At the end of this month, I will present a workshop called “Thanksgiving & Holiday Memories: A Memoir Workshop.” You can read about it at the link, above, to “Workshops & Classes.” And, if you’re near Milton, Washington, why not register and join us?
Workshops near the holidays are probably my favorites. There is something so warm and wonderful about sitting around a table with folks and pausing to reflect on the holidays we have enjoyed. Almost every culture and religious tradition has at least one winter holiday. And in the winter, people typically gather together, enjoying the warmth not only of the indoors but of the ties of friendship and family. It may sound sentimental, but it’s true! Even in tropical climates, there are seasons of ingathering and celebration that build on our basic human joy in being with others.
Novice memoir writers often worry that they won’t remember “enough.” But, I introduce a series of prompts and group exercises that help bring forth those memories that have been resting quietly, apparently waiting for a memoir workshop!
A group provides an immediate appreciative audience, so I really recommend doing these exercises with others. But, they can be done alone, too, with wonderful results. You can read about these in my book (see link above).
One exercise is to divide a piece of paper into four quadrants. In the corner of the first quadrant, write “Sights.” In the second, write “Sounds, in the third, “Smells and Tastes” and in the fourth “Feeling” (both tactile and emotional).
Then, begin brainstorming, jotting down memories from Thanksgiving or another holiday meal of your choosing. Just jot down words and phrases at this point; the writing of sentences and paragraphs will come later.
Participants typically start out slowly, as their memories need time to warm up. I liken it to popping popcorn the old-fashioned way. Remember how at first the oil had to heat up in the pan? As the oil began to shimmer, the kernels would slowly begin to pop … first one kernel, then a second, then a brief flurry, and then a storm of pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Tapping into long-neglected memories is just like this. So, if you try this with a group, or alone, give the process plenty of quiet TIME!
The result of this exercise is that you will have lists of “material” in each quadrant of the page. Your mind will be marinating in a stew of images, sounds, smells, and feelings. NOW it is time to just start writing! Let your pen, pencil, or keyboard lead the way as you just follow the muse of memory! You may simply fashion these lists into a poem. Or, you may use them as a springboard to writing an essay or chapter about an experience that has suddenly come to mind. (Please feel no pressure to use ALL the material; it is just a list of ideas ….)
As always, we hope to hear from you. Please send in what you come up with … whether it’s a paragraph or two, or a full-fledged chapter from your life. The holidays are a perfect time to revisit seasons and celebrations that have been important to us, perhaps more important than we even realized at the time. And, what you write down may well be a piece you want to share with others in your life.
Let us hear from you!
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