Tag Archives: memoir

is it too much? wrangling with trauma memoir

stencil graffiti of a green butterflyGood morning! Bay Area folks, are you soaking up this amazing sunshine? You know how fickle our weather is here — get yourself out in it before it’s gone! Take a notebook, even better, and let the words flow while you sit somewhere outside; let the people, the growing things, the small birds around you be your prompts!

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(A bit of this morning’s post gets into some specific details around sexual trauma — just be easy with yourselves as you read, ok? xox, -Jen)

I want to write a bit about the controversy around a book called Tiger, Tiger by Margaux Fragoso, which is a memoir written by a woman about her experience/’relationship’ with a pedophile who began abusing her when she was 7 years old.  I’ve read a number of reviews of this book, including one that calls her a ‘real life Lolita unapologetic for affair‘ (and this article, too, rather than including a photo of the author or her book, includes a photo of a book entitled “the Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure,” which was recently banned by Amazon — what?).

Reviews question whether the author showed good taste in going into as much detail as she did in her scenes portraying her abuse, and they call her a ‘willing victim’ (at 7, or 10, or…). Too, they say there’s no way she could have recalled as much as she did about conversations she had with her father: how could she recollect a whole long diatribe of his, and even remember when he stopped and took a sip of his beer, asks the NPR reviewer. But isn’t this what we do with memoir? Isn’t this the landscape that memoir occupies, the place of truth that is furnished with fiction’s gift of plot development, scene crafting, narrative structure? Do we ask this question of all memoir-ists? I feel this way every time I read a memoir: how could they possibly remember that? It brings me to despair sometimes, thinking that I’ll never be able to write my own memoir or some of my stories, because I don’t remember the specificity of conversation, I can’t remember everything he said, how he said it, what he sounded like when he did. My memories of my adolescence are fuzzier, sometimes devastatingly clear, sometimes ghostly. This author is pulling from her journals, and memoir also, I’m going to venture, gives some leniency around details: yes, it happened this way, or close to it. Memoir is a crafted thing, it’s structured, it’s not autobiography, it’s a work of literature. Memoir rides close to fiction, and we call it memoir, I think, when we are conscious of working to keep most of the work on this side of the line between fact and fiction.

And then there’s the fact that folks have a hard time with the descriptions of the sex, the scenes of abuse. Why would anyone read this book? some reviewers ask. And then I wonder why I’m working at all on some of my writing projects — who will want to read them? The readers ask, why go into so much detail during those sex scenes, those scenes of abuse? Couldn’t we have just gotten the point with some more obfuscation, with metaphor, with hints? Are these scenes the reason that the author is called ‘unapologetic’?

I haven’t read the book, though I will eventually. What I will say is that these scenes, in my own case, are an essential part of the story. They are a part of the making of the character, the narrator, that this memoir is seeking to reveal. We as a society, of course, have this split-personality when it comes to sex in our art: We are fascinated by it and repelled. We understand, intellectually, that people are sexual creatures — but we wonder if it’s really polite to talk about it matter-of-factly. Scenes depicting the realities of sexual violence, in all its forms, particularly in its more insidious forms, the ways it can look like seduction and play, are necessary for us to represent and for us to allow ourselves to read. Sexual violence isn’t always brute force, it often isn’t brute force. It much more often, I think, would look to an outside viewer as though the child/young person/partner being abused was a ‘willing victim.’ If we don’t look at this reality, we as a society don’t change — we, as a society, will continue to make space for more children to be sexually abused, because we won’t want to see how people continue to use sexual manipulation and coercion to their own ends.

Yesterday in my journal I wrote, What sort of rape victim uses a vibrator during her assaults? This one. That’s a terrible line to write, and I feel apologetic even in the middle of it. If I don’t include this caveat, though, I am also the unapologetic victim. In my writing about my own experience of sexual violence, I slip easily and consistently between the language of rape and the language of having sex. I would never have said that he was raping me, when I was a teenager — it took years for me to come to that word as an option for me, because his force wasn’t physical, it was psychological and insidious.

