Memoir or Fiction: Exploring Voice and Vision in Different Genres by Eden Elieff

Let’s say you have a story that only you can tell—you’ve witnessed or experienced events and circumstances no one else has. Or maybe, you have a perspective and passion that give you a singular understanding of those events.

And yet, these unique stories that shape our lives are often the most challenging to write about. Their enormity and multifaceted nature can overwhelm us. It’s like trying to find entry into a castle that has no visible doors. 

I speak from experience.

When my family moved to Chicago’s northern suburbs from the city’s south side in 1970, we lived across the street from a family whose primary vehicle was a hearse. They always parked it in their driveway, in plain sight, never in the garage.

This was weird. And unusual. To say the least.

And at the age of fourteen, the least was all I could say. I was too young to make sense of it. Yet as I saw the hearse every day, familiarity diminished its shock value. The vehicle, along with Lake Michigan, the buzzcut lawns and old-growth elms, blended into my daily scenery.

Three years later, during which time my mother evicted my father and initiated divorce proceedings, an anti-Semitic neighbor vandalized our home on the Jewish New Year, our car was stolen, I was beset with social anxiety—for starters—I went off to college and forgot about the hearse. Good riddance. To everything.

For years, it never even occurred to me to write about our move. Its transformative impact was too immense, too bright to look at. Yet one day, some fifteen years later, the image of the hearse came to me, seemingly out of the blue.

With the distance years bring, I could instantly see that the metaphor gods had just served me up a big fat one, and damn if I was going to let it go by without taking a swing at it—speaking of metaphors. This sudden insight told me: the hearse was my vehicle now, my way into this foundational story that had always been just a swirling succession of traumatic events, one without form or clear meaning. Yet once I grasped that the hearse was actually the key feature of the scenery, that it had symbolic resonance as both an omen and expression of our family’s demise, I could connect and interpret the various events of my experience and thus tell a coherent story. The essay I could finally write, “White Flight,” became my first published piece.

So, let’s say you discover an iconic image that’s always been woven into the fabric of your life, hiding in plain sight, and you feel a sudden urgency to write the story it embodies. And yet…you stop. You’re not sure which genre or form might best manifest its power.

My class Exploring Voice and Vision in Different Genres will consider both fiction and memoir as potential platforms from which to tell your story. Which genre might offer the perspectives, techniques and formal possibilities to best realize your intentions? We’ll read both essays and stories and look at the recent phenomenon of autofiction, a hybrid genre which blends both autobiography and fiction. We’ll consider the boundaries and qualities that define each domain and develop a sense of how and when the line separating them might be blurred—and when such blurring undermines the integrity of each.

Ultimately, we’ll aim to discover where you might find your most authentic, expansive, and persuasive voice on the page. Philip Roth described his work as a fiction writer as that of “undermining experience, embellishing experience, rearranging and enlarging experience into a species of mythology.” Maybe your story will bloom with such imaginative freedom, or maybe memoir, as a direct account of your experience, will “unlock meanings that fictionalizing has obscured...and can drive home some sharp emotional nails,” as Roth said about his transition to his autobiography, The Facts.

You’ll have two opportunities to present your work during the eight weeks of the class. Come join us. Just click on the button below to learn more!

Promptapalooza: a Free, Fun Night of Writing Prompts with WWD


a Free, Fun Night of Writing Prompts with WWD 

Sunday, August 26, 2018 - 6:30PM TO 8:30PM

Join us for an evening of linguistic invention. Choose from a huge array of creating writing prompts supplied by facilitator Joe Milazzo and start writing. The prompts span multiple genres — poetry, fiction and nonfiction (essay) — and cover topics such as sound, figurative language, theme, character, setting, collaborative writing and even interdisciplinary approaches (ekphrasis, hybrid texts, etc.). Participants will have an opportunity to share their original work and receive feedback on it during this session.

Instructor Joe Milazzo is a writer, editor, educator, and designer. He is the author of the novel Crepuscule W/ Nellie (Jaded Ibis Press) and The Habiliments (Apostrophe Books), a volume of poetry. His writings have appeared in Black ClockBlack Warrior ReviewBOMBThe CollagistDrunken Boat and elsewhere. He has taught creative writing at Southern Methodist University, The University of Texas at Dallas, and The Writer's Garret. He co-edits the online interdisciplinary arts journal [out of nothing], is a Contributing Editor at Entropy, curates the Other People’s Poetry reading series, and is also the proprietor of Imipolex Press..


  • Joe Milazzo, Presenter
  • Sunday, August 26, 2018 - 6:30PM to 8:30PM
  • Seminar meets at The Foundry Club at Mockingbird Station: 5307 E. Mockingbird Ln / Dallas, TX / 75206
  • Live Stream is available for students who live outside of Dallas. Just let us know when you register.

Click the button below to register for this FREE seminar. Contact us HERE if you have any questions about this seminar.

You got to THE END | Now What?

How many people do you know who have written a novel or a handful of stories? Do you count only yourself?

