The Fundamentals of Memoir: 5 Questions for Donna M. Johnson

Read everything and not just the stuff you’re interested in. Read deeply and broadly. Read with a pen or pencil in hand.-Donna M. Johnson

Donna M. Johnson is the author of Holy Ghost Girl, a memoir critically acclaimed by the New York TimesO MagazineTexas Monthly, NPR’s Interfaith VoicesPeople and many other publications and blogs. Donna’s work has been collected in two outstanding anthologies, Beyond Belief and Her Texas. She has written for The Rumpus, Psychology Today, The Nervous Breakdown, Shambhala Sun, Huffington Post, The Dallas Morning News and the Austin American Statesman. She is currently at work on a project that combines investigative journalism with personal narrative.

On Saturday, May 18th, Donna M. Johnson is teaching a class for the WLT called “The Fundamentals of Memoir. In this class, you’ll learn more about how to shape raw experience into personal narrative through point of view, time shifts and moments of change.

Here’s what Donna had to share with us:

Scribe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write? How did you come to writing?

Donna M. Johnson: I write memoir and other types of creative nonfiction, including journalism. I began writing poems around age 11. I won an award in high school and began to think writing might be something I could do, though I couldn’t figure out how to go about it. My desire to write came out of my love of reading.

Scribe: In your own work, how do you approach overcoming the challenges that come with writing, be it writer’s block or craft or business-related challenges?

DMJ: I’m prone to writer’s block. The only thing that “kind of” works for me, is to persevere. I try to keep faith with the process.

 Scribe: Has there been a moment of epiphany in terms of your work, when you thought, “This is it! Now I know what I’m doing?” How long did that feeling last?

DMJ: After my first book was published, I thought, now I know how to write. This lasted until I tried to write a second book, which I’m still writing!

Scribe: What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to writers again and again?

DMJ: Read everything and not just the stuff you’re interested in. Read deeply and broadly. Read with a pen or pencil in hand.

Scribe: What is one thing that people will take away from this class?

DMJ: I hope participants will leave the class excited about the possibilities of memoir. Obviously, you can’t make up facts and events, but what you do with those facts, how you use them in a personal narrative, can be as creative as any fiction writer’s approach.

Thanks, Donna!

Click here to learn more about Donna M. Johnson’s upcoming class.

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