University of Iowa

The Perfect Lie: From Long Memory to Short Story

Weeklong July 08 to July 13 2018

Poet and fiction writer David Huddle trusts in the power of memory. While some writers warn us to avoid writing the thinly-disguised, autobiographical story, or the confessional poem, Huddle encourages us to shape the events that shaped us. In The Writing Habit, Huddle observes: “If carving stone is more difficult than molding clay, then chipping something that really happened into a usable shape for a short story must be at least as much of an accomplishment as making something up.” I have found, as Huddle has, that by recreating the details of my own life, I get closer to the bones of a short story that is not all about me. Often, it takes the perfect lie to get at the perfect truth.


This week, we will start with mining our pasts, with the help of Huddle’s “Questionnaire for an Autobiographical Portrait.” Then, we will move from “what happened” to “what if.” Bring your journals, family photographs, and other memory tools. Manuscripts are not required. Writers at all levels of experience, and in any genre, are welcome.

Short Story