Courtney Smith was the Craft Talk Author for the Music Memoir Workshop, October 26, 2013. Here Courtney writes about her own experiences at Girls Write Now!
A question has stuck with me since my time speaking to the ladies at Girls Write Now. It’s one they posed to me, abut the memoir format: what role does the truth play in memoirs?
It sounds simple, that the answer should be the truth is everything, but there are shades of gray to consider. It made me consider my own work, which is always truthful to my point of view but sometimes embellished in it’s forcefulness.
Obviously you don’t want to go the full James Frey and make it up completely — that’s a valid form of work, but it’s called fiction. The memoir writer will constantly struggle with themselves to determine how accurate their memories are. How truthful should they be, to what they thought when an event happened versus what they learned from it and how it changed their opinion in the present? One must ask oneself: am I documenting the past or writing about the present?
The question also brought back memories. Memories of writing the first drafts of my book, of trying to find my voice and speak truthfully. It wasn’t easy. It’s scary to state your opinions fully and put your name on it, especially in this day and age where there will be someone to comment on it the second you make the work public. It’s scary enough just to put yourself out there, so for me thinking of the reader was a third and fourth draft concentration. I had to find myself first.