Hi there, my name is Gregory Pardlo. I'm a poet and an SES, and the author of Air Traffic. A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America. My memoir is centered on a fairly historic labor strike involving the air traffic controllers union, of which my father was a member in 1981. Writing about the strike, allowed me to think deeply about my perception of my father, and how that perception served as a blueprint for my understanding of manhood and masculinity. It also required me to think about my relationship to history, and what that says about my relationship to the present, as well as my relationship to the future. The strike was such an impactful moment in my father's life, and by extension mine, that it divided our lives into two parts, before the strike, and after. Using the strike as a centerpiece then, gave me a way to think about time. It was just a happy accident that in the process of writing I discovered the real question I wanted to answer, was where my father's story ended, and mine began. But, what if I'd started the memoir at the moment I was born? How would that have influenced the structure of the book? I discovered that I still had a lot of anger toward my father. How can I do justice to that anger without letting it overshadow my love for him? These are the kinds of questions I'm going to ask you to think about as we go forward. We can't expect to answer these questions definitively, but we are going to develop some strategies that help us address them as comprehensively as possible. Toward that end, I'll give you specific writing assignments. Some of which you will share. Occasionally, I will also give you short writing exercises that I'd like you to do on your own. This will be very low stakes writing just to get you thinking through particular ideas and challenges. Okay, so now we're going to talk about the art of the frame. This is giving context to memories. First thing first though, I want to say it really makes no difference whether you pronounce the word as memoir or memoire. Either way it's still French for memory. A memoirist wants to record and to translate memory into narrative. Not all memories come to us gift wrapped in cultural significance and metaphorical meaning. They have to be crafted into a compelling and pleasing forms. We can transform a memory into a narrative, and still leave the reader thinking, so what? How do we make that narrative compelling? How do we choose which memories to transform into art? And how do we make those memories relevant beyond the context of our lives? We do this by considering the big questions, who, what, how and why. The who part, presumably is already answered by virtue of the form, but hold on, if we get started on a memoir taking for granted that the primary subject of the work, you, it's so obvious that it goes without saying that we risk focusing on our external experiences alone. In that case, the work becomes a collection of stories about the people and the places that we've seen becomes more journalistic. For the reader, that's like seeing someone's vacation photos without really learning anything about the person who took them. Writing autobiography, memoir, personal essay, these require at least a self-interests, even if self-awareness is in short supply. Your memoir should be driven as much by a need to discover as it is by a desire to reveal. If you're anything like me, you might feel self-conscious about potential navel gazing or obsessing over your own strengths and flaws. This is a valid concern. So, what is the difference then between self-indulgence and self-interest? Self-indulgence occurs when we think of ourselves outside of our social context. Our identities are formed in relation to others. This is what makes memoirs so compelling. Readers of memoirs are trying to figure out productive ways to relate to others. Readers of memoirs are interested in seeing how you relate to your social context, which means that you should be interested too. Ultimately, you're giving the reader new ways to view their relationships and new ways to evaluate their life choices.