Podcast on The Craft of Writing Memoir: Derek Owens’ Memory’s Wake

The craft of writing memoir and the subject of recovered memories and post traumatic stress syndrome were among the topics as I visited with St. John’s University English Professor and Vice Provost Dr. Derek Owens. His latest book is entitled Memory’s Wake and tells the story of an abusive relationship between his grandmother and mother. The book is part memoir, part biography, and part research project. Owens is also the author of a book about the teaching of writing I really enjoyed called Composition and Sustainability: Teaching for a Threatened Generation.

You can listen to the podcast below or via iTunes by searching for Prof. Torg’s Read, Write, and Teach Digital Book Club. Also, you can help the podcast attract listeners if you’ll take the time to “rate it.”  Link to iTunes and the podcast page here.

Derek Owens Memory's Wake William Torgerson St. John's University writing memoir

So that you can get a sense of our discussion, I’m including my questions below:

  1. Memory’s Wake is your telling of the abuse relationship between your grandmother and your mother. You also include a lot of the history of upstate New York and research about memory and abuse. So it’s part memoir, part biography, and part research project. Is that a fair description? As to the question, what’s Memory’s Wake about, would you have anything to add?
  2. I’ve latched onto the phrase, “Every Story Has a Story.” By that, I mean for every story we hear or read, that story has it’s own history of how it was written.  This book tells a story that began before you were born. When did you start messing with it in a way that you thought you might write about it?
  3. I want to talk about the rules that govern the conventions of this text. I don’t mean rules I’d find in a grammar handbook. I mean that this book has it’s own rules for how it was written.  To mention a few examples, the sentences don’t start with capital letters, you don’t seem concerned about complete sentences, sometimes you attribute sources and sometimes you don’t, and there’s a lot of play with margins.  I’m guessing you tinkered with that a lot.  The book doesn’t have chapters. Some pages just have one little black and white picture.  There’s heavy use of italics in places. Can you tell me about how you arrived at the published form?
  4. At what points in writing this story did you think it wouldn’t get finished or published? How did you push through those points? What was driving you to get it done and out into publication?
  5. Can you talk to me about how research works in this book?  I’ll tell you what I think I’ve inferred and you can correct me and add to what I’ve said. I think I see excerpts from your mother’s journals, stories told to you by family members, books or articles you’ve read, and visits to places in upstate New York.  I’ll dig in on a couple of these after I hear your answer.
  6. What was the result of writing this book? To you? What do you know/understand that you didn’t understand before? Is your take on memoir different than it was before?  Did the writing of this cause you to remember anything new or see your own childhood in a different way?

The podcast was recorded with a Blue Snowball mic via Garage Band and a MacBook. You can read more about the book and its publisher, Spuyten Duyvil, here.  You can also listen to the podcast below or via iTunes by searching for Prof. Torg’s Read, Write, and Teach Digital Book Club. Please take time to “rate it.”  Link to iTunes and the podcast page here.

Click here to listen

 

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Trailer: For the Love of Books

For the Love of Books is my documentary film about Kathy Patrick’s Girlfriend Weekend.  I’ve entered the film in five festivals. If you don’t know Kathy, she’s the founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, an organization which now has over 500 chapters worldwide. Each January, Kathy hosts a “Girlfriend Weekend” book party that brings over fifty authors and three hundred book club members to Jefferson, Texas. This film captures Girlfriend Weekend 2012.  I edited the film on Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and shot the video on a JVC GY-HM 150 U.

Please consider “liking” the post and sharing the link on Facebook. I think you’ll get a laugh out of Wade’s costume and from some very funny lines from talented Pulpwood Queen Authors. Thanks to Kathy Patrick for putting this event together!

Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend William Torgerson Kathy Patrick

At the Pretty in Pink Prom Party
Photo by Natalie Brasington

Podcast: Apple’s Final Cut Pro X: Making the Transition (podcast)

I first heard about Larry Jordan when I was taking a Pro Lab course at the Apple store on 14th Street in Manhattan.  Larry came up in conversation as a Final Cut Pro X guru several times. I think even the instructor of the course mentioned him.  Because I was working on a documentary film called For the Love of Books, I was trying to learn how to use the video editing software.

Larry Jordan William Torgerson For the Love of Books Apple Final Cut Pro X

Final Cut Pro X: Making the Transition

I bought Larry’s book Final Cut Pro: Making the Transition.  The word “transition” refers to all of those film editors who’d learned all the other editions of Apple’s Final Cut Pro.  I wasn’t transitioning; I was just getting started, but I found the book very helpful, especially when it came to color correction and work flows. I had a lot of trouble with freezes and crashes of Final Cut Pro X as I was trying to export my film.

