Podcast

The Importance of Character in Memoir: 5 Questions for Charlotte Gullick

I try to practice gratitude: if I’m feeling down or disempowered about my writing because of rejections or not being as good as I want to be on the page, I ask myself to consider what I can be grateful for in my writing life – and writing this out usually shifts the negative feelings into something that has agency and power. The act of writing moves me out of the passive place of being at the mercy of my feelings.” -Charlotte Gullick

Charlotte Gullick is Chair of the Creative Writing Department at Austin Community College. She holds BA in Literature/Creative Writing from UC Santa Cruz and a MA in English/Creative Writing from UC Davis as well as a MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her awards include a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship for Fiction, a Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowship for Poetry, and residencies at MacDowell and Ragdale. She is the author of the novel By Way of Water.

On Saturday, April 30th, Charlotte Gullick is teaching a class for the WLT called “Character Development in Memoir: How to Deepen the Story. In this class you’ll learn how change and curiosity relate to character development for the narrator as well as the other individuals in memoir.

Here’s what Charlotte had to share with us:


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

Charlotte Gullick: I write because it helps me find my meaning in the world. I started writing because when I first went to college, I was so out of my element (I’m from a town of two hundred people), I started returning to the stories I grew up with.

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?

CG: I try to practice gratitude: if I’m feeling down or disempowered about my writing because of rejections or not being as good as I want to be on the page, I ask myself to consider what I can be grateful for in my writing life – and writing this out usually shifts the negative feelings into something that has agency and power. The act of writing moves me out of the passive place of being at the mercy of my feelings. One thing I am grateful for is the many, many wonderful people I’ve met because I am a writer.

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?

CG: That feeling has come every now and then, and it was the best seven seconds of my life! It’s rare for me to have that kind of certainty; most of the time, it feels like I’m moving in a direction of maybe knowing, of maybe finding the right phrase or image – and I’ve learned to trust that movement.

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

CG: Build community and accountability. The myth that we do this on our own, locked away from the rest of the world, is so inaccurate, counter-productive, and maybe even destructive. Finding a person or group that helps you commit and move in the direction of your creative goals is the reality I believe we all need to embrace. This isn’t necessarily easy but it might be required. ☺

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

CG: One thing that I hope folks will take away from this class is that writing memoir takes so much compassion, patience, and persistence. To develop our characters on the page requires time and a shifting of perspective—it might even mean we shift how we think about ourselves and those we write about.

Thanks, Charlotte!

Click here to learn more about Charlotte Gullick’s upcoming class.

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