoking post...so glad I stumbled upon your blog.

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  5. So glad you did Johanna - and thank you for your comments. 'writing your own truth' is a good phrase for the process of writing autobiography.
    Thanks for your thoughts too Wendy and Al. I'm now thinking about all the different 'I's! The great thing is that you can have so many different personas for different aspects of your personality.
    On academic writing, Wendy, I think it has a lot to answer for. Why can't you put forward your own opinion, your own conclusion and own it honestly?

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