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The role of curiosity

By Patti Miller, Course director, True Stories: Writing Memoir & Narrative Non-Fiction


Patti MillerIt is a curious way to spend one's days; writing memoir and helping others to write theirs. And I do mean curious. Memoir is, for me, the expression of an unending curiosity - a desire to know the texture of being in the world.

What is it really like to be here, not just what it looks like? How is it for me, for you, to be here?

I feel the hunger to know,  and to find the words to express it, when I catch a bus, or sit in a café. I want ask to each person, what is it like for you to be here in this world with only a set of stories to guide you? How do you do it? How do I do it?

This year my third memoir was published; it explores a native title claim in my hometown, and so I have considered how my life and the lives of the Wiradjuri people, whose land I grew up on, are intertwined. Memoir is a genre wide enough to explore these issues and any of the questions murmuring  under a life. As it weaves memory, ideas and stories, memoir is also flexible enough to evoke the complex beauty of  life.

Whether I am giving a workshop at Dubbo or Paris of Sydney, there is always a sense of awe as well as curiosity. In memoir, it feels as if I am returning to the well of literature, the place where we try to find words to say what it is like to be here in the mystery of existence. Why wouldn't I be curious?

Patti Miller is the author of Australia's best-selling life writing texts, Writing Your Life and The Memoir Book and has been teaching life writing for over twenty years at universities and writers' centres around Australia, as well as courses in Fiji and Bali, and she takes a memoir-writing group to Paris every year. Patti is the course director of True Stories: Writing Memoir and Narrative Non-Fiction.