Memoir as Bewilderment

Nick Flynn's picture
Nick Flynn
Week 11: August 19 to August 24
ORIENTATION: August 19, 6:00-7:30 PM
WORKSHOP: August 20-24, 9am-Noon
Discipline: Nonfiction/Memoir
Open to All

Workshop Description 

Frost once said, "poems are about what you don't mean as well as what you do mean"—this could apply to the contemporary concept of memoir as well. When we first approach the idea of writing a memoir we generally write into what we believe is our individual and unique autobiography, but as we press on we find that our story is connected to everyone’s story, and only then can we access the deeper mysteries of life. In our weeklong workshop we will wrestle with these deeper mysteries, as well as the concept of “bewilderment,” and how we can embody both in our memoirs—either through syntax, our access to the duende, leaps into the unconscious, or simply circling around what is unsaid, unknown, unrealized. We will look for those moments we begin to stutter and stumble when talking about our projects, for that is the threshold beyond which is unknown, beyond which is the white space on the map. Please come with a willingness to push a little deeper into this shadow world, and an openness to questioning why you tell the particular stories about your life that you do.

The workshop will be generative, in the sense that we will deepen work we have already done, and so please come with 10-20 pages of work in progress, in various states of completion, from polished to rough sketches.


Nick Flynn has worked as a ship’s captain, an electrician, and as a case-worker with homeless adults. In 2019 he will publish two new books: Stay (Ze Books), which represents twenty-five years of collaborations & writings; as well as I Will Destroy You (Graywolf), a new collection of poems. His work has been translated into fifteen languages.