Life Stories #25: Cynthia Zarin

Life Stories: Cynthia Zarin
photo: Sara Bennett

In this episode of Life Stories, the podcast series where I talk to memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, Cynthia Zarin explains why An Enlarged Heart isn’t really memoir but rather “personal history,” and from there we talk a bit about how a 400-word magazine item gets expanded into an 8,000-word personal essay, the ghost maps of memory that we carry around the cities where we live, and how the types of children’s books she’s written have changed as her children have gotten older—among other topics.

In reviewing the “tape” of this conversation, I was especially struck by her response to the question about whether there were other personal essayists whose voices she saw as a model to keep in mind while she was working on the essays in this collection: “Of course, and no.” And, too, her refusal to give in to the anxiety of influence and just concentrate on refining the voice with which she felt most comfortable, whoever else it might remind some hypothetical reader of.

Listen to Life Stories #25: Cynthia Zarin (MP3 file); or download the file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click).

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1 March 2013 | life stories |