Ken Budd Discusses the Challenges of Writing Memoir in New York Times Essay

“Writing a memoir is a selfish act. For the memoir to work, to truly be alive, the honesty of the writing must outweigh the feelings of your subjects.” So writes Ken Budd in a recent essay for The New York Times, titled “When Writers Expose the Dead.”

The piece appeared on December 1 as part of the Times’ “Draft” series on writing. Ken’s essay looked at the pitfalls writers face when revealing details about loved ones who’ve passed away. In Ken’s case, this included sharing information about his father—information his father might have considered private—in Ken’s book, The Voluntourist.

The essay, which has been widely shared on Twitter, reveals Ken’s challenges and lessons, including that “even though it’s my story on the page, readers see it through the prisms of their own lives. For all of a memoir’s exhibitionism, your tale is interpreted by readers to suit their own needs, their own experiences, their own journey. It’s a type of literary scavenging: they keep what serves them and reuse it for new purposes.”

You can connect with Ken on Facebook and Twitter. Ken is donating his earnings from The Voluntourist to the places and organizations where he volunteered around the world.

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