Barbara Brooks has published short memoir, essays and fiction, and an acclaimed biography, Eleanor Dark: A Writer’s Life. Her essays and stories have been published in Europe, Asia and the US as well as Australia. She is a highly regarded teacher of writing and has taught at a number of universities.
How did you come to write memoir professionally?It’s the genre that gave me my voice. Short memoir, or essay. I like the mystery and clarity of ‘what really happened.’ There’s a closeness, an intimate knowledge, and I like the way I can use my own observations and experience to reflect a shared experience of the larger world.
In your opinion, what makes a good memoir?
In Vivian Gornick’s book on memoir, The Situation and the Story, she says the situation is the set of circumstances, the events; the story is what you as the writer have come to say about what happened. That sense of story interests me – the realisation, the understanding. Apart from that, writing that comes alive, honesty, a sense of a wider context.
What challenges come with writing memoir that you don’t get in fiction writing?
You have to stick to the facts, which some fiction writers find frustrating. I like the challenge of working with events, memories, histories – and shaping them. You’re writing about real people, people you know, perhaps your family, your ex-husband, your children. How do you do this? It can be a challenge but we have to rise to it.