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The Making of a Debut Memoir: A Conversation about Lessons Learned and Tricks of the Trade

November 2, 2017 @ 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

Join WriterHouse instructors Sharon Harrigan and Jennifer Niesslein as they talk about the missteps, lessons learned, and triumphs experienced while writing and publishing their debut memoirs. Learn what these authors wished they had known while we also celebrate the release of Sharon’s new book Playing with Dynamite, forthcoming from Truman State University Press in October 2017. Short story author and novelist Kristen-Paige Madonia will moderate this conversation.

Advanced praise for Sharon’s Book:

“For much of her life, Sharon Harrigan’s father was an idea, a concept, a myth. What happens when she finally allows him to be a real person, with real complications? The answers reside in this potent memoir. Through frank and fiercely honest prose, the narrator comes to realize that whatever remained unsolved in her would stay unsolved until she asked herself the right questions, and discovered herself anew.”—Debra Gwartney, author of the memoir Live Through This, finalist for the National Critics Circle Award

“I kept expecting more people to die. With this amazing declarative statement, Playing with Dynamite shows the inner struggle of a child trying to understand death. The book opens with a story about a father that has become unstable and needs investigating. The daughter embarks on an odyssey to find her father, to find herself, and to find her way home. She is, by turns, both Telemachus and Odysseus, and her story is both epic and intimate.

“Is it possible to live our lives if the story we have about our past is wrong? What happens when what we think we know about our parents turns out to be untrue? Why do we create stories about our parents, and how do they affect who we are? The questions in this book will resonate with any reader who has ever been a daughter or a son.”—Nick Flynn, author of the bestselling memoirs, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, The Ticking Is the Bomb, and The Reenactments

“This memoir hit me in the gut and made me feel all kinds of complicated, lost in the wilderness of the human heart, but this much is clear: Sharon Harrigan writes with grace and unflinching honesty.”—Benjamin Percy, author of The Dark Net, Thrill Me, The Dead Lands, and Red Moon

Sharon Harrigan is the author of the memoir, Playing with Dynamite, forthcoming from Truman State University Press in October 2017. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Virginia Quarterly Review, Narrative, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She received the Joyce Horton Johnson Award from Key West Literary Seminar and the Kinder Award from Pleiades. She has a B.A. in English from Barnard College, Columbia University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University.


Jennifer Niesslein is the editor of Full Grown People and the author of Practically Perfect in Every Way. She edited two Full Grown People anthologies. You can read her essays at jenniferniesslein.com.
Kristen-Paige Madonia is the author of the young adult novels Invisible Fault Lines (2016) and Fingerprints of You (2012), both published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Hailed by Judy Blume as “A remarkable young novelist,” Madonia was the 2012 D. H. Lawrence Fellow, and her short fiction has appeared in such publications as the Greensboro Review, Five Chapters, the New Orleans Review, and American Fiction. She holds an MFA from California State University, Long Beach and teaches creative writing at James Madison University, Goochland County High School, WriterHouse and the Key West Literary Seminar. She also serves as a Faculty Mentor with the University of Nebraska’s low-residency MFA in Writing Program.


November 2, 2017
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm
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Sibley Johns


508 Dale Avenue
Charlottesville, 22902 United States
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