May 17, 2022

A Masterclass in Writing and Living with Abigail Thomas

A Masterclass in Writing and Living with Abigail Thomas

Paul talks with the NYT-bestselling memoirist and teacher, Abigail Thomas. Her memoir, Safekeeping (2000), is a marvel of technical innovation, enviable humor, and just plain old heart. She’s clear-sighted about her own failings, as well as other people’s, but she never seems to judge anyone.


Paul talks with the NYT-bestselling memoirist and teacher, Abigail Thomas. Her memoir, Safekeeping (2000), is a marvel of technical innovation, enviable humor, and just plain old heart. She’s clear-sighted about her own failings, as well as other people’s, but she never seems to judge anyone.

In this episode Abigail Thomas shares the backstory of how she came to write Safekeeping, how the memoir was initially turned down by all the editors the book was sent, except for one. 

The interview is something of a masterclass on writing memoir as Thomas also talks about:

  • How to shape an experimental or “mosaic” memoir like hers
  • How to own what you don’t remember
  • Her favorite writing exercise (hint: it’s 2 pages about…)
  • How to stop getting hung up by chronology in memoir
  • Writing memoir vs. "tattling"
  • How to create distance in memoir

Abigail Thomas, the daughter of renowned science writer Lewis Thomas, is the author of three works of fiction: Getting Over Tom, An Actual Life, and Herb’s Pajamas.

Her memoir, A Three Dog Life, was named one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. She is also author of Safekeeping and What Comes Next and How to Like it (memoirs), as well as Thinking About Memoir.

Discussed in this episode:

 “Getting Started” (essay): https://www.abigailthomas.net/getting-started/

Safekeeping (memoir)

What Comes Next and How to Like it (memoir)

Forthcoming Untitled Memoir published by the Golden Notebook bookstore, Woodstock, NY

Credits:

This episode was edited by Paul Zakrzewski and produced by Magpie Audio Productions. Theme music  is "The Stone Mansion" by BlueDot Productions.