Interview with a Memoirist
By Eileen Obser
Here are excerpts from an interview published this spring in East End Elements, the annual literary arts publication of Suffolk County Community College. My memoir, Only You, was published by Oak Tree Press in early April of this year. I was given these and other questions, prepared by students and faculty, and asked to address one professor’s creative writing class in mid-April and read from the book. My story is set in my teen years, the 1950s and early 1960s and, as I hoped, the undergrads easily responded to what I wrote about teenage uncertainty and angst. They’ve been there themselves or are going through it right now.
What’s the main message you hope to convey with your story?
I had a difficult adolescence and a disastrous early marriage. You have to push ahead and don’t give up; there’s always hope for a better life, a richer, more rewarding life.
Was it difficult to make yourself vulnerable and share your life with readers? Why or why not?
I’ve always been very open about my life and experiences. Early on, I fictionalized some of this but, as I got older, I enjoyed being the real me, and writing from the heart.
Is there anything you would go back and change about the book (i.e. hide or keep from the reader)?
I wouldn’t hide things from the reader; rather, I would reveal more. That’s what writers – memoirists – should always do: go deeper. There’s so much written and said about this, but it can be very difficult to self-disclose.
What is more important to you: the subject of your writing or the way it’s executed?
Both. The subject won’t come across to other readers, and probably not even to me, if it’s not executed in a way that can be understood and, hopefully, appreciated.
What are your future goals in writing? What are you working on now?
I’m working on another memoir, set in the 1970s when I moved to the east end of Long Island, a newly-single mom who began teaching Mideastern dancing (aka belly dancing – and not yet taught by anyone on the east end). The working title is Dancing Hussy. Several excerpts have been published, but I have lots more work to do. Personal essay and memoir are my favorite genres, and that’s what I see myself mainly writing now and in the future.
These are just five of the questions I answered, out of the 15 presented to me. As a teacher of fiction and non-fiction for over 20 years, I believe that revealing myself to others has made me an effective memoir teacher and workshop leader. Because I am open – so are the writers who take my classes. On August 14 I’ll be interviewed by Linda Frank, producer of “The Writer’s Dream” on LTV, a Long Island television station. Linda poses some different questions that I’ll enjoy answering. I’ll post the dates and times when you might view the show online.