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Navigating the Family Memoir with Zoe FitzGerald Carter


Contact: zoecarter@mac.com
Number of sessions: 4
Meeting time: Wednesday nights, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Dates: January 23 to February 13
Course fee: $260. $100 deposit required to register

To register, contact the instructor. All deposits are nonrefundable.

Description: Most memoirs involve family. Family may even be the SUBJECT of your memoir. But what happens when you show up at Thanksgiving dinner after writing the truth about your “nice” Uncle Edward — or, God forbid, your mother? Navigating the Family Memoir will give you the tools to write honestly about the people you love without getting sued or disowned. We will cover the importance of balance in your portrayals, the pros and cons of using pseudonyms and disclaimers, and why it can be a smart move to let your relatives read what you’ve written before you publish.

The class will also delve into the writing process itself. Questions we will address include: How can we tap into memory and emotion and translate that raw material on to the page? How do we take vivid moments or events and turn them into fully fleshed out scenes?And how do we stop ourselves from writing about every seemingly important thing that’s ever happened to us?

Also, how far from the “truth” can we stray before we end up in James Frey/Greg Mortenson territory?

Students will be asked to complete one short free-write per class and to bring in at least one reading from home that will be critiqued with enormous respect and kindness by the class. If reading out loud makes you break out in hives, other arrangements can be made. Whether your memoir is still largely theoretical or fully underway, this class will give you a chance to develop a practical and conceptual framework to move ahead.

Bio: Zoe FitzGerald Carter is the author of the memoir, Imperfect Endings: A Daughter’s Story of Love, Loss, and Letting Go (Simon & Schuster).The book chronicles her mother’s decision to end her life after living with Parkinson’s disease for many years and the struggle Zoe and her two sisters had coming to terms with that choice. Paula Span of The New York Times said, “I could quote from this book all day,” and People magazine wrote Imperfect Endings “coaxes beauty from the bleak.”

A graduate of Columbia Journalism School, Zoe has written for numerous publications including The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Salon and Vogue. Imperfect Endings was excerpted in O magazine, chosen as a finalist for the National MS Society’s Books for a Better Life Awards in the “Inspirational Memoir” category, and is a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writer’s pick. Zoe lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is currently at work on a non-foction book about race, Facebook, and unexpected kinship. Learn more at www.ImperfectEndings.com. Zoe can be contacted at zoecarter@mac.com.

Zoe's Latest Blogs

Apr.19.2012 - 10:45 am
Dear Friends: I will be teaching a class on "Navigating the Family Memoir" at The San Francisco Writer's Grotto starting this Tuesday night (April 24th) and continuing the...
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Feb.22.2012 - 11:28 am
It took crashing the car while texting for my college freshman daughter to start being nice to me again. It happened three weeks into her five-week Christmas vacation, a period...
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Dec.15.2011 - 3:52 pm
Catching sight of the rows of bottles in my neighborhood wine store the other day—a holiday banner hanging merrily in the window—I felt a pang of sadness and regret. Each of the...
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Sep.26.2011 - 5:38 pm
Kara, her parents, Joan and Ted, and her brother Edward circa 1968 Kara Kennedy, daughter of Senator Ted Kennedy, died last Friday, September 16th at the age of fifty-one of a...
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Comments from Zoe

Mar.16.2011 - 11:02 am
In response to: The Ghost in My Quilt
For sharing that, Rina. And I'm so sorry for your loss. Losing our parents -- and perhaps especially our mothers -- is...
Jan.11.2011 - 3:30 pm
In response to: In search of discipline
I think the 100 word a day idea is fabulous! Nothing like incremental goals to make the vast abyss of book writing less...
Dec.21.2010 - 1:18 pm
In response to: Baby Boomers Are Bummin'
Ha! Being on the younger end makes me nervous too!
Oct.13.2010 - 12:13 pm
In response to: Faking It: The Case for Pseudonyms
Hi Beth, I'm with you, composite characters make me very uncomfortable. I think, at that point, you are essentially...
Oct.05.2010 - 7:52 pm
In response to: Nothing Left to Burn: A Wesleyan Student’s Final Message
..for your comment. That sounds like a horrendous event for your family and I am so sorry for all of you. What a...