Classy Talk with Elissa Washuta

Posted Thu, 1/09/2014 - 6:37pm by  |  Category:

What is the title of your class?
Essential Elements of Memoir: Narrative Momentum

People should take this class if… 
…they’re working on memoir, or thinking about it, and want to consider the most compelling shapes for their stories and work on structural plans. This will also be a great class for writers who like close reading, as we’ll be taking a look at sections of Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward and talking about how the books are assembled.

Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
Twitter: @misswashuta

Are any of your works online and available to the public?
The Chronicle of Higher Education

What’s your teaching philosophy?
I believe in helping students see possibilities for their work — new approaches, forms, subjects, genres, methods, structures, attitudes. Too often, we are defeated by what we believe we can’t or shouldn’t do. I want to offer more options for the amazing writers, various in their writerly sensibilities, with whom I am fortunate to work.

If you could only bring one novel, story, or poem to a deserted island, which would you bring and why?
I would bring Infinite Jest. Several years ago, I reached page 300 or so out of its 1000+ pages. I thought it was great, but I stopped, and I know I’ll never pick it up again unless I have absolutely nothing else to do. A deserted island is the perfect place to give it the attention it deserves.

What are you currently working on?
I’m early in the process of writing a memoir. I don’t know what it’s about or the limits of what it contains, but some things I am dealing with on the page include food, illness, ancestry, the colonization of the Pacific Northwest, seeing my doppelganger, and CrossFit.

If there was one piece of advice you could give an aspiring writer, what would it be? 
Write first and worry later or never. At the outset of a project, don’t be consumed by fear about the reactions of others, don’t worry about the rules of writing, and don’t worry about the market — you can’t predict it, even a little bit.

What do you like best about Hugo House?
I love the variety of possible experiences for readers, writers, and audience members, and the incredible people those opportunities bring to the House.

What are you reading now? If you could pair it with a beverage (alcoholic or otherwise), what would you choose?
I’m re-reading Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, and I’ll pair it with the iconic Snapple Lemonade that Cheryl constantly craves on the trail. The narrative tension is, in some ways (but only some), like the sugar hit of a Snapple on an empty stomach: the book begins with a potent rush of tension like sugar poured on the brain, and then I tear through the rest of the book like chugging a bottle, carried through the developing plot like a hungry-thirsty hiker taking in calories. The end of the book, like the end of the glass bottle, brings a resonant emptiness, and I have to keep moving to fill it with another book.