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Literary Sala Presents: The Evolution of the Book and Writing the Memoir

By Carole Schor

Writing the Memoir: Signe Hammer

“When I was nine…In the spring of 1950, right before Easter, Resurrection time, my mother decided to go in the other direction. She committed suicide.” This is from By Her Own Hand, a memoir written by Signe Hammer, one of the authors who will be presenting at the Literary Sala monthly event on Thursday, December 11 at 5pm at the Aldea Hotel.

San Miguel Literary Sala presents:
Barry Evans’s “The Evolution of the Book”
Signe Hammer’s “Writing the Memoir”
Also: Big Read Launch Event
Thurs, Dec 11, 5pm
Hotel Aldea
Ancha de San Antonio 15
100 pesos, 50 pesos for Literary Sala members
Complimentary wine reception

For some, this might have been a defining moment in their lives, one that would set them up for tough challenges in adulthood such as depression, aggression, and even the possibility of choosing their own suicide. Luckily, Signe Hammer refused to let this be the case in her life. Instead, what became the identifying characteristic of her adulthood is writing and the teaching of writing. She has excelled as a non-fiction writer and magazine feature editor. Her short stories have appeared in Playgirl and the anthologies Pleasures: Women Write Erotica and Erotic Interludes: Tales Told by Women. Her articles have appeared in Travel/Holiday, Harpers Bazaar, McCalls, Parade Science Digest, Health, Mademoiselle, The Ladies Home Journal, Working Woman, Ms, The San Francisco Examiner, and The Village Voice.

Signe concentrates much of her present-day efforts (when she isn’t once again picking up the novel she has been working on for the past twenty years) on teaching others the craft of writing, the art of developing narrative, and how to rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until the words pop out on the page in a cohesive, compelling manner that captures and holds the attention of the reader. Students have called her workshops inspiring and stimulating, and as one of her students who went on to become a staff writer for the New Yorker said, Part of what I learned was skills — conceiving stories, reporting, and writing them. But mostly what I learned [from Signe] was: it’s possible.” Signe believes everyone can learn the craft of writing and everyone has some level of ability. A big part of writing is discipline and perseverance. “When I’m working on something, I put in three hours a day, three hours or 500 words – whichever comes first.”

Memoir has been an important part of writing for Signe. “The hardest part of memoir writing is getting the point of view and perspective right, establishing a tone and a voice.” In memoir, which Signe believes is an enduring form, there isn’t a lot of dialogue. “You just want to get the gist of what you remember.” “Most writers write stories to try to understand something, [the] narrative is giving shape to something. Writers try to make sense of something that occurred. If you’re being as honest as you can about it, you’re trying to make some kind of meaning out of the chaos of life. After all, one person’s memory is another person’s fiction.”

Barry Evans: The Evolution of the Book

Barry Evans will present a lecture on “The Evolution of the Book” from Gutenberg, who created a revolution in the way we read, through to the present day when some are predicting that the book will become obsolete. Little-known facts about the history of presenting ideas in writing will make up a fascinating and enlightening lecture.

Barry Evens is a writer, a scientist, and a lover of books. He, like Signe, is also a teacher of writing and will be teaching a workshop entitled “500 Words a Week: Writing a Print Column” at the 2015 San Miguel Writers’ Conference. His workshop will cover how to find a topic that will interest readers week after week, how to meet deadlines and get paid, how to sell that topic in the marketplace, how to work with editors, and how to go beyond the column to get into blogging and syndication.

Barry is a recovering civil engineer, journalist, broadcaster, speaker, and teacher who has been presenting science topics to the public for nearly 30 years. Everyday Wonders, his second book for McGraw-Hill, led to a four-year stint presenting a weekly commentary on National Public Radio.

Barry and his wife Luisa have been living part-time in Guanajuato in a 150-year-old adobe house in Centro since 1999, exploring all of the hilly nooks and crannies of this European-style vibrant city. The rest of the year, Barry lives in Eureka, California where he writes a weekly column, “Field Notes” for the North Coast Journal, in which he explores science, the history of Humboldt County, and one of his favorite topics, the evolution of the book and Johannes Gutenberg.

Big Read Launch Event

The “Big Read” selection leading up to the February Writers’ Conference is The World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker. Copies will be available for purchase at this Sala event, and you will be invited to sign up to join a book group to discuss the book.

Join the Literary Sala for what will be a fascinating evening at the Hotel Aldea, December 11 at 5pm, 50 pesos for Literary Sala members, 100 for non-members; wine, water, and snacks included.


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