A Select Memoir
It all started a long time ago. As a teen I was heart sick that the State was putting a highway through a beautiful patch of woodland where I loved to walk. My father told me one night, Why don’t you write letters to editors, people in city and state government, to save the woods. So I did just that. Here I am at my typewriter composing missives that fell on deaf ears. The road went through and the woods were cut down, but an advocate was born.
Since then I have felt that I want to write for something, give a voice to the voiceless. That is until I read this: http://www.tayarijones.com/blog/archives/2010/10/who_you_callin.html
And realized that perhaps that is condescending, as if people need me to represent them. Why not just let them speak for themselves. Now I advocate not using that phrase.
Still, I’m drawn to writers such as Dorothy Day and Tillie Olsen who held babies in one hand and with their other hand wielded a pen to write for the Masses or the Worker. Yes, they didn’t get a lot done. Not as much as say J.K. Rowling who as a single mother scratched out Harry Potter with a baby in her lap. (Isn’t this the oft-told tale?)
Growing up, dear reader, I read Carol Ryrie Brink and Louisa May Alcott, authors who addressed their audience as dear readers. I read all the Little House Books plus Farmer Boy. Then I researched the real Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read about the Littles and prayed to God to grow a tail and sleep on a matchbox bed. I lapped up Nancy Drew’s, Helen Fuller Orton mysteries, and that series about American heroes—mostly men involved in industry, politics, or the military. I absolutely idolized Teddy Roosevelt. Even today I can find a lot to admire about the Rough Rider. I loved reading and lived vicariously through characters on the page. Then . . . I stumbled upon The Outsiders.
It was the last day of 6th grade and kids were cleaning out their lockers and the book was left behind and I picked it up and brought it home and read it straight through on the eve of summer vacation. And my life was never the same. What is youth that is here today and gone tomorrow? Nothing gold can stay. The Outsiders switched on philosophical wondering/wandering. I searched out other such books. I read Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, the Old and New Testaments. YA wasn’t even a term back then, I think they were called “problem books.” Whatever. I wanted realism. I read Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams”. There was something out there that I wanted, not sure what, yet I knew it included helping people and writing.
Today I teach memoir writing, lead a critique group, and volunteer at a homeless shelter where I facilitate a creative writing workshop for the women residents.
Memoirous is about memories, those we experienced and those phantom memories. Mark Twain is quoted as saying: I can remember everything that ever happened to me—and didn’t happen. Isn’t it popular to testify before Congress and answer, I misremembered. Sometimes memory provides the strongest impetus to imagine, mold, recreate. My main concern is about helping people put black on white, ink on paper. The rest—we can sort out later.