Mar 2 - 2017

27: When Is It Okay to Bullshit?

About the Episode

Lies seem to be the new norm in our world. There’s probably a bumper sticker that says Lies Are the New Truth. Great bumper sticker, but it has Andrea Askowitz totally freaked out. Andrea is the teacher of the class and the host for this episode, which is about lies in stories and lies in the world.

We start with a story by a new student, Claudia Franklin, that got us thinking about truth and lies in memoir and when, if ever, is lying fair game. Claudia’s story takes a surprising turn as she imagines what life would have been like if her father wasn’t the hen-pecked man he really was.

Her story left Andrea wondering when, if ever, is trust broken between narrator and listener/reader. Fifteen years ago, Andrea took her first memoir writing class from Terrie Silverman who said, “Don’t let the facts get in the way of the truth.” Andrea took that to mean that it was okay to exaggerate or change little facts for the sake of a bigger emotional truth. There’s an unspoken pact between a memoir writer and reader or listener that says, what’s being shared is the truth. But what is the truth? In 2003, James Frey wrote a book called A Million Little Pieces that was distributed as memoir. But Frey stretched the truth. In one example, he wrote that he spent 87 days in jail. According to police records, he served 5 hours. A lot of people thought he lied, including Oprah.

Andrea wrote a story once about taking her wife, Vicky, to a tantric sex retreat. The story’s about how she couldn’t handle the intimacy and acted like a clown. In the privacy of their hotel room, they were instructed to stand facing each other, perform pelvic thrusts back and forth, then arm motions with elbows in, and hands out to the sides. Andrea added jazz hands. Except she didn’t actually add jazz hands in their hotel room. In the story she wrote, she added jazz hands because that perfectly expressed her feelings in that moment. Allison Langer, co-producer and student in the class, challenged her. When Andrea says she tells the truth, Allison says, “What about jazz hands?”

Before this current presidential election, Andrea would have defended jazz hands as an expression of her truth. Now she’s not sure. Because now something has shifted in our culture. Now, we don’t know what we’re getting from America’s highest office. And now with the normalization of lies no one knows what to believe. So, in a panic, Andrea called Terrie Silverman, to ask her if storytellers can be trusted anymore. Terrie alleviates Andrea’s fears. She says that the rules and intentions are different in storytelling and politics. Politicians intend to manipulate. And the number one intention of the memoir writer is to get to his or her truth. Now Andrea thinks that if anything has changed for storytellers because of the lying culture we’ve been thrust into lately, it’s that now, more than ever, we need jazz hands. When do you think it’s okay to bullshit? We want to hear from you. Send us your thoughts on Twitter @wrtgclassradio. Or on our Facebook page or email us [email protected]

Writing Class Radio is a podcast where you’ll hear true personal stories and learn a little about how to write your own stories. Writing Class Radio is equal parts heart and art. By heart we mean the truth in a story. By art we mean the craft of writing. No matter what’s going on in our lives, writing class is where we tell the truth. It’s where we work out our shit, and figure out who we are. There’s no place in the world like writing class and we want to bring you in.

Writing Class Radio is produced by Diego Saldana-Rojas, Virginia Lora,  Allison Langer ( and Andrea Askowitz (

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There’s no better way to understand ourselves and each other, than by writing and sharing our stories. Everyone has a story. What’s yours? and enjoy our craft talks. There’s no better way to understand ourselves and each other, than by writing and sharing our stories. Everyone has a story. What’s yours?

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