Recently, Carteret Writers Veep Emily Carter spoke to a rapt audience at Bogue Banks Library, where she shared her thoughts on defining creative nonfiction, distinguishing between the writing of fiction and nonfiction, and capturing moments in time with personal essays. You can read her funny, nostalgic, wise personal essays at her blog A Chick’s View. In this post, she writes about her experience at a 2022 Red Bud Writing Project workshop on Experimental Memoir.

This past summer I enrolled in a course through Redbud Writing Project. It was called “Experimental Memoir: Innovative Ways to Tell Your Story.” Forever the enthusiastic student, I bought a new notebook with wildflowers on the cover and royal blue felt tip pen. I wrote my name in my notebook with my new pen and smiled, giddy with anticipation. Word learning is my jam.

The instructor was on the young side, well-intentioned and kind. Her skills did not master the art of making copies, but she offered up a selection of crooked, off-center pieces of published writing that she found insightful and important. She challenged my thinking.

We read and talked and wrote. She conducted an in-class point of view prompt and part of my story, one that I am reluctant to discuss, hopped right on the page in second-person narrative. It was a breakthrough experience for me in royal blue ink.

She introduced “300 Arguments” by Sara Manguso and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. We explored the bright and happy and the dark and murky – which is memoir by formal definition:

Mem-oir /mem war/


  1. a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources.
  2. an essay on a learned subject.

There was a day that memoir lived tucked in the autobiography / biography section of the library. Many writers that typed before us rocked that world a few decades ago with Mary Karr and The Liar’s Club breaking down doors that had previously only opened for the recognizable subject person or matter, (famous or infamous).

I love Mary Karr. I have her books on my special writer altar shelf, but it’s hard for me to create a story that compares to hers as my mama rarely shot guns in the house. Plus, Karr’s very engine runs hot and fast compared to mine. I am more of a Buick LeSabre to her Pontiac GTO.

There’s Lost and Found by Kathryn Schulz, proving that a memoir can be born from a happy childhood. While this is amazing writing, it doesn’t fit me either. At the risk of sounding like Goldilocks, too hot, too cold, too soft, too lumpy, Schulz’s book drags in parts for me and that’s important to recognize. “Experimental Memoir” helped me home in on my taste and voice and what I need to do to create my own finger print with royal blue pen.

I could ramble here discussing books as that’s a comfort zone for me – reading. What I want to be is a non-fiction writer. And dang if that doesn’t require action verbs – just write, already.

In “Experimental Memoir,” I did just that. I wrote. From this class, essays, poems, a couple country songs, and a cartoon took seed. That’s right, I wrote a comic strip. It was an assignment, and I am the only one in class that completed it, which is crazy in reflection as I am no artist. (See proof above.) I am still thinking that Toasty, Fridgey, and Estovan will have a place in my memoir, which is still in progress, just like all my writing, just like me.

At the end of the course, the instructor gave all the students personalized, handmade bookmarks. They were kind and so very lovely, a reminder to mark this learning experience in my life’s page and return to it as a resource for forward movement down the writing journey in my LeSabre, windows down, notebook and pen on my pleather seats.

The bookmark went into my 2022 good things jar, which is a five-star review, along with my cartoon, which is the best art (bar none), I have ever produced.