May 22, 2020
11 AM PDT | 12 PM MDT | 1 PM CDT | 2 PM EDT
Sue William Silverman
The Haunting: On Turning Our Real-live Ghosts into Memoirs
What haunts you: a deceased mother, an all-too-alive father, a current or former partner, a religion, a former home? The importance of discovering and confronting our obsessions, and crafting “mere” events into haunting, emotionally resonant metaphors, can result in a fully realized piece of writing.
Creative nonfiction allows writers to address their ghosts and come to terms with them, either through an exorcism or an embrace. What haunts us can be as small as an old wedding ring or as big as a country. It can be tangible things (a person, a house) or an abstract concept (search for identity, alienation). Regardless, a ghost will haunt you until you tell its story— which is also your story—the story you and your ghost share. In my four memoirs, for example, I’ve examined ghosts as diverse as a father who misloved me; a sexual addiction; an obsession with pop culture figures such as Pat Boone and Adam Lambert; the cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer; a fear of dying; hypochondria; and artifacts I “inherited” through divorce or death.
In short, ghosts are our obsessions, and obsessions play a vital role in literature. These ghosts—people, places, things—retain their grip on us until we embody them on the page, thus releasing them into the world. This release in turn brings our hidden truths into the light. In this way we craft our inward experience, outward. By finding the right words, we turn our hauntings into blessings. How do we do this?
- By recognizing what places, people, events, etc., hold special power over us, and why.
- By discovering what craft tools we need to resurrect our ghosts and make them “real” on the page.
- By not fearing our ghosts, but rather letting them reveal their secrets to us.
- By knowing the ghosts that really haunt us are ourselves.
- By taking back the power of the ghosts by confronting them.
Bio and Links
Sue William Silverman is an award-winning author of seven books of creative nonfiction and poetry. Her most recent memoir, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, was named “one of 9 essay collections feminists should read in 2020” by Bitch Media. Her other nonfiction books are Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, which won the AWP Award; Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction, which was made into a Lifetime TV movie; The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew; and Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir. She teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
BLURB & LINK: “Self-aware, quirky, and fiercely intelligent…Silverman achieves a kind of immortality in How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences. Because of the distinctive subject matter and Silverman’s vast writing talents, the book will appeal to new and experienced readers alike…. Read any random passage from any random page, and your ears will be delighted by a kaleidoscope of sound.” Hippocampus Magazine https://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2020/02/review-how-to-survive-death-and-other-inconveniences-by-sue-william-silverman/