Today we have a guest on my blog, Teresa Sullivan, from my memoir class. Remember how I told you we had partners? Teresa Sullivan is my partner and when I asked her if she wanted to answer some questions about her memoir and the process she said she would be happy to do so. Here is the result. It is more like an interview really so that is why I named it what I did, “Clarbojahn Presents! Memoir Partner, Teresa Sullivan.”
I just love how we are partners in this memoir class. How did you learn about this class?
TS: Hi Clara, I’m really glad that you are my partner. I appreciate the way you support me in the process of writing rather than critiquing specific pieces. You have helped me stay on track without whip cracking or judgment. I learned about the class through a link sent to me by a previous memoir teacher, Amy Friedman, from UCLA.
CBJ: 2- You say you had written a bunch before starting this class. What is your memoir about and tell us a little about how much you had written and how it has helped or hurt you
TS: My memoir is about how my sister’s disability affected my family and me. It explores how she gave us purpose and held us together and how the family fractured when she was institutionalized. It illustrates the winding road I then took, descending into darkness and danger and, finally, my survival. I would summarize it as: The Miracle Worker without the miracle meets Permanent Midnight. I was concerned that I would have to scrap much of the 15+ thousand words I had already written I didn’t want to face the prospect of starting all over but it hasn’t been a problem and I have received helpful feedback from my mentor.
CBJ: 3—I feel a lot of stress in reliving my life while writing about it. Are you?
TS: Over the years, I have been able to tell this story from a very detached place. In the course of writing it, I have had to return to it in a very visceral way. There have been one or two scenes that I had to put on the back burner – too painful. When I finally wrote a draft of them, it was just as painful as I anticipated but I feel that I can now move forward.
CBJ: 4—How are you handling this stress?
TS: Good question. There has been an intrinsic reward in getting through the tough stuff. Sometimes I take a few days off but that is more because I get lazy. Unfortunately, I have not found my friends particularly supportive and no longer share my writing with them. I have you! I also have a therapist of many years who has been very supportive.
CBJ: 5—are you being kind to your self when you have a hard time?
TS: Yes, usually. I feel compassion for my family (including myself) when I visit the past.
CBJ: 6—how are you rewarding your self when you make a goal?
TS: Mostly, just a pat on the back. It feels good to know that I have completed about 25% of the memoir but I can undermine myself when I remember how long it has taken.
CBJ: 7- Do you have a tool for daily measurements? For daily word counts or such? Weekly word counts and monthly word counts?
TS: I don’t have time-driven word count goals other than the 60k goal for the end of the class. Actually, I would like to have closer to 75K. I have a fluid chapter summary for each part of the memoir. It helps me keep on track. My goal is to connect the chapters in a coherent way and to include the scenes and themes I feel are most important.
CBJ: 8—How are you keeping tract of word counts?
TS: I note the word count for each chapter. Some are very short (less than 1000 words) and may just be a brief draft of an event. Some are long and more developed. I imagine that, when I go back to revise, I will integrate and consolidate.
Thank you so much for asking me to participate in your blog!
CBJ: Like most of my guests you completing the questions has been rewarding for me. I just loved reading the answers and getting to know you better.
Thanks so much!
And for you dear readers, I give you hugs and kisses.
See you here Friday for PPBF.