Every year our UU church has a auction to raise money for church activities. Not everything is an auction, however. Some goods and services are just outright sold. It’s fun, each year, for us to try to come up with a mix of old favorites from past years (caroling and chili supper party) along with some new ones (bid to be a named character in one of my books).
One of the items I sold was for a five-hour “How to Write Your Novel” class with lunch included. I figured it would appeal to a small group, and I was right. Three signed up and paid and two of those attended.
My plan for the day was simple: find out what kind of fiction they wanted to write and provide support structures to help them get there.
Neither wanted to write a novel, but they thought it would be an interesting experience and helpful nevertheless. That’s why they signed up.
And I think it was helpful to them. They were both eager participants and asked questions and offered suggestions. A good day I think.
However, I felt the guilt because, even though it was advertised as novel writing, they wanted to do memoir. I worried I let them down.
I know some basics of novel writing apply even if one is writing memoir. There’s a story to be told, after all, and dramatic tension and pacing are apt in memoir as well. I think I did provide an introduction to those elements, and others in common between memoir and fiction. Still, the niggling feeling.
You see, I know bupkis about writing memoir. Never tried it. Never wanted to. Almost never read it. So I was kind of a fraud, pretending to help them meet their goals, chase their dreams. I am in the exact same bind when asked to respond to poetry in one of my writing groups.
Do others of you who teach writing bump up against that? What do you do?