Writing is a singular endeavor, and it is doubly so when no one understands your compulsion.

So why do we write?

When you are in the middle of writing your first draft, it’s like standing in a stream. You can’t see the current, but you can feel it. This is the story flowing out of you and you should follow it. This is good work. You have found the sweet spot, the wormhole, into your story. I believe that all the novels you want to write are already written. They already exist inside you in a preverbal, rhythmic, motor place in your body. The trick is to find a way of tapping into them. Getting to this place can be elusive. Sometimes it happens early on in the writing process, sometimes very late; but once you find it, your story will flow out of you in a natural, organic way.

The above italicized paragraph comes from Richard Skinner's great article from earlier this week called Know Thyself...By Writing Your First Novel.

Read the article. I think you'll find it inspiring.

If you're nearing the end of a project or have just completed a novel or several short stories, knowing what to do next in the absence of a critique group or formal workshop can be confusing. Do you put your novel or story in the drawer for six months and return to it later? Do you revise it immediately, and if so, how do you know where the soft spots are, where the opportunities for improvement can be found? Are you going to query agents or upload your manuscript to a self-publishing platform? Or send your short story to a batch of literary journals?

What is your next step?

If you'd like to talk about what to do next, contact us HERE and we can set up a time to talk on about where you are in your process.

Maybe you're looking for a developmental edit on your novel, or an editorial letter for a few short stories. Maybe you'd like a coaching relationship as you chart a course toward your ultimate goal.

At the very least, take a moment to read Richard Skinner's article and allow yourself to be okay with the uncertainty. That is where all writers live. You're in good company.

Happy writing!

My best,

Blake Kimzey

Executive Director, Writing Workshops Dallas

Upcoming Classes: Fiction | Nonfiction | Poetry | Screenwriting | Seminars

Editing Services: Novel | Short Story | MFA Application Prep | Grant Writing | Individual Coaching

What’s Your Ideal Writing Conference?

Writing Workshops Dallas is teaming up with Bookfox to create a writing conference, and we’d love your opinion on what it should look like!

Take the 1-minute survey HERE and your answers will help us decide what topics and speakers to include. After all, we want to design this writing conference to meet your needs as a writer.

Plus, as a bonus for completing the survey, you’ll get a free copy of Bookfox’s “Writing Diagnostic” to help you accelerate your writing career.

6-Week Special: The Artist's Way Seminar - Starts August 23rd

6-Week Special: The Artist's Way Seminar

A Special 6-Week Seminar with Rex McGee

Thursday Nights, August 23, 2018 - September 27, 2018

THE ARTIST’S WAY SEMINAR has been taught to thousands of people looking for creative direction in their lives. People who enjoy visual art, performance art and writing have joined forces and realized that the challenges of creativity are not unique to any particular art form. Successful artists and beginners all face the same challenges. We will use any excuse to keep from living a fulfilled creative life; we surround ourselves with drama and other people who keep our lives chaotic to blur the focus from ourselves and our work. We oversleep, overeat, over-read, watch too much television and talk too much on the phone. We BLOCK, BLOCK, BLOCK until we can find blame and justify our real fear of actually living a creative life. Our fear of appearing foolish stops us from producing work. Our perfectionist tendencies stop us from starting or finishing a project. The deep desire many of us have to become GREAT artists prevent us from becoming artists at all. Our central fear may be that it is too late and that our talent is gone. We will look for any way to stop the pain... This eight-week workshop examines a variety of highly effective skills and practices designed to ignite passion and capture new ideas. Topics include:

  • THE METHOD OF THE MAGIC. Learn to recognize, nurture and protect your inner artist. You will move beyond pain and creative constriction.
  • LEARN THAT IT IS SAFE TO DREAM. We like to pretend it is hard to follow our heart’s dream. The truth is, it’s difficult to avoid walking through the many creative doors that will open for us. Leap and the net will appear. As we clarify our perceptions, we lose our misconceptions. We arrive at clarity, and clarity creates change.
  • RECOGNIZING POSSIBILITIES. As we gain strength, we free ourselves from our terrible fears of abandonment and we are able to live with a greater degree of spontaneity. We are freed from our constant demand for more and more reassurance, and our fellows are able to love us back without feeling so burdened. You will examine the idea that money worries are the ultimate creative block.
  • IDENTIFYING INSPIRATION. Art is not about thinking something up. It’s the opposite: it’s about getting something down. Instead of reaching for inventions, we learn to listen.
  • PROTECTING YOUR NEWFOUND ARTIST FROM HARM. Blocked artists are not lazy, they’re blocked. Procrastination is not laziness, it’s fear. The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist at all. This week, you will learn tools that involve taking creative risks, and these small risks teach you the courage that it takes to create.
  • AUTONOMY AS AN ARTIST. As an artist, self-respect comes from doing the work. Artists do not need to be rich, only richly supported. We kill parts of ourselves when we fail to nurture the artist within.

NOTE: Students are required to purchase a copy of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron as the foundational text for this course.

