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How can you be so … personal??

June 16, 2009

 I was interviewed not long ago by a reporter about my recently released collection of memoir-based essays Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey. “Gee,” she said, “you shared so many personal details in your book. Didn’t you mind being so … revealing?” From time to time during the interview she kept coming back to this point, as though it was something very unsettling. “How did you find the courage to expose so many private details about yourself?”

Courage? No, not really. It was something else.

What were those terribly revelatory, potentially embarrassing details she was referring to? Let’s see. In “Losing It” I wrote about the time my young sons could hear me sobbing through the closed door one night and timidly knocked, pleading for an explanation. I revealed in “Eating and Drinking” that my habit of comforting myself as I went through my divorce with cookies and Ben & Jerry’s Super Fudge Chunk developed into a full-blown eating disorder. In one of the more humorous chapters called “My Lost,” I confessed to letting my imagination get a little too carried away during an online dating correspondence, with both disastrous and comical results.

In the memoir and personal-essay workshops that I lead at the Westport Writers’ Workshop, this issue of how much one needs to reveal about oneself is a familiar one, and it troubles many first-time memoir writers. “There’s a lot I want to write … but what if my [fill in the blank: husband/mother/children] ever read it?” they ask. There is actual fear in their eyes.

I was invited shared my answer to that problem in a guest post on the popular web site published today.  Take a look.

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