Last night I went to a reading and discussion at Water Street Bookstore here in Exeter with author Melanie Brooks. The reading and discussion were of her new book Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists who Shaped Art from Trauma.
In her case, the trauma she refers to is that in the mid-1980s her father, a prominent surgeon in Canada, suffered a heart attack, underwent a quadruple bypass, and received HIV tainted blood during the surgery. Being the 1980s, her parents kept the illness a secret.
Writing Hard Stories comes from her research to write a memoir of her experience as she worked to earn an MFA.
Though the reading and her discussion felt as if it touched the surface of what it means to write through trauma and honestly in memoir, there was one takeaway that I thought to share that comes from, I believe, Andre Dubus III: When writing the first draft, don't think about the people who will read it.
Meaning, if you write about your alcoholic mother and her abuse and degradation from addiction and she is still alive, push from your mind that she may read it. You will self-edit and the writing will come across as soft, glancing off the subject rather than burrowing into it. After the writing, you can begin to think about how to ensure you keep the strength of the writing while mitigating harm it may cause.