Thursday, January 10, 2008

Writing Your School Memories

Not having electricity for a few days is an interesting experience for a writer. I have a laptop with a battery, so obviously I can still write...until the battery goes dead anyway. (I DID have a place to go plug it in to recharge) My problem was that a lot of the articles I was working on at the time were dependent on the Internet for research. So what's a writer to do?

And honestly, it was difficult to concentrate. When you're figuring out what is cookable on the wood stove, it's hard to concentrate on work, for me anyway.

Well, luckily I was reading "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott. In the book, Lamott talks about purposing yourself to write just 300 words. She encourages readers to start with their childhood, a time when memories are vivid. So I did that. What fun! Really. It was fun to just write what I wanted. First I tried to think of what my very first memory was but that was kind of impossible. So I started with kindergarten and wrote about my strongest impressions. Later I wrote about first grade and then second. I didn't include every single thing I remembered about it, just the memories that jumped to the front.

Lamott has a purpose in having readers do this exercise. There are memories that you have that you don't even know are there until you write them. You may use one of them in the novel you're writing, or it may trigger another memory that can be used. But I can think of another use.

As you know, a few years ago, my father gave me more than 400 letters he'd written during WWII. That single act changed my life. It changed how I see history. Now imagine your great-grandmother stepping back through time and handing you something she'd written; letters, a diary, a journal. What a treasure that would be. In writing our family history, we must remember to include ourselves. All of these memories that we're trying to drag out of our parents and grandparents, we have too. And believe me, someday, one of your relatives will be thrilled to read about your life.

I'm up to the 7th grade now and plan to keep going, 300 words at a time. What's your earliest memory? Have you written it down? ~Karen


Nita said...

that sounds like fun, writing what I remember about my early childhood. Usually I don't want to write about me because I'm basically very private and I don't want anyone reading my 'thoughts' even years from now. Also, some of my memories would actually be painful for some people to read, and I have no interest in hurting anyone. But, I think I'll try the school yard memories, there are some that will be interesting.

Karen L. Alaniz said...

Most school memories are pretty safe to write about. I mean, if your kindergarten teacher can't handle it, she probably wasn't a very good teacher anyway. In mine, I did tend to focus on the teacher, but I want to go back and include others, like friendships. Maybe I'll post one of them here.

Ritergal said...

Ah, but what about first grade memories of things like the time I snipped off a few strands of my hair, right up at the roots, and when Mommy noticed and asked about it I said, "(A boy in my class, whose name I've forgotten) did it." How could he do that to me? Why did I let him? "Because. He did it when we were having rest time and I didn't see him coming."

Oh, how I lied. It got me off the hook. I thought I would have been in trouble if I told the truth. What I didn't know was that Mommy would go tell the teacher about him, and he'd get whipped, claiming all the time that he didn't.

I felt so awful. But then it would have been even worse to 'fess up, because I would have been in double trouble.

Alas! I didn't lie too often after that. It wasn't worth it!

Mom's long gone, but I don't plan to tell my dad that story even now. Why change his lifelong view of me? Will I tell my grandkids? Probably not. So, readers of this blog, you have the sole scoop on this one!

And, to What's Your Name, wherever you are, I am truly sorry. I promise I won't do that again.

Karen L. Alaniz said...

That is hysterical. Oh how creative you were with your lies. I didn't mention that also in kindergarten, I sat on a girl named Jamie. She kept saying she had to go to the bathroom, but I knew she was just trying to get me off of her stomach (I was tickling her...until she peed her pants. Whoops!