This week staff writer Kara Brown published a snarky piece at Jezebel titled Delete Your Memoir. She writes:
Go ahead, do it. Drag and drop. Hold down the “delete” button for 45 minutes. Throw away your entire laptop if you must, but just get rid of it. Please, enough with the goddamn memoirs…
If you want to tell a story, do so without centering every single detail around yourself and your pithy afterthoughts. Maybe you have had a life experience that truly is unique and riveting and can teach us all something about life and love and loss and whatever other adjectives you suggest to the person writing your forward…
Better yet, go write some fiction that’s loosely based on your own life but much more interesting because you get to change all the stuff that nobody cares about. Be David Sedaris! He’s got it figured out!
This post REALLY annoyed me, and not just because I’m (ahem) writing a memoir. Here is Brown, using her huge national platform at a supposedly feminist website, to remind other women that their personal stories don’t matter, but if they are going to bother to try to write anyway, they should just write LIKE A MAN — a very specific man who has been hugely successful thanks to a distinctive voice and sensibility that nobody could hope to imitate, even if they tried. And don’t get me started on the fact that all of Brown’s examples of terrible memoirs were written by female celebrities who are not actually writers at all — but why pick only on women?
Right after I read Brown’s post, I traveled to Whidbey Island in Washington for a long weekend at the Vortext Conference, joined by 60 other women writers and an extraordinary panel of female faculty, including Dani Shapiro, Ruth Ozeki, Hannah Tinti, Carole DeSanti, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, and Victoria Redel. Vortext is a program of Hedgebrook, a literary nonprofit whose “mission is to support visionary women writers whose stories and ideas shape our culture now and for generations to come.”
I don’t know how to put the beauty of this conference into words. Writing workshops and inspiring keynotes. Women supporting women. Women encouraging women. Writers sharing their hopes, fears, and strategies. Generous, accomplished writers honoring the passion and commitment shown by those less experienced by speaking candidly about their own struggles. Women giving each other PERMISSION that the world out there too often tries to revoke.
So please, do NOT delete your memoir, or throw away your novel, or quit writing your poems. Do not stop doing that creative thing that you love, even it you do it badly sometimes. Do not give in to the voices that want to shame or silence you. Do not surrender to the people who just don’t understand. Don’t be David Sedaris. Be you.
This is me. Reading from my memoir in progress at VORTEXT.