Writing Memoir


Writing about yourself ought to be easy, right?

Our first class with Steve Watkins filled me with ideas, and I couldn’t wait to get started. He asked us to turn in 5-7 pages by Sunday night. No problem, I thought.

First, I wrote about a memory I had at age 4 when I cut off all my sister’s hair. A couple of paragraphs in, I stopped abruptly. Nothing left to tell. Next I tried to write about an incident when we were 15 and 17. Many more details came to mind, but I wasn’t sure why I was writing it. The details were there but the reflection was not. I tried to write about my summers in RI, my travels as an Army brat, and my first days alone in Virginia. Nothing.

Finally Friday night around 10pm, I began to journal. And the topic came to me like a Rhode Island beach wave. My dad’s death. This was the one topic I didn’t want to write about. This is not because I didn’t want to share. No, I feel like I’ve written about it so much in poetry and blog posts, I wanted to tackle something new.

But there it was, so I wrote.

I’m looking forward to hearing what Steve has to say about everyone’s work. But I’m already thinking about next week’s piece. Hmmm, anxiety may be showing its ugly face.

Find Your Voice


When I decided to open a writing studio, I was led by a woman I’ve never met. I’d stumbled across her online, ordered her book, and devoured it.

Pat Schneider continues to speak to me in the decisions I make, in the way I work with other writers, and as the supportive coach I need when I am feeling like a failure. Her year-end post takes us back to her early days as a writer….

I was a young poet, published in a few small journals, but I didn’t yet have a book of poems, when another poet in my neighborhood who did have a book, suggested we exchange poems and give each other critical suggestions. I was flattered – after all, she was a published poet! We exchanged poems, wrote our comments on the pages, and when I read her comments, I was devastated. (read more here...)

Last year she wrote about fear…

The good news is, we are writers. The good news is, there are always more stories to tell, more songs to sing, more poems to give birth to. The good news is, we each one hold an immeasurable treasure of craft – the language that came down to us from our ancestors: ancient, beautiful, already ours in our unconscious minds. And the good news is, we have all of our lives practiced the language of our own contemporaries – all day every day as we talk in words, think in words, and at night when we dream in words.

The bad news is, if we are doing writing that matters deeply, it is much of the time going to be scary as hell. And every distraction will seem a better option than our art, our writing.

One of my goals is to be less distracted this year. Onward.

A Life Story


I’ve signed up to take a Memoir Class at my studio.

I love being able to bring in experts and learn from them. Steve Watkins, the workshop leader, is a former UMW professor and award-winning author. I’ve worked with him before so I know this will be fabulous.

The hardest part for me is deciding what to write about, which slice of life I should tackle. Growing up as an Army brat? Spending summers in Rhode Island? Nearly killing myself in Germany one stormy night? The fun of raising two boys? Part of me wonders why I want to write memoir at all. And, yet, the genre appeals to me.

I’ve found a couple of starting places (because I want to be prepared before the workshop begins next week!):

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Writing a Memoir

How to Write a Memoir

Memoir Project

I really like what Marion Roach Smith says: “An autobiography is really the story of a whole life,” she says. “A memoir, if you want someone else to be interested, should really be [about] an area of expertise within that life.”

Now I have to figure out what I’ve learned in my 61 years. This could be interesting.



I could take offense. David suggested we might need a regular housekeeper. He was smiling.

But he’s right. He works outside the home full time. I have flexible hours. And cleaning the house always seems to be last on my list or when company is coming. Instead, I write. Think. Work on block prints. Walk. Visit in the studio.

This morning I began writing a poem about forgetting, the prompt for my Wednesday writing group. I’d been thinking about it all week, and today the words pieced themselves together. The waiting, staring, dreaming, pausing–are all necessary for me. I am grateful to have the time.

But I did give the bathrooms a once over before I left the house.

What’s My Line?

Do you remember that old television show “What’s My Line?” I’m showing my age here, but the show came to mind as I thought about how I write. That is, what is my voice?

I’ve had a break from focused writing the past few months as I’ve helped open a business. Now that I have time to dive back into it, I am reconsidering how to stay in a comfortable voice and not try to mimic someone else. This isn’t a problem for me most of the time. But every once in a while, I find myself slipping into a voice I don’t recognize, usually when I am trying to squeeze something out of nothing.

blockRecently I bought myself a gorgeous block cut print to post in my studio, a reminder of who I am and what I want to say.

“Trust in what you love, continue to do it, and it will take you where you need to go.”
~ Natalie Goldberg