Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog)
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Whose Truth? The ethics of memoir writing

April 14, 2011

Tags: memoirs, writing, ethics, Talking Writing

Darn: These essays all seem to be offline now. Authors: If you want them posted again, let me know. Maybe I can post them here. Talking Writing: Why aren't they up anymore? Your back issues don't seem to reach back to April 2011.

How much is too much truth? And whose truth is it to reveal? Those are two of many questions addressed in a fascinating issue about the ethics of memoir writing in a wonderful online magazine, Talking Writing. Can we trust ourselves to tell our stories truthfully? asks the editor. How far can we carry the fine art of embellishment?

Get yourself a cup of something and plan to read a while. These stories are worth reading:

How Much Should We Reveal? (Arlene L. Mandell on Baring Ourselves for Public Viewing). If our subject matter is ourselves and those around us, will what we reveal hurt someone?

Writing Someone Else’s Memoir (Hawley Roddick on The Ethical Quandaries of a Coauthor). What does a writer-collaborator do if the "narrator" asks that some things not be revealed?

Don't Write About Me (John Manchester writing about When Family and Friends Ambush Your Past). Ask permission to write about someone and she may say no. "Whether I wrote about her or not, one of us was going to be very unhappy."

What Belongs to Her and What to Me? (Karen Steiner on Why I Hate My Bipolar Child)."What’s the difference between honest confession and self-indulgence? What if while I’m opening a vein, I nick an artery instead?"

Writing Literary Memoir (Are We Obliged to Tell the “Real” Truth? asks Michael Steinberg) Did it really happen that way? How can you remember all that? On reconstructing dialogue and other concerns.

You Do Not Know My Family (Karen Nichols on the Ethics of Adoption Writing). Nichols describes the struggle adoptive parents and their children face when the news sensationalizes an adoption story and "prurient onlookers publicly weigh in." Does the bad history of secrecy in adoption justify violating a child’s right to privacy?

Accidental Memoir (Lorraine Berry's review of Half a Life, about the aftermath of an accident that changed Darin Strauss’s life -- and about writing in the aftermath of the unthinkable.

An absolutely fascinating issue of a magazine new to me and now one of my "favorites." I highly recommend it. Thank you, Talking Writing! May you thrive.

Comments

  1. April 28, 2011 6:06 PM EDT
    Pat, thanks so much for your kind words about Talking Writing and your excellent recap of the issue. We're so glad you found us!
    - Elizabeth Langosy, Executive Editor, Talking Writing