5/4/2014 1 Comment
As part of Sue Silverman's WOW blog tour, I'm honored to have Sue Silverman give a guest post on her journey as a memoirist...
Step One Along the Path
As a memoirist, following a path from childhood to, well, middle age, I’ve written thousands of words on thousands of pieces of paper, with more than a few detours along the way! It took me years to even begin the process – to see and hear all the true-true stories I needed to tell.
I actually began as a fiction writer – my first detour – drafting something like 4 – 6 (I forget the actual number!) very bad (thankfully unpublished) autobiographical novels about child abuse. In fiction, however, I simply couldn't discover an emotionally authentic voice. Over a ten-year period, I can almost say I suffered from writer’s block. Or let’s call it active writer’s block. I was, after all, sitting at my computer a solid six hours a day. But I wasn’t writing what I should have been writing: a memoir.
I was scared.
So year after year, I plodded along a circuitous route disguising my true narrative as fiction.
Step Two Along the Path
Finally, with the urging of a therapist, not a writing instructor, I discovered the courage to write my story as memoir.
Given that ten-year foundation in the craft of writing, I was, at least, able to complete Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You in three months.
Step Three Along the Path
This first memoir examines my childhood growing up in my incestuous family. But it doesn’t include the years that I acted out a sexual addiction, a result of the incest.
Yet I knew I had to discover the words and the metaphors for that next stage of my life. I didn’t yet fully understand the ramifications of the addiction. Nor would I, until I overcame the shame enough to write about it.
Five years later I finished Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction.
A Detour Along the Way
After completing Love Sick, I took a break from this intense focus on myself. I wrote a poetry collection, Hieroglyphics in Neon, as well as a craft book, Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. I’d discovered the value of memoir; now I wanted to encourage others to create their personal narratives as well.
Step Four Along the Path
Yet I knew I still had more words to write in order to construct a clearer path of my own life. I now envisioned an even broader vista outside my writerly window, an additional route to follow out of the quagmire of the past.
The destination? A memoir called The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew.
This new book, much more ironic than dark, explores my conflicted feelings toward Judaism growing up, and my efforts to pass as Christian, refuge from my scary Jewish father. I depict this, most forcefully, in three separate encounters with the overtly Christian, 1960s pop-music icon – and father of four daughters – Pat Boone. He represents someone wholly other from my father, a kind of talisman reflecting my wish to belong to the dominant religion and culture.
My search for identity was also a desire to flee my Russian Jewish heritage. I wanted to fit into the WASPy suburb in which I lived. I wanted to look like Pat Boone’s daughters, resemble all my Christian high-school friends. I wanted to meld into my surroundings.
The Meaning of the Journey
One book. Two books. Three.
Even though each of these memoirs stands alone in and of itself, still, there are connections that make them almost a trilogy as I move from terror (incest), to edgy danger (addiction), to a deepening of the search for identity (both ironic and spiritual). On this path, there is also a movement from darkness to light…from danger to, in this new book, humor – or at least black humor! As these narratives flow one into the other, the path clarifies. I emerge from the journey more whole, more “me,” more aware, and less conflicted.
What does your path look like? How clear – or confusing – is your journey?
Sue William Silverman, author bio:
Sue William Silverman’s new memoir is The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew. Her two other memoirs are Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, which is also a Lifetime TV movie, and Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, which won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction. Her craft book is Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. As a professional speaker, Sue has appeared on The View, Anderson Cooper 360, and more. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Be sure to visit Sue Silverman's website and a link to her book The Pat Boone Fan Club on Amazon.