Saturday, February 28, 2015

Panel Discussion

I'm not at my home in the mountains today. I'm in the flat lands, the coastal plain, the warmer (hopefully) side of the great state of North Carolina. I'm at a book event, Book 'Em.  Check it out.

It's a wonderful event to attend as a reader, even more so as a writer as we exchange ideas and "war stories." The walls at Robeson Community College are lined with authors and table displays of their books. How a reader narrows down the hundreds of books to select what they can fork out to buy, I'll never know. Each must have his own method, his own taste in books and genre.

Speaking of genre.

This year I will be a part of a panel discussion with a group of like-genre authors as we talk about our books. Topic - Memoirs. Here's the scheduled sessions for 12:00:

  • SCOTT MASON, KEYNOTE SPEAKER, Emmy-Winning Host of The Tarheel Traveler - Tar Heel Traveler Eats: Food Journeys Across North Carolina 
  • MEMOIR WRITING Authors Mary Anne Benedetto, Darlene Eichler, Gretchen Griffith, Linda Phillips, Sandra Warren 
  • SUSPENSEFUL READING Authors Hawk MacKinney, Ann Onimity, Dirk Robertson, Alan Thompson 

Note that we are up against the keynote speaker and, not only that, another panel, this one by crime writers. Okay, so we can hold our own, as these topics do attract different audiences. Plus, we have a lot to offer. We each write in our own distinctive ways, using the tools that we have found through trial and error and plain old luck.

  • The list of questions we will address as we discuss memoir writing are pretty standard, who, what, when, why kinds of things. I could (and have several times) talk an hour alone. It was the "how" question, and not the usual "How did you do it?" Did you write it for the personal enjoyment of family and friends OR did you write it for both family & friends and the open market? How did that change how you wrote it and what you included?

Ah, the target audience. How did knowing who the readers would be affect the way I wrote? That one I've pondered.

As I wrote the Pilot Mountain School book, I was always conscious of how people would interpret the way I presented the community. I wanted the reader to know the reality, but I wanted the people who trusted me with their life stories to be satisfied that I was not sensationalizing the day to day poverty they endured or the many crises the school went through or the facts of life living in the south during desegregation. I made hard choices, not in what I included, because that could not be changed if I were to remain true, but in the way I presented the story itself. I went places in the book I didn't plan to go, dark places, but thankfully, places with light at the end of the telling.

If you are near Lumberton, North Carolina today, come on over to the community college and drop by my booth. At noon, step into the Red Room and listen to what we are discussing. It just might start you thinking about writing a memoir.

Catch of the day,


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