Here’s a line that saved me recently: In Tara Hardy‘s chapbook, Shoulder Strap Slip, in the piece, “Being (This) Femme Means,” she writes: “Being a femme means knowing that just because you’re cumming doesn’t mean you’re not being raped.” That’s it. I closed the book when I read that line, grateful, devastated, seen. I don’t know how Tara felt when she wrote that line, if she felt embarrassed or worried or scared or knowing and sure of herself — I closed the book when I read that line. I was on public transportation, I think. I looked out the window, I said, Yes yes yes, and held something in my heart open to witness.

There are stories we have to tell that many people won’t want to read. That’s ok. There are others who will need to read those stories. This is what I remind myself, when I am feeling the most ashamed in my own work. I need to get back to that work now, for at least a little bit.

They will want to (continue to) make us ashamed for our words. We don’t need to give them our shame by putting down our pens and shutting up, by feeding the part that wants to write the stories down with alcohol or too much food or too much partying or too much facebook. We can give that part of ourselves the gift of 20 minutes or even an hour of writing time, we can open the notebook, offer the pen, say, Here, I love you, we made it, let’s go.

Want to do that now? Take 20 minutes, take your morning coffee break, take your lunchtime, with your notebook and a small part of the story that you most want to tell. The story that’s most important to you, right now, to be able to write. Start with the line, “This is what I wanted to tell  you…” and use it over and over, if you want, even for thirty sentences in a row — it’s ok! Let the raw material out onto the page — that’s the clay you use to craft your literature.

Thank you for your honesty, for the ways you have lied to hold truth safe, for the ways you have saved your good and broken heart, for your gorgeous and necessary words.

Three calls for submissions: Butch/Femme and BDSM writings!

Get that writing in, and pass the word!

1) Daddy’s Little Girl: Butch/Femme Erotica

2) Lesbian BDSM Erotica Anthology

3) Chorus: The Writing of Femmes, Butches and Transpeople

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Daddy’s Little Girl: Butch/Femme Erotica
Edited by D. L. King
To be published by Cleis Press
Deadline: January 15, 2011
Payment: $50 and 2 copies of the anthology

D. L. King is looking for your hottest butch/femme erotica.

What is it about a pretty girl in a tight skirt bent over to retrieve something she’s dropped? Or that hotter-than-hot butch, swaggering into the bar like she owns it, eyes undressing every pretty girl in the place?

Do butches all worship at the alter of their femmes fatale; do little girls all have a need to serve their, big, strong daddies? Tell me about girls salivating at the sight of well-filled and packed jeans and bois dreaming of having a beautiful girl’s red lipstick smeared across their mouths.

Are all little girls good, or are some of them naughty? Do some butches need the discipline only their lady can provide? Tell me stories of daddies opening doors for their girls, feeding them morsels of the finest pâtes, cherishing and protecting them. Then tell me stories of sexy sirens, luring unsuspecting butches to their demise on rocky shores, hot, confident women in silk and lace during the day who will do anything to serve their daddy’s needs at night–anything.

Send me stories that are sweet, kinky, sexy, romantic and/or dangerous but most of all, send me stories that will singe my sheets. All characters must be at least 18.

Stories should be between 2,000 and 4,500 words, double-spaced, 12 pt Times New Roman or Courier New. Please indent the first line of each paragraph one-half inch and do not include extra lines between paragraphs. Please number your pages. No fancy fonts, no weird sizes, no bizarre formatting, no strange colors, please.

Send your story as a .doc (NOT .docx) attachment and include the title, pseudonym (if applicable) and your legal name and mailing address to butchfemme-antho@yahoo.com. Subject line should read: Submission: TITLE. Please include a bio of 50 words or less. Direct any questions to the same address. Original stories only. (If you are absolutely unable to send a .doc attachment, I will accept a .rtf.)

