Writing the Self as a Character in Nonfiction ~ One Day Writing Our Lives Intensive


Mexico’s greatest female artist, if not most well-known, Frida Kahlo painted brutally honest self-portraits that reveal her psychological and emotional response to adversity and trauma. She was alone often, and, in turn, worked obsessively with self-portraiture. Her reflection fuelled an unflinching interest in identity and her divided roles as artist, lover, and wife.

What can writers learn from Kahlo’s relentless interrogation of herself? Is this kind of intricate analysis and reflection of self necessary? How can it feed and layer our writing and our stories?

friday kahlo painting

Memoir and personal essay, too, is self-portraiture. In one essay, the writer may paint herself in a schoolyard, quiet and sad but also angry and ready to fight the bully who is terrorizing her and her classmates. In another essay, she reveals herself as terrified and ashamed when a professor calls her irresponsible and questions how she got into an Ivy League. Does the reader of either of these stories need to know that the narrator was raised in Brooklyn? That her grandmother has been working since she was five and only went up to the third grade in school? That her special place when she was a child was the fort she built in the bottom bunk? How do these truths bleed into our writing subconsciously? How do we decide what to write and what to leave out?

Creating the self as a character is a significant element of autobiographical writing. In fiction, characterization is a given, but what about memoir? How do we glean through all that material of the self and decide which details can be left out in one piece of writing, but are absolutely critical to the next?

In this intensive we will discuss these questions and engage in deeply reflective activities to help you develop yourself as a character on the page.

Date: January 26th, 2019
Time: 12pm-5pm
Cost: $60 (a $20 nonrefundable registration fee is required to hold your seat in the class. The balance of $40 due by January 25th, 2019)

To register and/or ask questions, email writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com.


About the facilitator: 

Vanessa Mártir is a NYC based writer, educator and writing coach. She is currently completing her memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings, and chronicles the journey at vanessamartir.blog. A five-time VONA/Voices and two-time Tin House fellow, Vanessa’s work has been widely published, including in The Rumpus, Bitch MagazineVanessa Martir Photo, the VONA/Voices Anthology, Dismantle, and the NYTimes Bestseller Not That Bad, edited by Roxane Gay. Vanessa is the founder of the #52essays2017 challenge, and creator of the Writing Our Lives Workshop, which she teaches in NYC and online. She has served as guest editor of Aster(ix) and The James Franco Review. When she’s not writing or teaching, you can find Vanessa either on a dance floor, in a gym punching a bag or in the woods hiking and talking to birds.

For more on Vanessa, check out her video on why she created Writing Our Lives, what’s different about her teaching style, and future plans for WOL.

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