Friday, July 25, 2014

The Memoir Club: Mandy Sayer in conversation with Patti Miller

Tuesday, 29 July 2014, 6.00 - 9.00 PM

The Randwick Literary Institute,
60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031

Next Tuesday’s Memoir Club presents award-winning memoirist Mandy Sayer, whose latest work, The Poet’s Wife, begins: Our marriage wasn’t always unhappy   Described as ‘a memoir of a marriage’, it is a tale of passion, of love and betrayal, of jealousy and control. It is a tale of common- place cruelty; of an emotional cage the captive can only see with the benefit of hindsight. It is a compelling account of the kind of abusive relationship that leaves little physical evidence, but it is also a beacon of hope that shows escape and recovery are possible. (Kylie Mason, The Newtown Review of Books)
Mandy Sayer met Yusef Komunyakaa at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, when she was 22, and travelling around the US busking with her jazz musician father; Komunyakaa was starting out as a poet from the American South. Even though we’d grown up in vastly different cultures and countries, we’d both known poverty, domestic violence and the expectation that neither one of us would ever amount to anything… That was probably what united us more than anything: our shared defiance of that prediction.  
Mandy Sayer and American poet Yusef Komunyakaa on their wedding day in 1985.
Mandy Sayer and American poet Yusef Komunyakaa on their wedding day in 1985.

By the end of their ten year marriage, he had become a professor of poetry and won the Pulitzer Prize; she had become a prize-winning writer and lecturer in writing herself, with his support, but things were unravelling.  Komunyakaa was ‘a fascinating poet but a puzzling husband’—by turns affectionate, protective, controlling, insulting and punitive. Mandy became clinically depressed and contemplated suicide when the marriage became abusive.

‘The idea of a memoir as a “detective story by a wife about a husband” takes on a more forensic dimension when the poet’s wife begins to seek out clues…
(Susan Sheridan, Sydney Review of Books). Yet, ‘the memoirist is creator of her personal myth’.

Mandy Sayer has had an extraordinary life, and her creative use of it has been described as the strength of her writing. Come share in both the extraordinary story of and the equally extraordinary story of her writing The Poet’s Wife. Mandy Sayer is a well-known writer—memoirist, novelist, poet, reviewer and columnist. She wond the Vogel award for her first novel, Mood Indigo, but is best known for her memoirs. Her first memoir, Dreamtime Alice, was about her career as a street performer with her father, tap dancing while he played jazz drums. This year she was the joint Nonfiction Writer in Residence at UTS (with her husband, Louis Nowra), and she is researching a book about the history of gypsies in Australia.

Patti Miller
is the author of the bestselling autobiographical texts, Writing Your Life (1994) and The Memoir Book (2007), as well as four other books: The Last One Who Remembers (1997), Child (1998), Whatever The Gods Do (2003), and her most recent book The Mind of A Thief (2012), which won the NSW Community and Regional History Prize in 2013. Patti gives memoir workshops in Paris and Writing the Senses workshops in Ubud, as well as teaches 'True Stories' for the Faber Academy. Her new memoir, Ransacking Paris, is due in May 2015.

When: last Tuesday of every month (29 July, 26 August, 30 September etc.)

Time: 6.00 - 9.00 PM (come for a cuppa and help us set up at 5.30 PM - please remember to bring your own cup!)

Where: The Randwick Literary Institute, 60 Clovelly Road, Randwick 2031. Tel: 02-9398 5203 (for directions and venue info). Street parking available. Clovelly bus 339 on the doorstep. For how to get there, see:

What: A communal space to meet other writers and readers and converse about all things to do with reading and writing memoir. We are interested in all kinds of life stories and in different ways of telling them. The genre of life writing and the possibilities of expanding and reworking the genre is exciting to us. Therefore we have a somewhat open and inclusive approach to what makes a memoir, and we hope you do too! Here is a space to connect with others and share ideas, questions and just hang out. Each meeting will start off with a talk, conversation or discussion about a particular topic or book, sometimes with a guest speaker or facilitator, then we move to an informal gathering and catch up.

Donation: $10 at the door for hall hire, refreshments and speakers.

Food: $15 for a plate of delicious vegetarian finger food (different each meeting). Ring or text to book a plate: 0450 907 422.

Future Speakers: Beth Yahp & Barbara Brooks Memoir Masterclass (August); Ross Gibson (September); Members Night of Readings (October)

Look forward to seeing you there! Please do pass information on to anyone who might be interested in this community gathering.

mem·oir /ˈmemˌwär/
Noun. A historical account or biography written from personal knowledge. An autobiography or a written account of one's memory of certain events or people.

“The things that make you a functional citizen in society—manners, discretion, cordiality—don’t necessarily make you a good writer. Writing needs raw truth, wants your suffering and darkness on the table, revels in a cutting mind that takes no prisoners."
                                                                                                     —Natalie Goldberg

“I’m in control of the material… The good thing about being a writer is, usually the writer gets the final word."
                                                                                                          —Mandy Sayer

“To remember is to re-enter, and be riven.”
                                                                                                          —Harold Brodky