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Call for Submissions: Lesbian BDSM Erotica Anthology [Title Forthcoming]
To be published by Cleis Press in fall 2011
Editor Sinclair Sexsmith is looking for hot, sexy, well-written stories about kinky sex between queer women, from bondage scenarios to power play to role play to sadism and masochism to sensation play, for a new anthology of lesbian BDSM erotica. Looking for characters with a range of age, race, sexual experience, gender identity and gender expression: butch, femme, genderqueer, gender-non-conforming, dapper, and others will all be considered. Cis women, trans women, and genderqueer characters who identify with the lesbian community are welcome. Stories should have strong literary voice, characters, tension, and rising action. All characters must be over 18, prose only will be considered. For examples of what I am looking for, see Tristan Taormino’s collection Best Lesbian Bondage Erotica.
Deadline: January 1, 2011
How to submit: Send your story in a Times New Roman 12 point black font Word document (.doc) with pages numbered of 1,500 to 5,000 words to lesbianbdsmerotica@gmail.com. Double space the document and indent the first line of each paragraph. US grammar required. If you are using a pseudonym, provide your real name and be clear under which you would like to be published. Include your mailing address and a 50 words or less bio in the third person. Publisher has final approval over the manuscript.
About the editor: Sinclair Sexsmith runs the awardwinning personal online writing project Sugarbutch Chronicles: The Gender, and Relationship Adventures of a Kinky Queer Butch Top at sugarbutch.net. With work published in various anthologies, including the Best Lesbian Erotica series, Sometimes She Lets Me: Butch/Femme Erotica, and Visible: A Femmethology volume 2, Mr. Sexsmith also writes columns for online publications and facilitates workshops on sex, gender, and relationships. Find her full portfolio and schedule at http://www.mrsexsmith.com.

In case you want the link, and the call for submissions, there is also a website:http://lesbianbdsmerotica.wordpress.com/

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BFP Anthology: Call for Submissions

Chorus: The Writing of Femmes, Butches and Transpeople.
an anthology of writing from Femmes, Butches, Transfolks and Queers

Editor: Medusa

Submissions Deadline: December 1, 2010

Anticipated Publication Date: Early Spring 2011

Chorus: The Writing of Femmes, Butches and Transpeople, a forthcoming collection of writing voices from an array of Queer folks, aims to showcase the real ,radical, and retaliatory writing of Femmes, Butches, Transpeople, Queers, and other identities.

Show me your muse, your breakup poetry, your dirtiest smut, your deepest secrets, your short stories. I want your best words, the things you keep sacred when they reveal too much of yourself. Together, our voices will form a chorus of amazing story and song, amazing poetry, and our most magical words.

At this time, I am seeking written word only. Please do not sent photographs, drawings, or printed art. I will be doing a separate anthology for printed artwork at a later time due to printing requirements.

Submissions must be sent as Word Files with 12 point Times New Roman font. Work must be previously unpublished (unless you have written it here on ThePlanet). Fiction, memoir, and short stories must be less than 5000 words in length, typed double-spaced. You may submit up to 5 poems, short stories, essays, pieces of erotica.

Author maintains and controls the copyright of their essay and rights to republish their work in any publication.

By submitting work, you agree that Butchfemmeplanet.com, its owners, Moderators, and participants holds no responsibility for loss, damage, or harm to you or your work.

Send Submissions only (NO QUESTIONS) to butchfemmeplanet@gmail.com You MUST include your screen name, the name you want to accompany your pieces of writing, your phone number, email address, and a short bio that will appear in the book if your selection is chosen to be published.
Please put the title of your work and the word “CHORUS” in the subject line of the email. Please email each piece of writing separately.

Please ask questions in this thread that pertain to this process and I will do my best to answer them in a timely manner.

Our anthology will be professionally printed and published and will be available for sale on Amazon.com and through order at Barnes and Noble, as well as here on ButchFemmePlanet.com. It will feature a glossy front and back cover and an ISBN number.
The price of the anthology will be completely dependent on how many submissions we get.

