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Memoirs

February 27, 2007

My friend Nate is tearing through his 300-page memoir. It covers about ten years of his life and moves between New York and California, taking in everything from doing mushrooms on a mountain top to skimming receipts while waiting restaurant tables on the way. These days Nate does little other than teach (his day job) and write and eat and sleep. He did make an hour to see me for a beer last night in between having a meeting with his writing partner and going home to do some more writing. I admire his dedication. Some day I hope to be as engrossed in a project as he is and show the same devotion.

An interesting topic that came up during our discussion was about how you portray people you know without them getting upset about it and suing you. Augusten Burroughs and Dave Eggers are two names I can think of who've gotten into trouble with their relatives over stuff they've written. Joe Loya, on the other hand, whose memoir involves some pretty lurid details concerning one of his aunts, among other things, doesn't seem to have gotten much flack at all. Nate is concerned that his mother might get angry about certain details in his book. Hopefully she'll just be so impressed with his success that she won't mind hearing about her son's various misdemeanors. I'm sure there'll be plenty of positive stuff in the text to balance out anything less than perky.

Nate's been reading Ernest Hemingway's advice about writing. According to Nate, Hemingway says that when you finish a writing session, you should always leave off in the middle of an idea. Don't walk away after finishing a section or chapter as it's very hard to rev up and start again the next time you sit down to write. This seems counterintuitive in a way (especially for someone like me who likes neat corners) but I'm going to try it. It might help. So as I was saying...

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