The Story You Tell


Whether you write fiction, poetry, or memoir, it all has a piece of your story in it.  Maybe the question becomes:  how well is it hidden?  Last week we talked about zines and how they can include all sorts of writing.  This week, we’ll start out talking about a sub-category of the zine genre, perzines.

A combination of the words personal and zines, perzines are best described as opinion (sometimes written as conversation with the reader) or personal experience pieces.  Just as with regular zines, perzines are self-published and distributed by the writer.  I recently created one with re-telling of remembrances of my grandmother.  And I struggled with it – was I remembering correctly?  Were these my stories to tell?  Are the stories offensive to society or members of my family?

These are only some of the questions that become attached to any sort of personal writing.  You might call them the ethics of writing.  If you are writing for only yourself, then the questions don’t matter.  If you are writing as part of a genealogy project, then accuracy becomes more important.  Are you writing for publication?  Then these questions can flat-out stop you in your tracks.

My advice is the same if you are writing a zine, a novel, or a poem: write the story, don’t think about any of this.  When you are finished, get an editor or a writing group and discuss it with them.  With my own stories of Grandma, I found that a slight change in point of view helped.  One of her stories is very racially charged, but telling it just as it was told to me – relaying the memory of a child witnessing something she didn’t fully understand (yet, did) – helped me tell an honest, unflinching story.

We don’t all see the world in the same way.  Remembering that, reminding our readers of that, allows us to tell our personal stories.

Want to discuss this further?  I’m tentatively planning a class on Writing Memoir and Personal Stories for Saturday, April 8th.  Mark your calendars (in pencil – we’re still working out the specifics!) and we’ll talk more next week.


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