Sharing Writing is Sharing our Humanity

sharing memoir

This baby robin gets it.

I’m honored that I was chosen to read an excerpt of my evolving memoir at the Grub Street Writers Spring Open House. I generated the pages in Memoir in Progress with Dorian Fox. Prior to the class, I had made tons of progress on my memoir. In my head.

Just like life, the class was transformative, joyful, difficult, and painful. This was memoir and I loved it. I entrusted my struggle with a cyclea theme of my writing—to nine strangers who critiqued the pages in class, while I sat there feeling exposed. “What do you think of how he’s characterized this woman in his life?” asked Dorian of a fellow student’s work. “I think it sounds sexist,” I said hotly.

A few weeks later I came to class early and sat with the student on the couch at the end of the hall. We looked at one another. My feedback hadn’t shut him down. Sharing our writing had created an opening for him to tell me about his struggle with his son. That day, he gave me precious insight into being a father. Over the course of the ten weeks, I felt privileged to be part of an outpouring of talent. There were stories about illness, emigration, relationship struggles, lost siblings, divorce.

I realized we were all writing about the same thing. One night toward the end of the term I looked up at our necks bent over our notebooks. I saw how fragile we all are. And how strong, to be telling our stories in one small lighted room in the dark.