An Afternoon With The Cracker Queen

lauretta-hannonI spent my allotted writing time yesterday with the incomparable Lauretta Hannon, who is truly a genuine voice in these often phony times. I don’t regret it for a second.

I’d heard of her, of course, because of her bestselling book, The Cracker Queen, a Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life, her broadcasts on NPR, and her advice column which appears in our local paper, but I’d never given any thought to meeting her, much less engaging her in conversation. Fortunately, my bride told me about a seminar of hers, hosted by the Marietta Museum of History. Lauretta’s presentation, entitled “Don’t Wait Until They Die,” would be aimed squarely at memoir writing. I assumed it would be a lecture though it actually consisted of one part workshop, one part instruction, and many parts entertainment.cracker-queen

“You ought to go,” my best gal insisted. “You might learn something.”

“Who? Me? I teach this stuff! Shoot, I just published a book about it.”

She nodded patiently, something she’s been doing for over four decades (which probably explains her chronic neck pain). “What if you got it wrong?”

“Oh.” Well, just… damn. I hadn’t considered that.

Most of my writing life has been vested in fiction, but many of the techniques I use in my novels and short stories are readily adaptable to memoir. I had been teaching creative writing for a couple years when the opportunity to do a class on memoir fell into my lap. I jumped at it. After all, how different could it be from fiction writing?

It turns out there’s a great deal of difference–much of it emotional. I picked up on that overnight, but what if I’d missed something else, something equally important? Once again, the love of my life was right on target. I needed to find out. So I signed up for Lauretta’s lecture.

thou-shalt-be-badassThe good news is I hadn’t missed anything important. The better news is I got to spend several hours with a genuinely pleasant, extremely funny, and unabashedly honest writer. She’s not a punch-puller, either. She tells it straight, but her delivery is laced with such great humor and Southern charm, you know everything’s going to be all right. So go ahead, tell it all, don’t sugar-coat anything. Pour out your heart and soul; be a storytelling badass. You’ll discover it’s a healing process. The scab is never as bad as the wound. You’ll live. And more importantly, you’ll sleep better at night.

Her message could not have been more clear: what’s important is the story. Yours, mine, hers; it doesn’t matter. The world is populated by readers, and whether you choose to believe it or not, there are people waiting to read those stories. But Job One is to write them. Editing, audience building, publishing and marketing all play critical roles, but none of them compare with the importance of getting those tales written.naked-truth-front-cover

Here’s another unassailable truth: you’re the only one who can write YOUR story. No ghost writer can ever convey the exact nature of your life experience. How could they? For them, it’s fiction; for you, it’s reality.

I consider it a great honor to share the role of life story enabler with Lauretta Hannon. I may stand in her shadow, petite as it is, but I’m right there. Should you ever have the chance to attend one of her workshops, take my word for it: you won’t be disappointed.

About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
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5 Responses to An Afternoon With The Cracker Queen

  1. An-l says:

    Josh…I’ve heard about her and her book. It must have been a great experience. I hope to purchase a copy. However, your new text book is excellent. Sections of it I keep reading over and over. Hope you introduced Ms. Hannon to it.

    See you tomorrow. Annel

  2. pat medlin says:

    the day was an unexpected great surprise. i’ve never thought seriously about the in n’ outs of memoir writing and for some reason thought the class included short story writing. after lauretta’s entertaining approach, humor and sticktothepointedness approach, i began to rethink my pea-brain thinking. meeting you was the big bonus of the afternoon and have ordered ‘writing naked’…course i’ve always called it ‘BARE ass naked’…should have it tomorrow…can’t wait to get started.

    i sent a ‘friend request’ however it will come up as ‘paul’ medlin (another story)…no trans anything there, but that’s me your tablemate. look forward to your classes at he church if we’re here…live 1/2 n 1/2 on sailboat. i just self published a collection of poetry (babystep 1) check it out on amazon search for pat medlin poetry. i would love your critique

    • joshlangston says:

      I got your friend request and was pleased to accept it. Although I’m absolutely NOT a poet, I look forward to reading some of your work. I’d also like to know about your half-land half-water living arrangement. (I have a future book in mind wherein a character may need to do the same thing, but for reasons I can’t divulge just now. )

  3. Gerald W. Flinchum says:

    We old dogs can actually learn new tricks, thanks for sharing about her class.

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