Life Stories #82: Maria Venegas

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Life Stories: Maria Venegas

photo: Ricco Long

In this episode of Life Stories, the podcast where I talk to memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, Maria Venegas talks about Bulletproof Vest. It’s the story of her father, who brought his family to Chicago from Mexico, but then abandoned them to avoid being arrested for killing one of their neighbors. But Venegas doesn’t just recount this and other violent episodes from his life; she also writes about the abandonment (and the eventual reconciliation) from her perspective, coming to terms with the ways her father’s past shaped her own emotional development.

During the interview, we talked about how she’d originally intended to write Bulletproof Vest as fiction, and why it ended up becoming a memoir—and about how she came to writing through acting first. It was acting, she says, that first enabled her to deal with the emotions she’d been suppressing for much of her life, but then writing enabled her to grapple with the actual sources of those emotions. And she’d only hit upon acting, she revealed, because of an elective course her last year of college, after she’d already met the requirements for her economics major. She described the impact that a class she’d only signed up for because she thought it would be fun:

“It was really exciting when I realized I could access these emotions and express myself through acting in a way that I’d never known to be possible. But, you know, with acting it’s also… you’re using your own well of emotions to fuel this other character, so you’re still slightly removed from it, whereas with writing I feel, you know, that’s me on the page, and it feels a lot more vulnerable in a way.

Listen to Life Stories #82: Maria Venegas (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

16 August 2014 | life stories |

Life Stories #81: Nicole C. Kear

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Life Stories: Nicole C. Kear
photo: Justine Cooper

Nicole Kear was 19 when she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative condition that, at the time it was discovered, was chipping away at her peripheral and night vision and would, she was told, result in more and more loss of vision over the years. Your life is going to change dramatically, her doctor told her; start planning now. So, as she writes in her new memoir, Now I See You, she made an enormous effort to keep her deteriorating eyesight a secret from all but those closest to her for years. In this episode of Life Stories, the podcast where I talk to memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, we talk about the fears that drove that decision… and about what it was like, after hiding her condition for so long, to put the truth in a book for everyone to see:

“When I was writing it, people would say ‘What’s it about?’ and I would realize that if I told them what the book was about, clearly they would know my whole story. I really didn’t want to tell them, so I would be super evasive and basically not reveal what the book was about, and just, you know, say it was about parenting or something. Essentially lie about the book. It got to the point where my friend, who’s also a writer, was like, ‘You are literally writing a secret book about your secret eye disease! You do want people to buy the book, right? Perhaps that will help you to come to terms with this!’

I remember when the book went up on Amazon, and I linked to it on social media, and all of these people that I knew, the next few days, just were like ‘Wowwwwww. We thought it was fiction, but we went back and saw it was a memoir… is that really true?’

And at first it was excruciating, and then I was like, this is great. It was so the opposite of excruciating, it was really liberating. And now it’s amazing, because everyone knows, and if they want to know any pertinent details, I can refer them to my book, and I don’t even have to worry about having that awkward conversation…”

Listen to Life Stories #81: Nicole C. Kear (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

10 August 2014 | life stories |

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