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Truth, Lies, and In-Between: The Ethics of Memoir Writing

Panelists: Melanie Brooks, Jaed Coffin, Elizabeth Peavey
Date & Time: Thursday, July 12 | 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Location: Longfellow Books, Portland
Level: Open
Maximum Attendees: Open
Fee: Free
RSVP: If you plan to attend, please RSVP to

Writing memoir is a tightrope walk: How do writers balance telling their truths with privacy concerns? How do they vividly recreate scenes that they may only partially remember? Is it ever ethical for a writer to “massage” the facts to protect real people, or to make their narrative more compelling?

Join us for a lively conversation on these topics and more, with memoirists Melanie Brooks, Jaed Coffin, and Elizabeth Peavey. Moderated by MWPA executive director Joshua Bodwell.

*PLUS A MEMOIR BOOK LAUNCH Please join us after the panel for a celebration of the release of Elizabeth Garber’s new book, Implosion: A Memoir of an Architect’s Daughter, at 7:00 PM! Details here.

Melanie Brooks is a freelance writer, college professor, and mother living in Nashua, New Hampshire with her husband, two children and yellow Lab. She’s the author of Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art from Trauma (February 2017, Beacon Press). Melanie received her master of fine arts in creative nonfiction from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program. She teaches at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, Merrimack College in Andover, Massachusetts, and Nashua Community College in New Hampshire. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Bustle, The Manifest-Station, Hippocampus, the Huffington Post, Modern Loss, Solstice Literary Magazine, the Recollectors, the Stonecoast Review and Word Riot. She received the Michael Steinberg Prize for Creative Nonfiction in Solstice Literary Magazine’s annual contest. Her almost-completed memoir explores the lasting impact of living with the ten-year secret of her father’s HIV disease before his death in 1995. Her writing is the vehicle through which she’s learning to understand that impact.

Jaed Coffin is an assistant professor of creative writing (nonfiction/fiction) in the English department and M.F.A. program at the University of New Hampshire. Coffin joined the UNH faculty as a lecturer, in fall 2014. He earned his B.A. in philosophy from Middlebury College and his M.F.A. in fiction from the Stonecoast M.F.A. at University of Southern Maine. His first book, A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants (Da Capo/Perseus 2008), chronicles the summer he spent as a Buddhist monk in his mother’s village in central Thailand. His forthcoming book, Roughhouse Friday (from Riverhead/Penguin), is about the year he won the middleweight title of a barroom boxing show in Juneau, Alaska. Coffin has lectured widely at over twenty colleges and universities, where he speaks on topics of multiculturalism, masculinity, and the environment. Prior to coming to UNH, Coffin served as a lecturer at Bowdoin College and as the artist in residence at the Telling Room, a nonprofit storytelling foundation that empowers refugee communities in Maine. He has published over forty articles and essays in a broad range of journals and magazines, and has also served as the Wilson Fellow in Creative Writing at Deerfield Academy, a Resident Fellow at the Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska, and the William Sloane Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. In 2015, he was a featured storyteller on the MOTH Radio Hour.

Elizabeth Peavey’s one-woman show, My Mother’s Clothes Are Not My Mother, has played to sold-out houses since 2011 and won the 2013 Maine Literary Award for Best Drama. It made its New York City debut in May 2015.

She is the author of Glorious Slow Going: Maine Stories of Art, Adventure and Friendship, Outta My Way: An Odd Life Lived Loudly and of Maine & Me, another MLA recipient.

Peavey has taught public speaking at the University of Southern Maine for over 20 years, was a guest lecturer of creative nonfiction at the University of Maine at Farmington and served as writer in residence at Bay Path University in Longmeadow, MA. She has taught her popular memoir workshop for the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance since the days of quill and parchment, as well at the 2015 Stonecoast Summer Conference. She is a frequent speaker at schools, libraries and associations around the state. Her current humor column, “Outta My Yard,” can be found at VISIT