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Interview with Memorist – Jessica Handler


Today I’m back to introduce you to another of our nine workshop presenters from this years upcoming Writers Conference at The Turnage Theatre on March 19th, 2016.

Jessica HJessica Handlerandler  will be presenting a workshop called: “There’s More Than “Me” in Memoir,” on how to write and tell a well-written story. She is the author of Invisible Sisters: A Memoir, and Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief and Loss. Her nonfiction has appeared on NPR, in Tin House, Drunken Boat, Brevity, Creative Nonfiction, Newsweek, The Washington Post, and More Magazine.

The oldest of three sisters, and the only one still living. Her sister Susie died of leukemia when she was eight and Jessica was ten. Her sister Sarah died of a rare blood disorder called Kostmann’s Syndrome, effectively the opposite of leukemia, when she was 27 and Jessica was 32.

Jessica Handler

She earned her  MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte (N.C.) and a B.S. in Communication from Emerson College in Boston.

Honors for her writing include residencies at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, tJessica Handler - Invisible Sisters (2)he Hambidge Center for Creative Arts & Sciences, a 2010 Emerging Writer Fellowship from The WJessica Handler - Braving the Fire (2)riters Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the 2009 Peter Taylor Nonfiction Fellowship at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and special mention for a 2008 Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in an old house in Atlanta, with her husband and more than one cat.

Without further delay, here is our interview with Jessica Handler:

Question:  What do you feel makes a good memoir?

A good memoir relates the author’s experience and his or her understanding of that experience. These are what I teach as the “nominal” and the “substantive” elements of memoir. It’s one thing to write about what happened to you, but it’s an entirely different level of craft and engagement with the reader to write about what that experience has come to mean to you, and why, or how you’ve changed and grown as a result of that life-changing experience.

Question:  After the facts, what is the most important part of non-fiction?

What a great question. Thanks for emphasizing facts! The most important part of creative nonfiction, after the facts are applied to the story, is how the author uses those facts. Are they using the facts as direct reporting, or are the facts a lens through which the author sees his or her story? How can those well-chosen facts support and add to the narrative? What do we leave out, and why do we make that choice?

Question:  What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had in your writing career?

Without a doubt, the most rewarding experience for me continues to be reader reactions to Invisible Sisters: A Memoir. When a reader tells me that my story, and my family’s story, has helped them know that they’re not alone in their own story of loss, then I feel like I’ve done something more than write a book that celebrates my family and who we could have been.

Question:  Do you have a favorite workshop you teach?

I love to teach, so I could say that my undergraduate classes in long form essay, or in narratives of the self, or screenwriting are my favorites, but then I’d be leaving out my workshops about memoir, about writing well about trauma, or about the role of research and discovery in nonfiction.  Can we say “all of them?”

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? If you haven’t already registered for the conference you need to go to our website and do it before you miss this year’s fantastic line-up. Remember, you only have nineteen days until the conference festivities begin with our amazing Friday night Kick-Off Event on March 18th with our keynote speaker, Southern writer, Sharyn McCrumb. Pitch the Publisher and Writers Open Mic are back again this year.

On Saturday, March 19th, the 4th Annual Pamlico Writers Conference & Competition begins at The Turnage Theatre. This year’s theme is “Exploring the Writer’s Voice” and we’ll have nine workshops centered around various aspects of the writer’s voice. Our day begins with a panel discussion on voice (Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction), after that we break up into three sets of three workshops during the rest of the day. Check out our website and see which of the workshops you’d like to attend and don’t forget to sign-up before it’s too late.

Website:  https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/2016-Conference.

Our other social media sites, are as follows:

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pwconference2015/
Twitter page: https://twitter.com/PamlicoWritersC

Looking forward to meeting all of you at this year’s conference.

Kay Wilson


Co-sponsored by:

NCARTS.org 2 Arts of the Pamlico


About Pamlico Writers Group

This is a publication of the Pamlico Writers Group, created to help promote and advance writers skills along with expanding our groups membership and reach. Our aim on this site is to keep you our readers and participants aware of upcoming events. Topics covered during the year will be news regarding our annual Pamlico Writers Conference and Competition, co-sponsored with Arts of the Pamlico, discussion of and from our conferences, participants and group news. PWG's Steering Committee has finalized details for our 5th Annual Pamlico Writers Conference on March 17 & 18th, 2017 at The Turnage Theatre, 150 W. Main St., Washington, NC. This year's theme is "Words," Image and Story". Our Friday night keynote speaker this year will be Author, Teacher, Speaker, and Director of Lavenson Studios, Zelda Lockhart. For more information on Ms. Lockhart visit her website at: http://www.zeldalockhart.com/. For a complete schedule of Friday night and Saturday events, go to our website at: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/. Be sure to check back often for more details of this and other events we have planned. The companion juried writing competition submissions opened on January 1, 2017. Winners are announced and an awards ceremony will be held during our Friday night Kick-Off Event. If you'd like more information on guidelines for entries, please go to our website: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/ All registrations for both conference and/or entry into the competition will be made through our web site: https://www.pamlicowritersgroup.wildapricot.org/. Again, see site for complete details. Thank you for visiting! We hope to see you again soon. **If you are a writer interested in finding a critique group or other writers, we encourage you to come and join us. If you life at a distance please don't let that diswade you, we have several members who participate predominately on-line. Our meetings are the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month at 7:00 pm here in Washington, NC at the Turnage Theatre. We would love to hear from you regarding comments or ideas you have for the group. This blog is authored by members of our writer's group. Thank you for stopping by. See you soon, Kaylene Wilson Program Coordinator


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