Each person submitting pieces of writing who are chosen for publication will receive one free copy of the anthology. No other payment will be rendered.

I am VERY excited about this project and can’t wait to see what you all come up with! I hope that anyone who has ever wanted to see their writing in print will consider submitting for this process.

Good luck!

or some other gentleness

yellow nasturtium growing out of a hole in some wood, maybe out of the side of an old boat...For me, today, self-care looks like sleeping until 9 even though the alarm went off at 6.

It’s also about to look like drinking my chamomile-nettle-green tea and eating my oatmeal out in the backyard while reading a book, instead of at a computer.

Self-care today is also going to look like a trip to the beach and a short visit with the ocean between my first and second workshops today.

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I want to invite you to find and read this essay: “Writing for Our Lives: The Power of Memoir for Marginalized Students,” by Shelley Vermilya, about the ways our lives contain and create knowledge, and how we can use memoir or autoethnographic writing to access and understand and explain that knowledge. It’s not online as far as I can see — go to your local univ. library and get a student to get you a copy.

You can also read her chapter, “Memoir: An Academic, Democratic, Political and Liberating Framework” (in the Power of Words: A Transformative Language Arts Reader), which contains this: “These…self-referential studies inspire an epistemology that is disobedient to the power relations of traditional pedagogy.” Yes, yes, yes.

Re-reading Shelley’s work is reminding me other ways to talk about what I/we do in the workshops.

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Been feeling overwhelmed and like there was just no time for a break. And now, look: I’ve flexed a little, and made room for some much needed downtime today.

No prompt today: if you have that ten minutes for writing, you might write about your favorite ways to care for self, or you can take that time for a walk or some other gentleness…

Thanks for your you-ness.

what do I want to tell you in 10 minutes

060109

What do I want to tell you in ten minutes? That I was catapulted into shame-slavery and prosto-destitution is only one strand of this miner’s fabric. There’s the way I used to cuddle and curl under a yew bush (that still today I spell like “ewe,” like mama sheep, and so maybe she was a haven, too, in her funny fur curly like the dark green fronds of the bush)         anyway         how the yew bush grew like a cave up and around space, and I could sweep brush the dirt floor, bring books, shelter myself early from my mother’s storms.

Sheltering self in words, which were always a haven, as far back as I can remember, although I don’t think I can say they’re natural, at least they’re clean.

The details and rough sketch outline include three houses in and around middle-Eastern Nebraska by the age of 6, and about four more by the age of 10, and then there was only one even if that one didn’t include my father         he had his own home         and it was an hour southwest from The One         down the black ribbon of interstate 80 that cut through dark green cottonwood and oak and tall rushes living the sides of the highway, filled with red-winged blackbirds         cutting across the broad flat damp sandbar of the Platte River and all its attendant mosquitoes and the echoes of sandhill cranes that were never there on the river when we rushed by in Mom’s burgundy-red Mercury Monarch or dad’s too-dull-bright orange and white-capped Volkswagen Van         that road led back and forth to Dad’s house, not grandmother’s (over the river and through those woods)         but slowly the road began to disintegrate, disappear         for lack of use         they’re still rebuilding every time I go back         more construction, more hope

once we entered The One house the last one there wasn’t any room for another         the town was too small for the both of them         and one turned around and let himself out.

National Assoc of Memoir Writers FREE teleconference tomorrow!

Visit the NAMW conference site to sign up for tomorrow’s telesummit and to get more information. It looks to be packed with amazing information and connections!

-Jen

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2009 Second NAMW Virtual Conference

We’re inviting you to sign-up for A FREE teleconference sponsored by the National Association of Memoir Writers to be held on April 23rd starting at 10 AM PDT. You will receive the conference call information after you register.

Schedule of calls are as follows (please note that the times are in PDT):

10:00 AM Kay Adams Writing Through Troubled Times
11:15 AM Dr. James Pennebaker Putting Emotional Experiences into Words
12:30 PM Lucia Cappachione Re-Membering Your Self: Creative Journaling for Memoirists
1:45 PM Christina Baldwin The Spiral of Experience—How Story Changes Over Time
3:00 PM Marina Nemat Writing and PTSD

Linda Joy Myers, Ph.D., President of The National Association of Memoir Writers (NAMW) is host and director of the 2009 Virtual Conference.

Guest Speakers for this year’s conference:

Kathleen “Kay” Adams, LPC, RPT
10 AM PDT | 11 AM MDT | 12 PM CDT | 1 PM EDT

Writing Through Troubled Times:

Journal Your Way from Chaos to Calm

Anxiety is the new pandemic. Our workplaces, families, campuses and communities teem with overload and uncertainty. We’re exhausted by the demands on our personal resources. Money shrinks, conflict swells, and stress shatters our confidence and clarity.

Dr. James Pennebaker
11:15 AM PDT | 12:15 PM MDT | 1:15 PM CDT | 2:15 PM EDT

Putting Emotional Experiences into Words
In this virtual conference Dr. Pennebaker, world-famous psychologist who conducts research on how writing heals, will teach us how expressive writing—writing true experiences with emotional content– creates positive change and promotes the healing of trauma.

Dr. Lucia Capacchione Ph.D., A.T.R.
12:30 PM PDT | 1:30 PM MDT | 2:30 PM CDT | 3:30 PM EDT

Re-Membering Your Self: Creative Journaling for Memoirists

In this teleconference Dr. Lucia Capacchione will discuss the relevance of art, collage, and non-dominant hand writing and drawing in the context of a journal for memoirists. Tapping into rich stores of memories using right-brain techniques, which she originated,

Christina Baldwin
1:45 PM PDT | 2:45 PM MDT | 3:45 PM CDT | 4:45 PM EDT

THE SPIRAL OF EXPERIENCE–How Story Changes Over Time

The power of story allows us to interpret experience in ways that potentially transform facts and events into meaningful insights. It is from the stories we make out of experience that we create the lives we lead and the people we are.

Marina Nemat,
3 PM PDT | 4 PM MDT | 5 PM CDT | 6 PM EDT

Writing and PTSD

Marina Nemat is the author of Prisoner of Tehran where she chronicles her harrowing experience as a prisoner in the famous Evin prison in Tehran. Marina was only 16 years old when she was arrested. She was tortured and came within minutes of being executed.

We are excited this year to present the top writers, researchers, and mentors in the field of therapeutic writing, all of whom were gave us a huge amount of inspiration and information at the 2008 Journal Conference in Denver. Kay Adams, one of our guests for this important telesummit, was the director of this important and first ever conference that brought together for the first time the important people in the memoir, journaling, and therapeutic writing world.

Some of you may want to know the definition of therapeutic writing. Dr. James Pennebaker, one of our guests and the premier researcher in the field of writing to heal, has done many dozens of studies with hundreds of people that demonstrate all the ways that writing helps to heal—the body, the mind, and the spirit. The work of Kay Adams work and Christina Baldwin for the past three decades has been in the area of writing from soul, listening to the inner spirit, and using writing as a way to more deeply know the self. When we are connected with our deepest inner self, we are able to be authentic, to tell our truths, and free ourselves from some of the constraints and pain of the past.

Writing is a way to listen to ourselves, to give voice to what we deeply know about ourselves, our society, our planet. All the presenters at this very special telesummit will help to give us guidance, inspire us, and evoke the desire to use writing as a regular technique in our lives to create wholeness and even happiness.

Please join us for this wonderful and inspiring telesummit. You can also join us by phone for FREE. Sign up here, and you will receive more details about the telesummit, including new presenters and details about the conference, as time draws near.

Note: If you have signed up for last year’s NAMW Telesummit, then you’re automatically added to the list and you need not sign-up for this teleconference.