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This class is for memoir/nonfiction writers who have a story to tell that has something to do with the brain: either the writer’s own or that of someone he or she loves or both. We’ll use passages by authors who’ve traveled this terrain as well as in-class prompts and at-home assignments to get the flow going. As we read and write, we will focus on metaphor, reflection, selection of detail, richness of voice, and how these elements can be deployed in writing about the brain.
Ann Hedreen is a writer and documentary filmmaker. She is the author of a memoir, Her Beautiful Brain (She Writes Press, 2014) and the long-running blog, The Restless Nest. She has also been published in The Wall Street Journal, Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, The Seattle Times, Minerva Rising and other publications. With her husband and filmmaking partner, Rustin Thompson, she has made more than 100 short films and several feature-length documentaries, including Quick Brown Fox: an Alzheimer’s Story. Their latest film, Zona Intangible, will be completed in 2016. She is also at work on her second book, The Observant Doubter.
Teaching philosophy: I believe that writing our own stories transforms our lives. Powerfully. Radically. Not necessarily overnight, because writing is work, but I believe that when writers are doing that work, transformation begins to happen. I’ve seen it in older adults, writing seriously for the first time in their lives; I’ve seen it in teens under court supervision. I’ve seen it in myself. I believe everyone who wants to write can learn to write. I believe everyone has a story to tell. I also believe it’s easy to frighten a fledgling writer. When I teach, I do everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen. I want my students to discover that they really do have something to say and a voice, uniquely theirs, with which to say it.
Writer(s) I always return to: Anne Lamott. Gloria Steinem. The poetry of Rumi, Denise Levertov and Kathleen Flenniken (especially Plume). Two memoirs by famous novelists: Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory and Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and one by a poet: Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Favorite writing advice: From Brenda Uelland's Me: a Memoir: “Whenever people write from their true selves (not from their bogus literary selves) it is interesting and one is pulled along into it; and it does me good to read it, and it does them good to write it; it makes them freer and bolder in every way.”