Here we go (again)! After completing the yearlong Memoir Incubator program in 2022, I’m now participating in the Book Revision Lab. On February 2, we had our first Zoom session. We met as a group—all 31 of us! (Or most of us.)
Our Peer Artist Leaders discussed some of the nuts and bolts of what we will be doing over the next six months. And then we broke off into our genre groups: memoir, young adult / middle grade, and novel.
Connecting With the Community
It was great to connect with my fellow memoir writers and discuss the specific challenges in our genre, such as sharing our intimate truth with strangers or worse with family members! Anne Lamott’s oft-quoted advice comes to mind: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
After we introduced ourselves and discussed what books we are currently reading (mine is a book in my subgenre of recovery: Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp), we shared our revision plans. One writer plans to do some map research for her memoir about hiking with friends. Another writer plans to retype each section and then read it aloud. My initial plan is to make a visual outline using Post-Its and a blank wall to help me with structure and laying out the order of my backstory. In order to do this though, I’ll need a private space away from my family. I don’t need any questions from my 15-year-old at this point in drafting! So I’m borrowing a family member’s empty condo for the project.
Getting Ready for the Reading Rounds
After our memoir discussion, we divided the group once again. This time into pods for our first Reading Round. In this smaller group of four, we chose the order we will go to read each other’s books and receive feedback. I opted for the second slot which means I need to have my manuscript reader ready by March 9, to have time to print and mail it to my readers.
The next day, we were invited to join our new workspace on Slack, the instant messaging application we use to help build our writer community. On the day I had blocked off to do my Post It outline, I posted a picture on Slack of the lunch I had packed for myself so I could devote the whole day to outlining. Another writer posted how she read her whole manuscript from beginning to end and how proud she was of the work she’s done to date. Her upbeat Slack posting energized me for my project as well.
As I embark on this memoir revision journey, I’ll share what it’s like “Inside the Book Revision Lab” in this monthly column.