memoir writing workshop

Two of my favorite things discovered anew in 2012 are lavender hot chocolate at Stella’s Cafe (I mentioned that in my last post) and the free memoir writing workshop I saw advertised at our local library. It seemed to have my name all over it (pun intended): meeting on Friday (the day Seth can watch the girls for me), once a month, and FREE. For a long time I have wanted to get some sort of additional input/training on writing, but the opportunity never presented itself so clearly. As I showed up at 10:25 on the first meeting in January, I was almost giddy with excitement. And I felt very young. With the exception of our instructor (someone my age who is getting his Masters of Fine Art at a local university), I was the youngest by at least 30 years. Perhaps longer. Sweet, dear old women who have lived life with stories to tell. Like long, memoir-length stories to tell of immigrating from Europe and Russia, having children, grandchildren, careers, and years of retirement (one woman’s been retired 25 years which should make her at least 75 by a conservative estimate). When I floated my idea of writing about my life thus far through the lens of the various places I’ve lived, each of them representing a distinct season of my life, one woman replied, “Honey, you’ve only had two seasons of life.” Well meaning, I’m sure. But I’ll admit my enthusiasm was a bit squelched by her dose of reality.

Nonetheless, I began writing my memoir and returned to our February meeting with my typewritten 5-page draft. It felt good to be back in “school” with an “assignment.” I was eager to share it and get feedback. Alas, our group had doubled in size and so most of the hour was spent reviewing last month’s class – with the instructor repeating every few sentences because much of the group cannot hear very well. Then there was the woman who responded to finding out that I had twin daughters by walking me to the door after class and asking me quietly, “So, were they natural?” Oh, my. I didn’t think we were that close yet.

All jokes aside, I really am enjoying the experience to mix with an entirely different generation than I’m a part of, and I am looking forward to hearing the beginnings of their memoirs, whenever we get to that part. Maybe in March? I can’t set my expectations too high, as this class is free, after all. At least I’m getting good connections with other students of writing, picking up a few helpful tools along the way, and it’s provided outside motivation to write.

During the last five minutes of class, I shared my first paragraph with them – and I’ll do so with you, too. There wasn’t time for the full critique I was hoping for, and half of those at the table probably couldn’t hear me read it. But I will share it with you – my virtual audience – feel free to offer your thoughts. I’m framing this memoir as if I’m writing it as a letter to my daughters about my life.

Nestled into a cozy suburban neighborhood in the South, filled with families just like ours – you’ll find the house. Even its address reflects the idyllic life we lived there: Sweetwater Court. It was the second home where I lived, but it’s the home where my memories began. Both of your uncles were born there (not literally, but taken home there after the hospital). In the summers, our backyard was our center of adventures. We planned a putt-putt course and charged admission – even got featured in the local newspaper! Mom and Dad (Gigi and Pops to you) generously assisted our efforts, taking us to various putt-putt centers in the town to see about donations of the green carpets, helping us install PVC pipe for the “challenge” holes, making copies of the scorecard I designed, and letting our backyard be overrun with neighborhood kids for much of the summer.

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