The Story of a Heel: Notes on Memoir and Fiction

When I was in high school in East Germany, a substitute teacher—not our usual boring drone, who had fallen ill—gave us an unusual homework assignment: “Write a story from your life. Let your reader know what happened and how you felt about it. Work on it over the weekend and bring it in on Monday.”

(Joel Agee: On Recreating Lost Time)

The class erupted into a cacophony of protest: “It’s too hard! We’re not prepared! Does it have to be true?”

“It needn’t be true,” the teacher said, “but it should be believable, and it should be a story. I think you all know what a story is.”

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