Over the summer, Gotham Writer’s Workshop gave a few free writing seminars in Bryant Park. They had established writers talk for ninety minutes or so about a writing topic. The one I chose to go to was on memoir writing, as I have become very interested in that topic.
What do we think about things given for free in an open park setting?
Let me begin by saying that Gotham did everything right. They hired a really good instructor, who clearly knew how to teach and be entertaining, as well as the whole published author thing. They had a lot of chairs and tables, and handed out notebooks and pens. The instruction part was awesome.
However. Free. New York City. Park.
These all make for let’s just say, interesting people in the audience.
The woman to my left- very chatty. While we were waiting for the class to begin, she told everyone around us how she drove in from the suburbs of Philadelphia to attend this. FYI- it was a solid presentation…but not that solid. She was also a hand raiser of the first order- OOO OOO pick me pick me…When the instructor asked simply “What is a memoir?” this woman practically leaped to the stage to answer. There’s always a very over enthusiastic person at these things who tend to try to steer the evening away and make it about them. There is nothing wrong in theory with being overly enthusiastic. However, a free class isn’t always the best place.
Of course, this being New York and all, when he picked someone to answer his second question, the person he chose to answer started out with “Why didn’t you pick me to answer the first question? I clearly had my hand up before the other person. I had a much better answer for that question than this one.” And proceeded to not answer the question.
We were given time to write based upon a prompt. When the instructor asked people to read, everyone used a fake name. The class was on memoir writing: the whole point is that it’s supposed to be one’s true memories of a time and place. One of the first things he said was “This is a memoir. You have to own your truth and put it on the page.” But yet…
He was also asked if you could use an alias for a memoir.
And then he was asked if you could make it a fictional memoir.
Of course, you can do anything you want- as long as you ask yourself why…and if it’s worth it.
We rounded out the night with another prompt and the ability to read it. The person who read proceeded to tell us how he’s homeless but just won the lottery in Georgia but needed money to get down there, but was really a millionaire, and could we just lend him $500 until his check cleared?
That being said, I did learn some good stuff from the class. I look forward to Gotham eventually getting back to in person, paid for classes, in a classroom.
I also look forward to what becomes of memoirs in the coming years.