I am very pleased and terribly excited to be part of the Wild Mountain Memoir faculty, where I will be teaching two classes in the areas of expertise I feel I can offer the most good, to writers in all stages of the memoir process. I have been writing since I was five years old and have had great good fortune and joy in doing so. My own education was at UC Berkeley in English Literature, where I studied with Pulitzer prize winners Philip Levine and Thom Gunn. I went on to a career as a copywriter and creative director on Levi’s and other major accounts in San Francisco, while always writing my own work on the side…and eventually becoming a full-time author.
In 1998, my agent, Kim Witherspoon, plucked my manuscript from the slush pile and eventually sold it to Knopf and Twentieth Century Fox; I was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Author of 1999. My second book, a roman à clef about my high-risk pregnancy, The Zygote Chronicles, was published by Grove/Atlantic and was a Washington Post Book of The Year in 2003. My third book, Split: A Memoir of Divorce began as a 5,000 word feature in O magazine entitled, “After He Left.” It was subsequently written into a memoir and published by Penguin Worldwide in both the US and England. Split was chosen as a Library Journal Book of The Year in 2008, and was a Guardian Bestseller and a WH Smith Bestseller in the UK. It was excerpted in the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column, as well as in The London Times.
A journalist of the human condition, I have been interviewed on NPR several times; published and profiled in New York Magazine, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Salon, Mademoiselle, Glamor, Marie Clare, Modern Bride, and Redbook; I am a frequent contributor to O Magazine.
My next book, Add To Cart: A Memoir of Loss, Lust, and Finding My Second Husband Online at 50, is in its final stage of completion and agony. I live in Durham, North Carolina with my husband, three children, two dogs, and a cat the size of a pony. For more information, please visit my website at www.suzannefinnamore.com. I look forward to seeing you in March.
Finnamore’s Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat Classes
Structure: Without It You’re Lost
Wherein I explain that memoir writing is not wandering through the forest of your memory without a compass or map…how not all of us are genius prose poets who can free associate our way to a cohesive text or compelling story. I will offer sturdy advice on how structure, like the chassis of a car, can and will transport both writer and reader to a place of wonder and enlightenment. How without structure you will flail and falter and drift into the night.
Using my first book, Otherwise Engaged and my third book, Split: A Memoir of Divorce, as prime examples, I will demonstrate how structure took me from the blank page (and in the case of my memoir, a place of chaos and emotional desolation) to a tight manuscript, an author’s advance from Knopf and Penguin Worldwide, and eventually to recognition and Oprah’s Book Club. I will also expound on my own recipe for creating not just structure but a cinematic feeling that will create tension and hook the reader in from page one (How To Write A Scene: THE NECKLACE THEORY.) An Extensive and brutally honest Question and Answer period will make up the last third of this class.
Getting Out Of Your Own Way/ Overcoming Fear and Rejection and Turning Your Very Worst Moments Into Money
In this class I deconstruct the radical decision to turn your worst moments into money in the form of a memoir that many many people really really don’t want you to write. Using personal anecdotes and writing existences, I will lay myself bare and describe how and why I wrote my divorce memoir, what I kept in and left out (and why) and the process of having it legally vetted by my publisher. I will take students through all the submission and editorial steps of sending a memoir to press. I intend to galvanize students to own their experiences and give them hard won advice on how to do it without ending up in shackles, either real or imagined.
I will also discuss rejection and how as writers we must embrace rejection as our very best friend and as a child of our heart and art. I will bring my thick folio of rejection letters and my article on rejection that ran in O Magazine. I will describe my process – which is not at all unusual – wherein my memoir was rejected (repeatedly) and was first in fact written as a novel (out of fear) before emerging as a memoir and having multiple bids by major publishers. How rejection and revisions happened with all three of my books — and most importantly, how to somehow deal with it and go on to press. I will encourage and explain students how to traverse these flaming hoops and press on regardless. (Another) Extensive and brutally honest Question and Answer period will make up the last third of this class.