Our family history and stories of what happened before we were born shape us as people and writers. We all carry these stories inside of us, and oftentimes they’re passed down through oral histories, diaries, and letters. As writers, this is rich material. But how do we explore family history in nonfiction, without resorting to nostalgia and cliché or making stuff up? How do we write about the lives of long-dead relatives, when memory is faulty and people aren’t around to speak their own truths? This session will explore how writers including James McBride, Diane Johnson, and Michele Norris have written family histories that are enhanced through research and reflection. You’ll leave with practical suggestions, a bibliography of resources, and drafts of your own story.
Lee Chilcote is an award-winning journalist, writer and author whose writing is published in The Washington Post, Associated Press, National Public Radio, Chronicle of Philanthropy, Vanity Fair, Next City, Belt and many literary journals as well as in The Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook, The Cleveland Anthology and A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City. His poetry chapbooks are The Shape of Home and How to Live in Ruins. He is founder and editor of The Land, a local news startup reporting on Cleveland's neighborhoods, and a founder and past executive director of Literary Cleveland. He lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland with his family.