IN CONVERSATION WITH THE IRISH WRITERS CENTRE

Last month I had a lovely conversation with the Dublin-based Irish Writers Centre, followed by a Q and A. Here it is! Thank you, IWC! A huge honor.

A sampling of additional questions that participants submitted at the conclusion of the webinair:

Do you limit some of the content of your memoirs to protect yourself or to protect your vulnerability, how do you decide what NOT to put in.  Are you ever scared what the people in your life will think of your honesty?

There’s all kinds of stuff I don’t put in—writing in a way is a process of discarding…my fear around writing is that I’m cutting corners or being emotionally dishonest….also, to be a practicing Catholic in a resolutely secular culture, and in which many if not most of my dear friends are resolutely secular, does bring up fear—of being cast out of the herd, marginalized, ostracized, misunderstood, exiled…

In the absence of religion, I think people tend to make politics or some kind of ideology their religion and that for the most part I decline to do this—in particular, to firmly align myself with the “progressive left” stances and causes to which many of my friends subscribe, which I think mystifies and scandalizes a few of them. On the other hand, nor do I align myself with many of the causes to which the Catholic right subscribes—however much I might be in sympathy with the underlying spirit behind causes on both sides of the political divide.

I think I used to try to sort of hide or minimize my faith, but it’s the ground of my life, and as I mentioned, I have come to see that I don’t answer to the world or to my friends (much as I love and admire them), or to the politics, whatever they might be, of my fellow parishioners, or to the world in general, but to Christ…who is a very different Master from the world.

How do you protect the identities of other important individuals in your life?

I guess I try not to write anything much that would need protecting…I have definitely used pseudonyms or tweaked the details of a story—time, place, identifying characteristics—so the person would be unrecognizable…

I am just wondering how one can manage to create an honest memoir without damaging/making angry other people who may be involved? ie, do you worry about the reception the work may receive among those who know you once you have let a work enter the world?

Yes, definitely, I do or have worried. A lot of what I do is celebrating the other person, whether it’s a family member, a friend, an artist…then again, people can even be bothered by that, I sense…believe themselves to be inaccurately portrayed. At some point, you have to let others have their feelings and allow yourself to have a clean conscience by knowing that you wrote from love and from the most truthful place you could get to in your own heart.

Thanks for sharing so openly. I wonder could you speak a little about how you handle deadlines and external pressures?

A life grounded in prayer and as I mentioned a sense of obedience—to the call of writing, to a sense of courtesy and respect for the people for whom I write. Also I’m just a driven, Type-A (in many ways) personality who cannot bear the anxiety of not honoring my commitments and agreements…

Another dicernment and fine-line question.  How do we decide between what we wrote about and that which we ponder in our hearts. Do you feel like there are things too sacred to be shared or put into words?

Great question: Absolutely. In fact, what I write is about 2% of my true inner life. I would no sooner write about or expose that to light than I would describe what went on in my (ex-ha ha) marital bedroom. (If I could even reduce my inner life to writing, which is doubtful). From Fr. Donald Haggerty’s “The Contemplative Hunger:” “Only the beloved can know the passion of love that another soul possesses for it. When this love is a contemplative passion for God, it penetrates beyond the ordinary boundaries of separation between persons. The union has no limits, and this truth of endless encounter with God is the ongoing taste of the secret spoken to God by the soul.”

Certain people tend to think they “know” me because of the way I write and I always want to say, Oh you have no idea. Especially no idea how truly awful and crabby and impatient I can be.

What do you think of adding photographs to memoir?

Absolutely, all for it if you have pix that fit and will add to the story!

When you have “finished: “your memoir where/what do you do with it?


Publish or self-publish it!

I would like to write a memoir about illness, misdiagnosis and divorce and what I learned/experienced. There is some dark and light. I wonder does the reader have to learn something from the memoir or is the story about what happened enough?

I think what the reader “learns” is inherent in, baked into, the writing itself; into the way we tell our story. We don’t want to telegraph a platitude-like “message.” The way we write about our experience, no matter how dark, would ideally, to my mind, also have at least a pinprick of light….

I don’t agree with Heather that memoir is DARK… the act of writing is cathartic and healing, helpful to my acceptance of my very human life.

I don’t believe I said memoir is DARK; I said memoir often (but not always) stems from some kind of trauma. I hope my presence, the way I talk, write, express myself, gets across my essential gratitude and joy—I wouldn’t write at all, and would certainly have not stayed the course this long, if I did not believe writing to be essentially life-giving….and a great, great gift and grace.

Also I think I forgot to mention that I have a new book in the works: CONSUMED: The Joys, Sorrows and Débacles of the Writing Life. Most of the issues we discussed here are covered in the book, which also includes profiles of a number of my favorite artists.

Look for it late summer—and again, thanks to Betty, Claire and all of you so very much for having me.

6 Replies to “IN CONVERSATION WITH THE IRISH WRITERS CENTRE”

  1. Your writing is so precious to me, dearest Heather! An anchor! Thank you!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Aw, thank you…these little love letters keep me going…thanks for your readership.

  2. Timothy O'Regan says: Reply

    Heather, we really can’t be soulmates?! Waaaahhh!!! Regardless, thank you for generosity and openness in sharing about your “process”, and as they say in Belfast, “keep ‘er lit!”. (I’ve never been there but I’m an Australian who identifies as an Irish writer (of texts and emails)).

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ha ha okay Timothy we can be soulmates from afar! In a way, we’re ALL soulmates, after all…glad for your support and encouragement, whether based in Australia, Ireland, or elsewhere!

  3. Molly Walchuk says: Reply

    Oh Heather— how delighted I was to see that you put this conversation here for all to listen or read! Thank you. You always offer something “warm hand to warm hand”. Really though it’s from heart to heart; soul to soul. With gratitude for your nourishing words,
    Molly W

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Molly W!! Happy summer to you! Thank you for being such a long-time and devoted fan, and for listening to my little chat with the IWC! I hope you’re well and that your garden is thriving…heart to heart, soul to soul indeed…

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS!

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