Life Stories #1: Heather Donahue

I mentioned, back in January, that I had big plans for 2012, and it’s time to unveil one of them: a new podcast series called Life Stories, in which I will be interviewing memoir writers about their lives and about the art of telling a story about those lives. The idea began with a chat on Twitter late in 2011, thanks to an invitation from Anna David, the author of Falling for Me, to moderate a conversation with about half a dozen different memoir writers. We all thought the Twitter chat went well, we hoped we could do it again, maybe make a regular thing of it… and, over December, I thought about some other things I would like to do with the concept, including an audio podcast. Anna was gracious enough to give her blessing, but I don’t think I would have recognized the opportunity it presents without her pointing me in this direction, and I’m truly grateful to her for that (and to all the authors who took part in that first chat, with whom I hope to talk again as part of this series eventually).

So: The first episode of Life Stories is a conversation between me and Heather Donahue about Growgirl: How My Life After the Blair Witch Project Went to Pot. In it, as the subtitle suggests, she writes about how, after deciding to recognize the end of her acting career, she moved to a small town in northern California and started growing medical marijuana. During the interview, I discovered not only that she’d been writing much of this story every day in her journal, long before she ever considered the possibility of Growgirl, but that writing was her first passion, even above acting:

“I came to acting from writing… I was reading and writing from the time I was really small. But I don’t really come from a family of readers, so acting sort of made more sense. It was a thing that my family could relate to more, so that’s what I got praised for more, and I think that’s why I ended up following that path. I think kids will generally go in the direction in which they’re praised, right? So for me Blair Witch was a blessing because it got me back to where I really wanted to be. This feels so much better to me. It feels great to have those long periods of solitude…”

(Donahue is currently teaching memoir writing at The Grotto; if you’re in the San Francisco area and serious about memoir writing, I’d suggest you look into her workshops.)

Listen to Life Stories #1: Heather Donahue (MP3 file); or download the file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click).

PLUS: I mentioned up above that this podcast is one of the ways I wanted to work with the Life Stories concept. Here’s another: I’m aiming to record select episodes in front of a live studio audience. We’ll be recording a “pilot” of the live show in Manhattan on Wednesday, February 22, at Wix Lounge (10 W. 18th Street), a great writers’ space just a few blocks from Union Square, and in addition to recording audio from the show, we may even have some video highlights thanks to friends at the multimedia production company Arcade Sunshine Media.

The February 21 taping will have two guest stars: Rachel Shukert, the author of Everything Is Going to Be Great, and Reverend Jen, the author of Elf Girl. Join us at Wix Lounge at 7:00 p.m. that evening; RSVP on Facebook if you can, so we can estimate how many chairs we need to set out.

In the meantime, keep a look out for new Life Stories episodes here, and coming very soon to iTunes!

2 February 2012 | life stories |