Voice is at the heart of personal essay and memoir. A strong narrative voice allows readers to connect to a text on a human level and turns average prose into engaging, memorable stories. In this webinar, we’ll discover our particular writing voices, focusing on the way a personal essay can move among levels of diction; how to do this by drawing on our own “idiolects” (individual lexicons and styles of speaking); and how keeping the audience in mind can reconnect us to a compelling writerly voice.
A satisfying essay voice combines a sense of the writer’s spoken language—the ease of that level of diction—with other registers, such as more lyrical prose, influences from the writers’ reading life, and even language that suggests the inner monologue. We can weave together language from our professional life and from our home vernacular, or lyrical and scientific language. We can even use unexpected forms (also called the hermit crab essay), drawing on the style we might use in a letter, a shopping list, or a set of instructions, as a way into our stories.
Drawing on examples from nonfiction and poetry, we will look at examples of compelling voice in autobiographical writing. You’ll leave with exercises designed to help you hone in on the voice(s) that only you can create on the page. Speaking as only you can speak, drawing on all that you know and are, to make your personal essays and memoirs come alive!
Closed captioning is available. ✔
All registrants receive the recording. ✔
JOANNA PENN COOPER is the author of a book of lyrical prose vignettes, The Itinerant Girl’s Guide to Self-Hypnosis (Brooklyn Arts Press), as well as the poetry books What Is a Domicile (Noctuary Press) and Crown (Ravenna Press, winner of the Cathlamet Prize). Joanna’s essays and flash memoir pieces have appeared in The Christian Century; On the Seawall; South Dakota Review; Pine Hills Review, and other journals. Her essay “Battles” was a finalist for Tupelo Quarterly’s Prose Open Contest. Joanna was a staff writer for “Good Letters” from Image Journal, writing about the intersections and tensions between motherhood and creativity. Her current project is When We Were Fearsome, a memoir in essays about motherhood, origins, and power.
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