In my conversation with Larry, we focus on his writing of the book.  You can listen to the podcast directly from this website, or you can download our discussion as an iTunes podcast from the Prof. Torg: Read, Write, and Teach Digital Book Club.

Click on the play button below to listen:

Take a Poll and Tell Me About You and Television?

I usually get to work before my colleague David Farley, and it’s become our habit that he stops at my office door and we talk about something related to writing, teaching, or family. This job we have teaching First Year Composition has carried me into digital writing, and David and I are often talking about digital texts in relation to the teaching of writing. I’m interested in the future of books, and I’m interested in how our internet habits will impact our reading, writing, and thinking. One day, David went over into his office and came back with Lawrence Lessig’s Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Wikipedia (I’m getting more obsessed with it) tells me that Lessig “is a director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a professor of law at Harvard Law School.”

Lawrence Lessig’s Remix

Here’s something I wouldn’t mind hearing about from you in the comments section: Have your television watching habits changed? In this book, Lessig writes about Read Only (R.O.) and Read Write (R.W.) culture. Taking television as an example, I think it’s been R.O. By that, I mean you just sit there and watch it. You consume it. You don’t interact with it. Reading a Facebook post isn’t like that. Reading a Twitter feed isn’t like that. You get to Tweet back. You get to interact.

Television watching, from what I can see, is becoming more interactive. You can vote for your favorite American Idol. You can Tweet along with everyone else as they watch the NCAA basketball tournament. You can read what people say about President Obama and Presidential hopeful Romney on Facebook.  As I understand from Lessig, back when people went down to the town square to see entertainment, they were in a culture that tended toward R.W. They were entertained and had a chance to interact, to sing along, to talk with others, and to go home and try out the songs on their front porch.

With the rise of television and newspapers, R.W. went on the decline. People just consumed content with little or no chance to interact. Now with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and other social platforms such as blogs, R.W. is on the rise. People read Harry Potter and go see the movies and then they write on fan fiction sites. All of these features of consuming and interacting seem significant to the craft of teaching and what it will mean to get an education.

Let’s consider for a second the teacher’s lecture.  Possibly BORING!!!! and most times heavy on the R.O. side of consumption.   I’d like to be as R.W. as I can when it comes to my teaching pedagogy. Perhaps I’m using the term wrong but for now, I know what I mean.  🙂

More on Lessig’s book and some Golden Lines in the coming posts. There’s a poll below for you and if you’d like to elaborate on your TV watching habits, I hope you’ll add them to the comments section.

A School Project With a JVC GY-HM150 U, Apple, and Final Cut Pro X

Because I wanted to try some documentary work, back in January of 2012 I bought an iMac, Final Cut Pro X, and a JVC GY-HM150 U video camera from B & H Camera in Manhattan.  I’ve been meaning to write about how I like these products and what’s it has been like to learn how to use them. The video you’ll see below is something my daughter and I worked on last weekend.  She was to do a project on sheep and so the whole family collaborated over a weekend at Queens Farm. Yes, we do have a big farm here in one of the five boroughs of New York City.

That's Me With the Black Video Camera

Charlotte’s Cover Image for her Video

One of my films is almost finished, the one about Kathy Patrick and the Pulpwood Queens’ Book Club. I’d been researching what sort of camera I wanted to buy, when I realized that my trip to Texas to see the Pulpwood Queens would make for a great story.  So I bought the camera and read the book on how to use it on the way down. If you see the film, it won’t be too hard to figure out I was a rookie cameraman, but the content of the Queens and the authors is so great that I think it carries the documentary.  I was also very fortunate that two friends, Natalie Brasington who is a photographer, and Jeremy Vogt who is a musician, provided some great content.

Since my trip, I took all four of the Apple Pro Lab courses in Manhattan at the store on 14th Street. They were FREE and fantastic.  Now I’m reading Larry Jordan’s Final Cut Pro X: Making the Transition. The “transition” refers to those who are coming from the old FCP programs. I didn’t really have any editing experience so I haven’t had much new to get used to.

I’m calling the Pulpwood Queens documentary For the Love of Books. The second film will be about my father and his buddies and will titled The Mushroom Hunter. I don’t think my daughter and I talked about what she wanted to call her film. Given her title page, I guess it’s Charlotte’s Sheep Project.