Reality Check

December 3, 2007 § 3 Comments


A guest post from former Brevity intern Debbie Hagan:

 

“How do I write about my past without coming across like a jerk?” a student in my memoir class asked.

She was a sensitive, intellectual woman, who had made a foolish choice back in the 1960s. She had joined a radical student group that had planned to overthrow the government and stop the Vietnam War. Their criminal acts caused an innocent man to be killed. She had served her prison time, but continued to pay in personal remorse.

The following week, I struggled to find something to tell her. Then I found a quote that for me defined the real purpose of the personal memoir. It was from Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day…. “Does it happen all at once or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You come. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are REAL, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are REAL, you can’t be ugly, except to the people who don’t understand.”

I told my student that she had to be real. If she revealed her true self and experience to the world, then she could only be a jerk to those unwilling to understand.

— Debbie Hagan

§ 3 Responses to Reality Check

  • Wendy Sumner-Winter says:

    Excellent. I’m going to post this on my class blog.

  • […] Brevity recently posted about a writing teacher with a problem: one of her memoir students was afraid that if she told her story people would think she was a jerk. This particular student’s story involved higher stakes than most of us will ever face (her remorse over the death of an innocent man), but if you’ve ever tried to write memoir, you know this fear. No matter your circumstances, memoir writing always includes the challenge of putting yourself out there in a story. […]

  • […] Brevity recently posted about a writing teacher with a problem: one of her memoir students was afraid that if she told her story people would think she was a jerk. This particular student’s story involved higher stakes than most of us will ever face (her remorse over the death of an innocent man), but if you’ve ever tried to write memoir, you know this fear. No matter your circumstances, memoir writing always includes the challenge of putting yourself out there in a story. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Reality Check at BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog.

meta

%d bloggers like this: