Category Archives: Memoir

Beacon Memoir Writing Workshop

This spring, I’ll be teaching  what I hope to be the first of many memoir writing workshops in Beacon, New York!

The 8-week workshop will start Wednesday, March 14 and go through May 2.  The class meets on Wednesday nights from 7:30 to 9:30 PM. (The location is a private home — email me for address. ) The fee is $275 (installment plans and optional credit card payment are available).

My workshops focus on craft – particularly on using emotion, sensory details,  critical thinking, and the art of storytelling to construct deep and relatable works of personal writing. Students will get frequent feedback in a supportive atmosphere. Class size is small — limited to eight. You may either bring in a memoir project you are already working on, or use weekly, optional class assignments to develop your writing. Students at all levels are welcome. 🙂

I’m happy to answer any questions! For information or to register, please contact me at minkowitz46@Gmail.com.

Bio: Donna Minkowitz has taught memoir writing for 20 years, at venues including the 92nd Street Y, the Mt. Chocorua Writing Workshop, the In Our Own Write program, the Jewish Community Center of the Upper West Side, the New York Writers Workshop, and the NYC avant-garde arts space The Kitchen. Her recent memoir, Growing Up Golem, was a finalist for both a Lambda Literary Award and the Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award, and she won a Lambda Literary Award for her first book, Ferocious Romance. Minkowitz has read her work on PBS’s Edge and National Public Radio. A former columnist and feature writer at The Village Voice, she’s also written for Slate, The New York Times Book Review,  The Nation, and Salon.

Memoir Intensive in NYC Oct. 21

 

By Eugenio Zampighi

Friends, I am teaching a one-day memoir writing intensive on Saturday, October 21 from 2-5 PM at the Goddard Riverside Community Center on the Upper West Side in NYC!

The intensive is sponsored by the New York Writers Workshop.

Memoir Intensive: How to Write Truthfully about Your Life

The true stories of our lives are often messy and complex. In this three-hour intensive, we will learn to write about our lives using emotion, rich sensory description, critical thinking, lyricism, and the art of storytelling.

Goddard is located at 647 Columbus Avenue at 91st St. The course fee is $65.

To register, please click here.

I’m happy to answer any questions at growingupgolem AT Gmail. And here’s some info on my background: Donna Minkowitz has taught memoir writing since 1998, at many venues including the 92nd Street Y, the New York Writers Workshop, the Mt. Chocorua Writers Workshop, the JCC of the Upper West Side, and The Kitchen. Her recent memoir Growing Up Golem was a finalist for both a Lambda Literary Award and for the Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award, and she won a Lambda Literary Award for her first memoir, Ferocious Romance: What My Encounters with the Right Taught Me About Sex, God, and Fury. Minkowitz has also written for the New York Times Book Review, Slate, The Nation, New York magazine, and the Village Voice.

Fall Memoir Workshop in Brooklyn

 

My next fall memoir writing workshop starts Wednesday, September 27.

Details: 8 Wednesday nights from 7 to 9 PM, through November 15. Location: Windsor Terrace/Kensington, Brooklyn, New York. The fee is $325.

The workshop focuses on craft – particularly on using emotion, sensory details, imagination, and storytelling to construct deep and relatable works of personal writing. Students will get frequent feedback in a supportive atmosphere.

Class size is limited to 8. You may either bring in a memoir project you are already working on, or use weekly class assignments to spark your writing. Students at all levels are welcome. 🙂

For more information or to register, just email me at growingupgolem AT Gmail.com.

And here’s some information about me:

Donna Minkowitz has taught memoir writing for 19 years, at venues including the 92nd Street Y, The Kitchen, the Mt. Chocorua Writing Workshop, and the New York Writers Workshop. Her recent memoir, Growing Up Golem: How I Survived My Mother, Brooklyn, and Some Really Bad Dates, was a finalist for both a Lambda Literary Award and the Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award, and she won a Lammy for her first memoir, Ferocious Romance. Minkowitz has read her work on PBS’s Edge and National Public Radio. A former columnist at The Village Voice, she’s also written for Slate, The New York Times Book Review, Tablet, The Nation, and Salon, and she is the restaurant columnist for Gay City News.

A number of my students have gone on to publish book-length works of memoir.

All best – Donna

Cooking Up Rebellion

In times of trouble, cooking makes me whole. I may be tired, irritable, I may have gotten home late, I may even be sick, but I stand at my fry pan tossing in onions, that base of almost every culture’s cooking. To me, it might as well be the base of life itself, as I stand there trying to make something tasty and satisfying and warming out of a few teensy bits of vegetables and some shreds of meat.

Cooking, which I came to only in my 40s and disabled, like someone clutching a lifeline, reminds me of the sacredness of the act of creation. It feels like making something out of nothing: whatever’s assembled on my cutting board – a little mess of garlic bits and bitter vegetables and cheese snips – always seems so poignantly small to me as the basis of a hot dinner that will somehow sustain two adults. The process that transforms these scraps into a whole always seems mystical to me: what god created this eggplant parmigiano pasta?

Certainly not me.

With cooking, as with writing, providence comes in and accomplishes what we ourselves, with our conscious minds, can barely accomplish. When I say providence, I don’t exactly mean God. Who made this dish? It was the fire (which reshapes molecules and “denatures” proteins and divinely caramelizes eggplants). It was the balsamic vinegar in all its oddness, sour, acid, musty, sweet, powerfully itself and shaped by hands and minds other than my own. It was the traditions of a million years of hominids cooking (while humans have only been around and making dinner for 200,000 years, our hominid ancestors have been cooking for even longer). It was my innumerable memories of meals out and Food Network snippets and half-remembered recipes, plus glimmering images in my brain (my mother’s ancient Italian friend’s fresh sausage and tomato sauce), and, maybe most of all, dumb luck and inspiration!

It was also me, yes, along with all of these. It was my own arm strength and my thinking mind, saying “Now! A dab more tomato paste!” and “Now! I want sesame oil and more parsley!” In point of fact, I feel really butch when I cook, much more butch than I do when writing, say, or making love. Turning the flame up and down, I am Hephaestus at the forge; I am Casey at the switch. I feel powerful, capable, gripping my 11-inch pan and smelting tomatoes, refining wine, building skyscrapers out of flour and beef. I am doing this for my family which consists of my partner and me, making things to keep us good and warm inside, and feeling loved. I am blending tahini in a machine noisy as a cement mixer, making a sauce so sumptuous it can make steamed zucchini taste good. I am butchering squashes and making rebellious Jewish bricks out of walnuts, apples and wine that will make our conquerors choke. I am constructing fantasy universes out of ground turkey and breadcrumbs and spices and egg. The turkey meatballs I make will make our hearts happy as we eat them in a radiant red sauce before going to the demonstration.

So, gentle reader who loves the taste of food, dear one who loves kimchi, posole, and democracy: go to the demonstration. There are a lot this week, and there will be more the week after, and the week after that. Keep going. Eat something hot before and after. Take care of yourself. Take care of other people, too. There is no contradiction between activism and compassion, no contradiction between activism and tenderness or sweetness: remember that. What I am trying to say is: everything we do, whether we are masters or novices, we do in the context of other people. I’m no great chef by any measure, but I learned to make a damn good dinner, and so can you. Individual writers don’t create literature, individual cooks don’t create the art of cooking, and individual actors don’t create entire movements. Everyone is needed, and everyone needs others.

Everyone is important in cooking up this struggle, even and especially you.

Originally published in Gay City News on January 19, 2017.

Summer Memoir Writing Workshop

Brooklyn writing classes

Hey, I’ll be teaching a five-week summer memoir writing workshop in Brooklyn! The class will meet on Wednesday nights starting June 29 in Windsor Terrace, and run from 7 to 9 PM. The last class is August 5 (no class the week of July 20). The fee is $250.

The workshop focuses on craft – particularly on using emotion, sensory details, critical thinking, and imagination to construct profound and relatable works of personal writing. Students will get frequent feedback in a supportive atmosphere. The number of students is limited to 8. Continue reading

Five Days with Fred Phelps

Donna with Phelps

I had the privilege of reading this piece at a recent Brooklyn Museum event with Queer Memoir for Women’s History Month, March 5, 2016. It’s a companion piece to the original article I wrote for Poz magazine in 1994 about the five days I spent undercover with the Rev. Fred Phelps and his family in Topeka.

Anyone here remember the Rev. Fred Phelps? I can see that some of you do 🙂 He was this guy who had a church in Kansas that was almost all members of his family, and they would fly all over the country to celebrate at the funerals of people who died of AIDS.

He and his adult children would picket funerals in New York and LA and Topeka with enormous signs that said “Fags Equals Death” with a big smiley face. Or they would say “God Hates You. Filthy AIDS Spreaders.” Phelps liked to send personally-crafted, mean letters to bereaved family members. Right after Nick Rango died, Phelps mailed his mother a letter calling him a “famous fag” and “filthy piece of human garbage who checked into hell November 10.” “I love to use words that send them off the edge emotionally,” Fred said. “There’s nothing better than that.”

I decided to go visit the guy and write about him. I was a writer for the Village Voice at the time and for the past couple of years I’d specialized in getting in Christian disguise and writing about antigay activists. They really scared me and at that time, they were really getting powerful, even in New York. But Fred scared me more than the rest, not just because he was all about hurting us in a very personal, emotional way but because he had a history of violence.

Two of his adult children said he’d beaten them all, including their mother, with an axe handle, and starved some of them. They remembered a game involving Fred holding a child in the air and repeatedly smashing his knee into the child’s groin while laughing. Fred was convicted of battery on someone protesting one of his demonstrations in the 90s, and other folks his church had hit had filed charges. I called the church and said I was a writer for a conservative publication and I wanted to visit Phelps and his flock in Kansas. They said come on down. Continue reading

Spring Memoir Workshop in Brooklyn

Brooklyn memoir classes

Hey, I’ll be teaching an 8-week memoir writing workshop in Brooklyn this fall! The class will meet on Wednesday nights starting January 27 in Windsor Terrace, from 7 to 9 PM.

This workshop focuses on craft – particularly on using emotion, sensory details, and storytelling in your long and short memoir projects. Students will get frequent feedback in a supportive atmosphere. The number of students is limited to eight. The cost is $325.

Let me know if you’re interested. You can contact me at growingupgolem AT Gmail. All best – Donna

Here’s some info on my background:

Donna Minkowitz has taught memoir writing for 18 years, at venues including the 92nd Street Y, The Kitchen, the JCC of the Upper West Side, and the New York Writers Workshop. Her recent memoir, Growing Up Golem: How I Survived My Mother, Brooklyn, and Some Really Bad Dates, was a finalist for both a Lambda Literary Award and the Judy Grahn Nonfiction Award. Her first memoir, Ferocious Romance, won a Lammie. A former feature writer at The Village Voice, she has also written for The New York Times Book Review, Salon, New York magazine, Ms. and The Nation.

More info: Location is near the F/G stop at Fort Hamilton Parkway. The last class date is March 16.

FAQ: Refund Policy: Withdrawal by January 22: full refund. Withdrawal by January 26: 50% refund. No refund available for withdrawal after January 29.