7 Questions with Cirenaica’s Memoir Writer-in-Residence June Melby

Credit: Parker Deen

Credit: Parker Deen

Love memoir?  Mini-golf? Wisconsin? Then allow us to introduce you to New York Times bestselling author June Melby, who we’re proud to host as a writer-in-residence at Cirenaica this summer!  June’s residency— “The Art of Memoir: Keep it Honest, But Keep it Interesting”—will teach writers of all levels great techniques for keeping readers riveted within the memoir form.  The author of My Family and Other Hazards (hailed as a “summer delight” and an “ode to Wisconsin” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune) is a must-read for all Wisconsinites (though especially those who want to hear about June’s adolescence amid golf balls and tricky putts).

We recently caught up with June and learned a ton about her writing style, her influencse and how to handle a truncated question (spoiler alert: her answer is “chocolate”).

You grew up in Iowa, but spent much of your career as a writer in California. Do you think your move back to the Midwest has affected how you write?

Sure, because I have a lot more time now that I’m not stuck on California freeways half the day.  But seriously, I think that moving period has helped me as a writer.  I have found that throwing yourself in an unfamiliar environment is incredibly stimulating.  Anything that makes you challenge your own assumptions is a good thing.  Moving away helped me get the distance I needed to really think about growing up in the Midwest.  Moving back has given me perspective on the years I spent in California.  Buy mostly, I admit that moving back to the Midwest had a huge impact on my writing, because I came back to attend graduate school and get my MFA.  That experience was about as educational (and humbling) as it gets.  I learned to hold my work up to a higher standard.  Best of all, in Iowa City I got the chance to hear many great authors give talks about writing.  I think that was school in itself. 

How has your background in standup comedy influenced your writing style?

Yes.  It got me wonderfully prepared for rejection.  Ha.  But seriously, I think that comedy was a wonderful place to start.  For one, you learn how to be concise.  Comedy is a lot like poetry actually.  You learn to pay attention to each word, as well as the rhythm.  Also, it’s empowering to write and then not have to wait around for a publisher to give you the go-ahead. 

What would you say is the most…

The question is truncated, but in any case, the answer is “chocolate.””

Your Cirenaica residency is titled The Art of Memoir: Keep it Honest, But Keep it Interesting. How have you struck that balance in your own memoir writing?

It may sound simplistic, but I discovered that I got stuck when I was trying to say things that weren’t exactly true.  And in this case, I don’t mean true to facts, but true to what I am really trying to understand about the events and people in my life. I am very interested in this topic, because in my experience, it is nothing short of a wonderful miracle that if you write about the things you are curious about, if you really try to grapple with this strange miracle of life,  the reader will be engrossed and travel with you.  However, on the other hand, if you write to impress people, it’s not going to happen.  If you are bored while writing something, guess what, the reader will be too!

Who (or what) most influences your writing?

This is a toughy to answer. But I will say that recently I got the chance to travel, and it was just wonderful for giving me ideas.  Putting yourself in a situation when you feel off-balance, humbled, or even just plain lost can be a very stimulating thing.  It makes you think.  Question your assumptions.  It’s almost impossible to say where inspiration and ideas really come from.   So I’ll just add this quote from Dorothy Parker, “Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat.” 

Is there anything you’re working on currently?

Yes.  I have three projects in the works!  A collection of humorous essays, a new memoir, and a collection of short fiction in the form of fairy tales.

 How would you describe My Family and Other Hazards in one sentence?

I grew up on a miniature golf course that my family ran for thirty years (and which I hated), but when my parents sold it I freaked out, fell apart, and wrote this book in an effort to make sense of it all. 

Want to share your work with June this summer?  Then apply today by clicking here.

And check out an excerpt from My Family and Other Hazards by clicking here.

Oh, and a special treat for those who read till the end: for each referral application, receive 10.00 off your own potential acceptance! Just have your friend type in your name in the "referral" box on his or her application.