She was personable, real, a little salty, and likable as she revealed her techniques for writing memoir. She admitted she is 27 years sober, does her best writing in the early morning and once she's distracted she loses it and must stop. She tossed out 1,200 pages of Lit. She said many writers develop an attachment to their words and are afraid to delete. The delete button is a friend. Some
days she tosses as much as she writes. I got the idea she is little hard on herself, a bit of a perfectionist.
Her last published book does not make it any easier for her to write the next. Mary Karr, like the rest of us, still has her doubts and insecurities. "It's like pounding on a corpse shouting, "Sit up!"
I agree with Mary, you uncover so many buried truths when you write memoir.
"As you remember through the filter of SELF, your self changes, and therefore your truth changes.You become more yourself. Being cathartic is a side gift."
You have to decide what to resurrect. She says she runs her memories by the people she's writing about.
"Every dysfunctional family has more than one person in it." Mary often omits dialogue because she doesn't want to contrive it if she can't remember it.
The audience laughed when she said she told her mom what she was going to write about, and her mom said, "Oh hell, Mary, everyone in town knows about that. Write it. Get it off your chest. Do you mean they'll pay you for our story, even if the words don't sell?"
Mary Karr's finest points for me:
"Memoir is knocking yourself out with your own fist." I had to agree. The tough stuff requires some hard gut punches.
"Truth is what you remember, but truth of memory is not history."
"If memory has an emotional consequence, it becomes real, and you can recall things most important to you."
"The face tells a story."
"Write deeply, emotionally. What would you write if you were not afraid?"
"Write about dysfunction with love...how you were then, not with revenge or your suffering at the time."
In her book, Art of Memoir, Karr said "...it took me fifteen years of scribbling- first poetry, then fiction- to tell my childhood story in a voice that fit my face. I hid from my readers on pages that sugarcoated any emotional truths about us all., part of an overall effort to sanitize our past and remold myself into somebody smarter, faster, funnier than harsh reality had afforded me to become."
"Labels are an easy way out. I never labeled my mother an alcoholic. I showed myself pouring out her vodka."
We all have a story inside.
Are you ready to write yours?
A paragraph a day. Just get started. It may be a prettied up poem or even a harsh one. Write it for your eyes only. But write it!