Opening Salvos # 13 by Matilda Butler
“Writing is easy. You just need an opening, a closing, and the right words to get you from the first to the second.” said humolosopher Mary Gordon Spence. Humolosopher? That’s right. Mary Gordon Spence sees lighthearted magic in everyday events. Because that humor often shows up in her writing and her speaking, she decided to call herself a humolosopher. A word that is just as original as she is.
During our recent interview, I asked Mary Gordon to share her insights as a public speaker, storyteller and coach, insights that would help women as they develop the opening to their memoirs. Not surprisingly, she began by noting that grabbing and holding an audience is as important in preparing a speech as in writing, perhaps even more so.
Her first piece of advice is to “let your audience in immediately.” Mary Gordon repeated this several times and I think it is a good reminder to us that if we’re going to share our life story, or a piece of it in a memoir, we shouldn’t hold the reader at a distance but let her join us on our storytelling journey.
Her second piece of advice is that an opening needs to be a predictor of your story. By this she means that the reader needs to know what the book is about and why she wants to read it. Of course, in a well-crafted memoir this is often handled in scene rather than summary.
Her third piece of advice is that openings begin long before you start writing them. They begin back when you research your material, find your focus (theme and message), organize your story, and write the chapters. All of this prepares you for the right opening.
If you’d like to know where Mary Gordon’s humor was originally honed, please join us on Women’s Memoirs where I've posted her audio and given you a peak at the advice her mother gave her in the first grade. Not feeling funny? Don't think you can pull off humor? Don’t worry, Mary Gordon urges you to be true to yourself. She says you reader will always know. However, I think you'll love her take on humor and how it is all around us. She even though one of my stories that I shared during the interview was funny.
Mary Gordon Spence is the luncheon keynote speaker at Story Circle Network’s Stories from the Heart V conference in Austin, TX February 5-7. She will entertain and enthrall us on Saturday February 6. We hope to see you there.