(Belfast, ME) The public is warmly invited to a free talk on Sunday, April 9, at 3:00 pm at Left Bank Books in Belfast by Melanie Brooks, author of the newly released book Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art from Trauma. In trying to write a memoir about her father’s death from a secret AIDS infection, Brooks (a writing instructor at Northeastern University, Merrimack College, and Nashua Community College), found the experience to be “agonizing” and “terrifying” so she decided to travel the country to interview and learn from memoirists whose writing confronted difficult stories.

More on Writing Hard Stories

The result of her journey, Writing Hard Stories, is a blueprint for all writers seeking to navigate their own challenging stories. Brooks explains that her book started as a paper while she was a student in the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine. For help getting through the writing process while reliving painful memories, Brooks turned to memoirs about trauma. Eventually, she wrote to the 18 authors of those memoirs explaining what reading their books had done for her and asking to talk with them about their writing experiences.

“Every single one wrote back saying they’d love to talk to me,” Brooks says. Over and over, the authors told her that these were stories they had to write:

  • Andre Dubus III felt he “had to pull out of the dark and hold up to the light” the story about his difficult relationship with his famous author father.
  • After poet Mark Doty’s partner of 12 years died from AIDS, he wrote Heaven’s Coast: “I have not been immobilized by grief, but I have certainly carried it with me.” Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I’m Dying is a “powerful witness to the large-scale injustices so many immigrants face upon entering this country.” Danticat told Brooks that it’s the “most beautiful memorial I could have created for [them].”

Some authors, Brooks notes, were fearful of being so honest about their pasts and tried to publish their work as fiction first. But, once they shared their stories as memoirs, the audience response was overwhelmingly positive:

  • “What I’ve discovered about memoirs and the reason people love them,” Monica Wood, author of When We Were the Kennedys says, “is that every family story in one way or another is everybody’s family story.”
  • Inaugural poet Richard Blanco agrees: “Why we endeavor collectively to write a book or paint a canvas or write a symphony. . .is to understand who we are as human beings, and it’s that shared knowledge that somehow helps us to survive.”

In Writing Hard Stories, readers come to know authors they admire through Brooks’ in-depth profiles. Among the other authors interviewed are Kim Stafford, Richard Hoffman, Kyoko Mori and Jerald Walker — writers who represent a diverse group of America’s best contemporary voices.

“This is the passage through which any one of us who is experiencing or has experienced trauma can travel,” Brooks reflects.

Event Information

To reserve a seat for this event, or for more information, please call Left Bank Books at 207-338-9009, or email [email protected]. Copies of Writing Hard Stories will be available for purchase. Left Bank Books is located in downtown Belfast at 109 Church Street, in the historic Opera House Block (across the street from the police station). Ample parking is available in front of the shop and in the adjacent lot.

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