Writing about other people is scary. You may worry about the fallout—that people you’re writing about will be hurt, angry, that they’ll disown you. You may worry about your parents, your children, your friends. Many writers contemplating memoir go so far as to consider waiting to write their story until some key person is dead, and countless others fret about the legal jeopardy they might subject themselves to just for telling their truth. This episode brings answers and reassurance—and touches upon fiction as well, in the sense that fiction, too, much be drawn from real characters. Guest Kerry Cohen talks about her four memoirs and shares her feelings on fear, truth-telling, and fallout.
ABOUT KERRY COHEN
Kerry Cohen is the author of twelve books, including Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity and Lush: A Memoir. She teaches at the Red Earth Low Residency MFA program and is a clinical psychologist in private practice. Find Kerry at www.kerry-cohen.com.
Writing Action: Write a Conflict Scene
Think about a single conflict scene between you and someone in your real life. Show what happened, including the set-up, the conflict, and also what you were thinking. Allow yourself to feel a range of traditionally “difficult” emotions—like anger and hatred. What are things you might express about this person in this moment, and what are things you might express about yourself?
The point of this exercise is to get into a moment of true anger or even rage and to try to stay balanced enough to see that other person as a human being, however flawed. Writing about others cannot be an exercise in revenge writing, or vendetta writing. This exercise can help sort out any extreme emotions, allowing you to come to the page with equanimity.
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