Sarah Hepola is the personal essays editor at Salon.com, where she reads other people’s stories for a living. But now she has published her own memoir – the raw, powerful and honest Blackout: Remembering the things I drank to forget, confronting and sharing with readers her struggle with alcohol over the years.
In a recent episode of our top rating podcast So you want to be a writer, Valerie Khoo chatted with Sarah about her experiences. You can hear the full interview here or read a transcript.
In particular, Sarah’s explanation about the honesty of writing a memoir is a great lesson for all writers of any genre:
“When my writing feels flat it’s normally because I’m not being completely honest, because I believe real life is tremendously fascinating material. [For example the] psychological motivations between two people talking in a room – what they say versus what they think, what they want to believe versus what they do. All of that stuff is really fascinating, it’s full of tension.
“What happens is people too often write a narrative like they’re either the hero or the villain, and those people are neither – we’re somewhere in the middle, we’re just playing a part and that part is complicated. Even in my most heroic moments, parts of it were kind of messed up and wrong… I feel like as long as you can stay connected to that kind of rich emotional complexity of a moment, then you’ve got really good material.”