Got “snapshot” memories? Try writing Flash Memoir.

Memories are frequently more like snapshots than movies. So why not apply the techniques of flash fiction to our own life stories? “Going small” allows us to focus on the moments in which life is truly lived, absorbing lessons that would be hard to find in a larger narrative sweep. 

In flash memoir–stories under 1000 or even under 500 words–we challenge ourselves to develop a story concisely, concretely, with crisp precision. Accepting the challenge of creative nonfiction, we work within the boundaries of emotional and factual truth. Short, sharp, and true–No other rules apply.

I mention this because I have a “write-in” workshop on Flash Memoir coming up in Madison. In my “write-ins,” unlike my other workshops, we dedicate part of our in-class time to writing, and place fewer expectations on ourselves to write between class sessions. This feels like an ideal approach for working on short “Flash Memoir” pieces. I can’t say for sure–this is the first time I’ve tried it.

Want to be part of the experience? Check it out, if you’re in Madison.

  • When: Thursdays, four sessions, Feb 15 through March 8, 4-5:30 pm
  • Where: Pinney Library, 204 Cottage Grove Rd., Madison
  • Fee: Free.
  • To register: follow this link or call 224-7100.

And if you’re not in Madison? I’ve offered this class online before, and I could again. Let me know if you’d be interested in an online “write-in” experience.

What does this image have to do with “Flash Memoir”? This brevity-focused genre lends itself to object writing–the technique of focusing an essay on a concrete object. (What’s a concrete object? “Something you can drop on your foot,” it was explained to me.) If you want your reader to hold in mind the same image, idea, or emotion that you are having, don’t send abstract words to do the job. Send a specific, memorable, visualize-able object. Then tell a story about it.

The artifacts we gathered through life make great prompts for object writing. This is a box of crayons I have owned since I was 7 years old. I had a dream last night about rediscovering a trove of art supplies and a free day to play with them. This is what I imagine retirement might be like–rediscovering our own treasures and talents from before “the cult of adulthood” intervened, and finally having time to pick up creative ventures again.

When “Flash Memoir” starts at the Pinney Library on February 15, I think I’ll go looking for memories related to these crayons.

As we say goodbye to 2017, I suggest you explore Flash Memoir in 2018! Let’s see your stories here on True Stories Well Told. Submissions welcome–see guidelines here.

  • Sarah White
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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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6 Responses to Got “snapshot” memories? Try writing Flash Memoir.

  1. Hi Sarah – I am interested in the write-in workshop, but I wasn’t able to register. It says registration is not open until 2/1. Is that correct? The sessions sounds great. I’ve always wanted to do these, but I’m unsure if they seem unfinished. Thank you.

  2. Kit says:

    I like this idea, Sarah. I think it fits with the current culture. Best wishes for a Happ New Year. Thanks

  3. Hi Sarah, I would be interested in more information on an online course. I currently teach memoir writing classes (GAB) in Washington State and have developed two additional classes after the initial 8-week GAB course. I think this concept would be an interesting one to explore.

  4. I’m afraid I’m not near you to enjoy the workshop but I like the concept. I will try and do a post on my selection of recollections blog in the new year, which, among other themes, is snapshots of memoir.

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