by Sage Mitchell (he/they)
Sage is the creator of Songs of Ourselves. He writes short essays and poems.
A few months ago, I read Alexander Chee’s book How to Write an Autobiographical Novel after it was recommended by my therapist. The suggestion came up while we were discussing my fears around writing about my life. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to get from this book, especially with the words “how to” in the title. Since I didn't do any research on the book beforehand, I expected it to be more like a guidebook to completing this type of writing which in made me even more weary to read it. Instead, I was thrilled to discover that it was full of beautifully written personal essays, all centered around Alexander Chee's experience of writing about his life.
I still see this book as a “how to” but in a subtle way. I learned a lot, especially when I made space for my own reflection as I read the book. I decided, instead of writing out a review for you, I would write some writing prompts that encourage reflection and could be the basis of writing your own personal essays. I have listed which essay each prompt is inspired by if you would like to use this guide as you read or return to the book.