Instructor Rex McGee is a native of North Texas and a protege of the legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder. McGee has sold over 20 scripts for film and television since receiving his BA in Cinema from USC.  He has worked in both Los Angeles and Texas as a screenwriter and journalist, and he has conducted screenwriting and creativity workshops at SMU for the last 19 years. His film credits include Warner Brothers’ Pure Country, starring George Strait, Hallmark’s Where There’s a Will, starring Marion Ross and Keith Carradine, and the IMAX film, Texas: The Big Picture, for the Texas State History Museum in Austin. A member of the Writers Guild of America, West, he has collaborated on his screenplays with directors Jon Amiel, John Putch, Peter Masterson, Robert Mulligan, and Billy Wilder.  He adapted his own original screenplay of Pure Country for the musical stage, which premiered in 2017 at Lyric Stage in Irving, Texas:

Fee: $395 or $370 for former/current students

  • Rex McGee, Instructor
  • Enrollment limit: 10 students
  • Thursday Nights, August 23, 2018 - September 27, 2018, 6:30PM - 8:30PM
  • Special 6-Week Seminar meets at The Foundry Club at Mockingbird Station: 5307 E. Mockingbird Ln / Dallas, TX / 75206

Click the button below to register for this special 6-Week seminar.

What Business Do We Have Being Writers? - Guest Post by Blake Atwood

In “What I Earned (and How) During My First Year of Full-Time Freelancing,” publishing guru and writing expert Jane Friedman shares her exact income breakdown from her first full year of working for herself as a writer.

It’s a fascinating glimpse into the reality of what’s required of many working writers today: we can’t just rely on that one huge advance from a traditional publisher. (Even when we could, you still had to be one of the lucky chosen few.)

So, what’s a writer to do these days if they want to make a career out of their calling?

What business do we have being writers in the twenty-first century?

The Business of Being a Writer

Thankfully, Jane has compiled her decades of experience into The Business of Being a Writer, an accessible and overarching book that looks at the many avenues and possibilities that exist for today’s working writers.

In many ways, we live in a Golden Age of Publishing. You can self-publish online in seconds. But just because technology makes publishing easier doesn’t mean it’s made the business of being a writer any less so.

In fact, with so many voices wanting to be heard (and often for free), how can we ask—even demand—that we be paid for a commodity that’s become as plentiful as air?

Although we should always strive to become better writers, your writing skill won’t necessarily result in a writing career. (I’m sure there are thousands of stellar blog posts that have never led to paid writing work.) But, when you’re able to marry your writing talent to your business sense, that’s when a world of possibilities opens before you.

Jane wrote The Business of Being a Writer to address what she saw as a fundamental flaw in our system of producing writers, from MFAs to self-published authors. We lack a knack for business. We may know how to spot a dangling participle or critique others’ work, but we generally don’t know how to turn that hard-won knowledge and experience into something that produces income.

My Business of Being a Writer

Maybe it’s stereotypical—I certainly live down to it—but our artistic sensibilities tend to trump our business sense. It wasn’t until I took The Creative Class that I learned how to run a freelance business. It wasn’t until I joined a couple of close-knit online groups for editors that I learned how to garner leads. It wasn’t until I spoke to my CPA wife about what I charged that I learned I was devaluing what I offered.

In other words, it wasn’t until I admitted to myself that I was not a business-minded writer that I finally found myself incorporating BA Writing Solutions LLC—a business run by a writer.

I had (too much) confidence in my writing and editing, but I didn’t want to admit my ignorance on the business side. However, once I realized how much I had to learn, and how much I could gain, from getting real about my severe lack of business knowledge, that’s when my creative calling became my career.

I’m four years, dozens of books, and seventy-plus authors into my freelance work. Though my numbers aren’t quite like Jane’s (yet!), my pie chart breaks down in similar ways, through editing, writing, ghostwriting, book sales, affiliate sales, course sales, and teaching. In the last year, I’ve also added speaking to that assortment.

I’ve come to learn that Jane is right: “Despite ongoing transformations in the publishing industry, there are fundamental business principles that underlie writing and publishing success, and those principles are this book’s primary focus. Writers who learn to recognize the models behind successful authorship and publication will feel more empowered and confident to navigate a changing field, to build their own plans for long-term career development.”

I still doubt myself from time to time. I’m a writer, after all. But, after amassing paid experience across multiple avenues that all have writing as their foundation, I do “feel more empowered and confident” to keep doing this crazy thing we all love to do and secretly—or not so secretly—hope to get paid, and paid well, for doing.

If you want to get into the business of being a writer, join me for eight weeks every Wednesday from May 30 to July 25, 2018 (excepting July 4) from 7–9:30 p.m in my class The Business of Being a Writer. We’re going to work through Jane’s new book, and I can’t wait to learn even more about what’s possible.

Blake Atwood is an author, editor, and ghostwriter. He leads seminars and classes for Writing Workshops Dallas, co-leads the Dallas Nonfiction Authors Association, and hosts All Apprentices: Quick Editing Tips, a short podcast for writers seeking to become better self-editors.