alia volez

Alia Volez

Author Alia Volz used to think that personal writing had to begin with questions and end with answers — not unlike the essays we were taught to write in high school and college. That is, until she discovered that the most interesting moments in memoir happen when questions lead to yet more questions instead of answers. Volz explains that memories change and become unreliable, and that a book can start out investigating one thing, and then the narrative shifts as the writer’s worldview crumbles and new questions arise.

Volz is this month’s featured guest speaker at the Writers of Kern monthly meeting Oct. 17, currently being offered online and free of charge. She is the author of "Home baked: my Mom, marijuana and the stoning of San Francisco." During her craft talk, “Memoir: the art of questioning everything,” she will deconstruct her award-winning essay, "Snakebit" (The Best American Essays 2017) to show us how an evolving series of questions — and relentless interrogation — produces a winning plot. From there, she will lead a discussion about how to apply this technique in the creation of a book-length memoir.

During the presentation, participants can expect to learn:

• How uncertainty can become a plot device;

• How to get the most out of questions that “refuse to be answered”; and

• How to structure a memoir or essay like a classic whodunnit, using the core mystery and shape of popular crime fiction to add excitement to a personal story

To register for this free event, go to the Writers of Kern website Registration closes at 11:30 p.m. the night before the event. Reminders with the meeting ink and agenda/handout links are sent to registrants 24 hours, and reminders 12 hours and one hour before the meeting. Hope to see you there!

In addition to Home Baked: my mom, marijuana and the stoning of San Francisco (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020), Alia’s work has appeared in The Best American Essays, the New York Times, Bon Appetit, Salon, Guernica, The Threepenny Review, and many other publications. Her unusual family story has been featured on Snap Judgment, Criminal and NPR’s Fresh Air.

You can learn more about Volez from her website at and on social media at:;; and

Susan Baker is a member of Writers of Kern.

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