Family Secrets

ScanI never set out to write about my family. If anything, I ran and embraced the other direction when I chose the field of journalism. Reporting trained me to talk to all sides, focus on facts and keep my dang opinions out of it.

In an interesting twist, it was a j-school colleague with whom I worked at a publishing company after graduate school (and would become a dear friend ) who assigned me my first personal essay. At the time, she was the editor of women’s health publication for a Chicago-area medical system. The “Hers” column in the New York Times was popular then. I had just given birth to my first daughter and she asked me to write a short personal reflection about motherhood. The piece was titled “A New Vision of Motherhood” and I wrote about what had changed since becoming a mother for me, and also, in how I saw my mother. It was the first time I ever wrote about my family for a public audience. You can read it here: A New Vision of Motherhood.

There’s so much more to say about what happened next, but what I remember most about writing that essay was how amazing it felt to turn my skills as a researcher and writer of others’ lives to my own. It was potent. And complicated. But I was drawn – and hooked – on the form. I went on to write a monthly column about my family and ultimately a collection of sixty of those were edited into short essays that ended up in my book.

So I was delighted when, last year, StoryStudio Chicago asked me to teach a one-night workshop on writing family secrets. I have a few things to say about the subject. And some great essay snippets to talk about. The workshop is being reprised on Monday, March 18 at 6:30 pm. You can find out more about this one night workshop (and registration info) here.