Last December I spent a lovely hour with Linda Joy Myers at the National Association of Memoir Writers talking about the reflective voice in memoir. I’ve had so many requests for the audio recording of this talk that I thought I would post it here for easy access to all.
You can play and/or download the audio recording here.
So, what is the reflective voice in memoir and why does it matter?
Writing a memoir of substance requires more than a one-dimensional recounting of events. As Vivian Gornick puts it, “What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened.” No matter how interesting a story, without a deeper, underlying meaning our readers are left asking, “So, what?”
And, yes, I tell my (kinda embarrassing) “So, what?” story on the audio!
Ultimately, the memoirist’s job is to cull meaning from experience. This is where the reflective voice comes in. The reflective narrator not only speaks the truth but also interprets experience and arrives at insight; indeed, the author’s insight becomes an integral part of the story and imbues it with universal appeal.
Here are a handful of the touchstones covered in the audio:
- Identify the reflective voice and how it distinguishes memoir as a genre
- Explore the differences between the reflective voice and the narrative voice in memoir and the necessity of both
- Understand the relationship between the reflective voice and the emotional arc of a memoir and how the reflective voice drives a memoir story
- Realize the power of reflection to lead to discovery both on the page and off the page and how reflection can help you gain the emotional distance necessary to shape your material
- Learn reading and writing practices that will help you to cultivate the reflective voice in your own writing
During the discussion I mention a number of resources. Here they are:
- Brevity: A Journal of Concise Nonfiction
- Sue William Silverman Fearless Confessions
- Sue William Silverman “Innocence & Experience: Voice in Creative Nonfiction”
- Susan Shreve Warm Springs
- Julia Scheeres Jesus Land: A Memoir
- Brenda Miller “I Need a Miracle”
At the end of the recording, Linda Joy opened the line to questions. I would like to extend that invitation to you, as well.
So if you have any questions about the reflective voice in memoir, ask away in the comments below, or email your questions to me at Marilyn@writingwomenslives.com.