Last week, instead of learning to tell others’ stories, we learned how to tell our own. The memoir workshop kick-started with Patricia Bosworth, author of “Anything Your Little Heart Desires,” who came to tell us about her craft. For me, Bosworth’s retelling of her transformation from Broadway actress to memoir writer reminded me of the emotional side of writing; putting your own stories and your memories about people you know out in the open.
Bosworth reminded me that there is depth in everyone we come across. I realized that my family and my friends have such complex character traits and that seemingly small, insignificant moments of their lives define them and their stories. Bosworth also talked about how it took her 40 years to write her memoir, to develop her voice and perfect her style. At the end, she admitted that her memoir is her favorite book and her proudest achievement.
Yet she also talked about the delicacy of balancing fiction with real events. In a biography, it is about balancing the perspectives of the people that are being written about, interviewing enemies as well as friends. However, in a memoir there is a certain dramatization and almost a fictional element to the tale. No one wants to read about what you ate for breakfast every morning or how long it takes for you to brush your teeth, so it is up to the memoirist to pick out the events that mean the most, the ones that they remember best, and fill in the gaps that time has left.
As an example, Bosworth told us about the ivy garden when she was writing of a disastrous and almost tragic scene in her memoir. “I had forgotten about the ivy garden,” she said, “until I started writing the scene. Then I remembered how important that garden was to my family and then other details started coming back.” In writing her memoir, Bosworth started and stopped, and went through a number of edits and rewrites. Memoirs are our experiences of life on paper, a way to tell our own stories.