Hooray! An Event of Successful Fiction and Memoir

IMG_2731Yesterday, we headed down to Alexandria, Va., to attend an event at Hooray for Books with Beth Kephart, whose writing cannot be praised enough, and Debbie Levy, who is as charming in person as I expected.  It has been many years since I’ve been there, but I’ve always loved the waterfront, the Torpedo Factory, and many other things about the shops and restaurants there.  While I did notice some changes, including the movement of Hannelore’s where I got my wedding dress to a side street off of King Street, much of the atmosphere remains the same.  What did we do after the event? We went to our favorite pub, Murphy’s, though after the nauseated morning I had, I did not dare have the Guinness I would have love to have.  And then we took Wiggles around to check out the sights she has never seen.  (pictured here is my favorite tree down by the water).

Due to construction on the lovely George Washington Parkway, I was late to the event and I hate being late!  I abhor it.  My husband kindly dropped me off as he sought parking.  I walked in and was told there were still seats, which was good, though I would have stood for this one.  And stupidly, I became too absorbed in the conversation to take too many photos.  There was talk about memoir and its differences from fiction and autobiography, and how there is still a need for imagination in memoir, but not in making up facts.  We all know those memoirists that have been caught bending or blatantly making up facts — they are not Beth Kephart or Debbie Levy (below Beth on the left and Debbie on the far right).


There were books galore to be had at the bookstore, and when my husband finally arrived with Wiggles, they sat for a few minutes while the audience — and myself — were engaged in a writing exercise about what friends from our school days would remember about us and what we’d like them to remember — thanks to Debbie Levy.  Earlier we had engaged in a different writing exercise about a first person account of an object, which Beth Kephart dreamt up.  I did share the poem, I will share here at the behest of Beth and Debbie, though I feel it is unfinished.

Ghost in a Book

She was a bean pole
books hanging from her nose,
from her hands,
in her bag.
Looking down, but
always -- inwardly -- out
to a horizon
beyond four walls,
small town, gossip.
Ready to spring --
jump forward, move
and leave us
wondering if she was here.

I’ve honestly written more poetry than fiction and essay and have never written memoir or nonfiction. It was good to stretch my writing in these exercises, and it was fun to see what others came up with. Some of them were funny and sarcastic, while others were serious. This was a great event for more than one reason — writing exercises, readings, questions and answers — but most of all the genuine awe and support the writers showed for one another, culminating in each buying books from the other’s stacks and signing books to their friends and loved ones. I loved how they bounced questions off of one another and how they interacted. It was like watching two colleagues who have known one another longer than I suspect Beth and Debbie have.

I’ll leave you with my favorite photo from yesterday — thanks to my husband who took the photo — of three lovely ladies.



  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself so much and that is a great shot of you three!

  2. Sounds like a great event. I like the idea of writing exercises. And your favorite tree looks like it has a lot of stories to tell.

  3. Serena thank you for sharing your poem! I love, love the beginning of it. You can “see” her. Probably because you said you felt it is unfinished I’m now thinking there is more to it as well. If you do expand it or re-work it please share. I really enjoyed it!

    Glad you had a great time at the event!

    • Thanks, Iliana. I think there is a bit more detail that could be added, but not too much more. I’ve thought about it since. No additional work on it yet, though.

  4. Enjoyed this post, Serena, and I enjoyed meeting you. And I loved the poem you wrote right there, on the spot!

    • Debbie, thanks so much for stopping by the humble blog. I’m glad you enjoyed the poem. It was good to meet you and we’ll have to keep in touch.

  5. Love the photo–so glad (and a little envious!) that you were able to make it to Beth’s event in Alexandria. I just started reading HANDLING THE TRUTH this weekend.

  6. So glad you were able to make it to Beth’s event, and LOVE the photo!

  7. What fun for you all and what a great pic!

  8. Sounds like a wonderful time! Love your poem – and I agree with Beth; it’s finished. So glad you had the chance to attend. I can’t wait to read HANDLING THE TRUTH.

    • Thanks, Melissa. Maybe it is finished, maybe not…we’ll see. I might let it stew for a while before revisiting it.

  9. It’s hard to take a lot of photos and truly enjoy an event. It sounds like this one was fabulous! I love your poem!

    • Kathy, usually I’m pretty good at multi-tasking, but I wasn’t feeling well earlier that day, so I really had only enough energy to do one or the other. I think I picked the best option — listening!

  10. Sounds like an amazing afternoon for you to be surrounded by all that positive energy, talent, and good will!! I loved your poem, too!! That is a great photo of you three!!

    • Thanks for commenting on the poem. It’s rough around the edges to me, but that’s ok. I do love the photo and the event was great.

  11. Glad you had a wonderful time. I think the writing exercises made it a unique author event. I like the poem you posted. Now finish it! 😉

    • Beth and Debbie said it was fully formed. LOL I’m not sure I’ll finish it now..maybe later. I think she may be posting my memoir piece later today or maybe a bit of it.