I love my memoir writing group. We meet every other Sunday and I’ve been going for over two years. The critiques are invaluable and the women are fantastic. The members of my group are all women. Not intentionally, but that’s the way it’s been for awhile.
Sometimes I wish everyone would write their memoir. Wouldn’t it be great for dating? Before going out with someone, they would have to hand you their memoir and you’d say “Ok see you in two weeks!” Then the real conversations could get started immediately. Or not. But at least there’d be no huge skeletons left in the closet waiting to jump out at you.
When I first started working on my memoir, I attended a few writing groups that welcomed all genres. Never again. When a memoir needs help, it’s technical issues; sentence structure, clarification, developing a scene. But the stories are always there, because these are people’s lives, and truth truly is stranger than fiction. But when fiction’s not happening,.. It’s like being stuck in the front row of a bad comedian.
The first group I attended, a long time ago, was a big group that met for three hours and we were each allotted 5 minutes or 5 pages to read our work out loud. There were some technical writers there, some poets, novelists. The guy next to me was writing a dark dystopian fantasy set on the planet dweezolatron, where an epic battle set to take place between the gumbledorfians and the zillyrumpastiltzineans. Ok. I made those names up. But so did he, and his weren’t much better. For those five minutes, time stood still. That clock didn’t move, even though I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I don’t care how good a writer he may have been, maybe technically. I was ready to jump out of my chair.
There was another guy there who authored pamphlets for his religious group. He had some very strong opinions which I didn’t happen to share, but of course, he was given his five minutes to share them with all of us.
In my little memoir group, every single story is real, captivating, often heart wrenching, and sometimes very funny. When I first started going and people wrote on critiques: “Can’t wait to read more!”, I always thought, “Oh! That’s a nice thing to say.” But shortly in, I realized, no, “can’t wait to read more”, seriously meant, “can’t wait to read more.” Every time we meet, everyone shares just a little bit more of their story and we all leave with cliffhangers not to be continued for two more weeks. The opposite of binge watching.
I’m looking forward to this afternoon. I think the gumbledorfian group meets somewhere on Sundays too. I’m so glad I found my group. Learning to be a better writer isn’t worth the mind-numbing price of going back to that other one.