At our Fort Valley Writers Meetup last week, we talked about voice, about how it’s a difficult concept to understand. I said the first time I really thought about it was at a writer’s conference at Indiana University in the 80s when the novelist John Calvin Batchelor, who had read a fiction manuscript I was working on at that time, told me my voice was “serious and slightly elevated.” He said there was nothing wrong with that and I shouldn’t try to be someone other than myself. That was thought-provoking, both to hear my voice described and to entertain the concept for the first time. I knew my students in English classes had individual voices—that’s how I found out when Willie or Richard or Mary Sue submitted something that was written by someone else. But I hadn’t applied the concept to my own writing before.
I’m working on a memoir now, and, for this, it seems to be even more important to recognize and be true to my own voice. I read in Writing and Selling Your Memoir by Paula Balzer (a very useful book!) that if we want to double check and hear what our authentic voice really sounds like, we should look for emails and posts we have written to people we feel really comfortable with, especially posts that involve humor, surprise, and discussion of what is important to us, and see how we sound there. At a family reunion last week, I was explaining this great idea to my thirty-year-old niece who writes for a living, and I discovered that, oh yes, she already was doing that—looking back in her writings to capture her own voice as she begins new creative writing projects outside of the things she writes for her job.
The process I am going through now consists of writing my story, going back and adding details and action that I’d been in too much of a hurry to include, and then reading aloud what I have written to see if it sounds like me.
Wish me luck!
Observations on the subjects of friends, family, country, cultures and nature.