My Learning Curve at the Writers Digest Webinar

Last week I learned a lot of new things: how to create a PowerPoint presentation (not too hard), how to teach through a GoToMeeting webinar (challenging), and how to multitask to the enth degree! During the webinar, I spoke into the headphone, teaching from my notes, turning the pages of the PowerPoint images, and watching the screen for questions from the audience. Wow.

I have never “talked” to a blank wall before, and it’s really different not to interact with my audience. I missed the voices, the spontaneous discussions, and I missed the creative flow of that kind of teleseminar that I’m so used to at NAMW. However, I could see the value of such a focused and intense presentation, and I was VERY grateful for the staff at Writers Digest who were managing the webinar behind the scenes. And, I love learning new things, so this really took me to an experience that I can build on in the future–after I recover, that is.

Then, as we progressed, I “met” the students at the webinar, first through their excellent questions, and when I critiqued their 500 word submissions. As I always do, I immersed myself in their work and learned about their stories, each person’s unique point of view and style. I felt that I got to know them a little, and that’s what I love most about teaching.

The Books on the Webinar

I used several books to teach beginnings of books, showing how the first lines draw in the reader,  offer us quickly a sense of place, delineate character, and keep us wanting to read more.

This Boy’s Life — Tobias Wolff 

Pay attention to the first few lines, and note also the first lines of chapter 2: “I didn’t come to Utah to be the same boy I’d been before. I had my own dreams of transformation…”

Fierce Attachments — Vivian Gornick  She begins by taking us in scene to the apartment where she grew up, and introduces us to her mother and the other women in the building, painting a picture of community and the close relationship with her mother.

Eat, Pray, Love — Elizabeth Gilbert 

We discussed the three part structure of this memoir–suggested in the title, and I used a few lines of her strong sensual details to point out how quickly we are launched into scene. First line: “I wish Giovanni would kiss me.”

Prisoner of Tehran  —  Marina Nemat

The beginning of the book starts with the adult narrator, and the story of Marina’s imprisonment at age 16 is told with a structure that moves back and forth in time.

Love Sick  —   Sue William Silverman

 This book offers a quick lesson in how to draw in the reader immediately in just a couple of sentences to the theme of the book–trying to recover from sexual addiction. “Every Thursday at noon I have sex with Rick in room #213 of the Rainbow Motel. Today, even though I promised my therapist I wouldn’t come here again, I pull into the lot and park beside Rick’s black Ford Bronco.”

I recommend all these books, and wish everyone the best of luck as they work on the craft of memoir writing. By the way, the webinar is for sale in the Writers Digest Bookstore for a year.

Keep writing!