Patricia Bosworth was the Craft Talk Author for the Family Memoir workshop, December 8 2012. Here Patricia writes about her own experiences at GWN!
I really enjoyed talking about memoir in a recent workshop organized by Girls Write Now. Their office is located in a series of sunny rooms in a building on the West Side, and that Saturday it was filled to overflowing with girls and their mentors. I even ran into several colleagues who I hadn’t seen in awhile, and it was fun to catch up with them.
During my craft talk, I talked about how when you write a memoir, you really start discovering yourself. I read five minutes from my memoir, Anything Your Little Heart Desires, and explained how I came to write that first chapter: how it was many years in the making (it started out as a novel which I wrote in my dressing room while I was an actress on Broadway). Everyone wanted to know what material I’d drawn from, and we spoke of the importance of letters and journals. There were several questions about privacy and how my family reacted. I told them, “You have to figure out what to leave in and what to take out. Writing a memoir is a balancing act. There are many versions of a truth.”
I may have gotten carried away when I started to describe my career switch from acting to writing, but I did want to stress the fact that, according to I.B. Singer, “the more memories you have, the more you know you have lived.” I left the theatre and got my first job at an eccentric place called Magazine Management, which published comic books, movie magazines, and men’s action stories. Such places do not exist anymore, but in the 1960s they were great training grounds for people who wanted to write, edit, and publish magazines. This is where I got my initial training as a journalist, along with freelancing at the New York Times. I shared with the students at the workshop my experiences at Magazine Management, which included getting to know the head writer there, a man called Mario Puzo, who could write faster and better than any of us and on the side was finishing a novel he called The Godfather.
After the session ended, several students came over to me to talk. One of them said she wanted to do an oral history with her mother — she was very curious about her family. But she didn’t know how to begin, and was worried that her mother wouldn’t want to participate. I suggested she take a family picture and just ask her mother when it was taken and why, and who were all the people in it. Maybe that would trigger her memories: sometimes images work better than words.