So Many Questions

I’ve done a little research on memoir writing. While it’s obvious that a personal writing project is going to be a different experience for everyone, I am a little worried that I have no clue what I’m doing. 

As a writer, I’ve always been comfortable with fiction, and when it comes to nonfiction, I’m really comfortable with the personal essay. I  love writing essays, but I don’t want my memoir to be a collection of essays. In fact, I don’t really know what kind of structure I want for my memoir. Should it be funny? Focus on the sad? What angle should I take? What am I going to focus on? What’s interesting about my life, interesting enough that people will want to read it?

Then I have to ask myself, is it about people reading it? Or am I just being my own historian? What is the purpose of this project? Is it a challenge? Should it just be cathartic? Should I think about an audience? Who is this audience? 

Since I’m not sure what I’m doing, I’m debating spending the next month reading a bunch of memoirs, but I have no clue where to begin. Any suggestions? Any memoirs I should be checking out? 

I’m already getting stressed out by this project. I’m committed to it–the way I was committed to writing my thesis, even more so because it’s important that I get a big writing project done. It’s also one of those projects that pushes me out of my comfort zone. A project that pushes me is something I need right now. Still, I’m scared that I’ll start this project, and it will be an epic fail. 

Want to help?

Please suggest some memoirs for me to check out. I’m not sure what approach I’m going to take so funny, sad, unique, thrilling whatever kind of adjective memoir you can think of, suggest it. 

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Cobwebs Away

I know it’s been almost a year, but here I am alive and well. 

After my mother passed away, things got crazy. There have a been many big changes in my life that I’m not quite ready to discuss here, although I am still teaching at the same oppressive school (in case you’re wondering).

 I’ve been in a major writing rut since about May, and after some very jarring words, I’ve decided it’s time to get refocused. Time to prioritize. Time to write. For real. 

This may sound terrible, but I’ve been wanting to write a memoir for about 5 years but didn’t feel comfortable writing it with my mother being alive. I don’t know what will happen when I really start writing it, but I know that I wouldn’t have been able to stomach her reading it. What’s even more depressing is that now I don’t have an excuse to not write it. The excuse was always that she might read it. Even though she died almost a year ago, the not writing it has seemed to keep her alive. Once I really get started, it will be another confirmation that she is dead. 

There have been small things that on a regular basis remind me of the permanence of her death. Before she died, she and my dad brought me some food from home that I can’t get where I live, and I had frozen some of it and when I finally decided to eat it, it was irreplaceable because she wouldn’t be able to bring me more. Or going through her clothes with my sisters and realizing she’d never wear them again. Bringing those clothes home and storing them, going through them again and smelling her scent on them. Listening to old voicemails over and over and over again. I have a voicemail from her from years ago, and it’s about 10 seconds long. All it says is, “Hi [insert my name here], it’s Mommy. I love you.” Writing the memoir will only resurface the pain that the voicemail does, or her clothes do. Except, I think that the longer I make excuses not to write it, the easier it becomes to abandon the storyteller in me.

Here’s the thing, the mega-Catholic in me has this weird fear that her spirit will read it. I know that it sounds crazy, but I swear this thought has occurred to me. I’ve even debated fictionalizing it, so no one can get pissed. I would prefer, however, to write the story in my own voice and not in the voice of some fictitious version of myself.

Thankfully, Husband is always around to remind me that I’m not writing for anyone but me. This is a challenge as I’m so insecure and worry deeply about what others think of me. I also worry that my memoir will focus too much on Black Sheep sister and not really be my memoir. I’m not sure how to combat this. 

Writing it and seeing where it goes might not be a bad idea.

Starting a big writing project is always scary. I think that’s why I’ve been putting it off for so long. 

In the meantime, I’ll be warming up here again. 

I hope the cobwebs clear soon.

 

 

AWP 2013: Failing Better

Well it’s over. The glorious, frustrating, and rejuvenating AWP 2013 conference has come to its close. This AWP has probably been my favorite as far as conference enjoyment is concerned. Every panel I sat in on was fantastic. I, once again, am leaving Boston with motivation and energy to go hard or go home in regards to my tenure track professor goal. I am even more sure that I need to get the hell out of teaching high school, because I feel more at home with the AWP crowd, despite my inability to bond with them, than I do anywhere else.

It is so strange because as Missy and I search the conference for the worst and best hair and outfits, I know we both find ourselves not wanting to be anywhere else. We might mock the pretentious and sometimes overly enthusiastic moderators (was anyone else witness to the moderating train wreck at the Amy Bloom-Richard Russo reading?), but let’s be honest, we wouldn’t mind moderating such a great pair of writers. Albeit, I don’t know if we would be as star struck as the moderator seemed to be. At the end of a day of conferencing, it seems necessary to seek other Bostonian neighborhoods in order to escape the AWPers; however, the next day we return for more.

I perused my old posts for 2012 looking for a post on AWP and realized that I hadn’t written about my Chicago experience. While Missy and I had a great time exploring the city, I found the conference to be a very difficult experience. I hadn’t gotten anything published in 2012, I hated (and still do) my job, and it seemed like everyone around me at the conference was doing something awesome. So and so had gotten blah blah blah to write a blurb for their book, this press had just published whoever’s novel, and so and so was on a panel with yada yada seemed to be the only kinds of conversations I heard. While I can truly say, I was not jealous that these strangers had success, I was deeply upset with myself for my lack of effort and very epic failure.

This year however, it didn’t seem as tough to hear the same exact conversations knowing that the editor of one of my pieces was sitting at a table at the book fair. It wasn’t as tough knowing that this year (and it’s early March) I have done more writing than I did all of last year. I have also submitted more work this year that I have ever in writing career. That feels good–okay it feels awesome. It’s nice to know my s*$& is coming together.

I’m not saying things are peachy in my world, but they seem to be looking up. It’s like I’m failing better, so I’ll just put that in my pocket. If I can keep it up, AWP may actually start feeling good and less painful. Last year, I hit bottom and while I’m by no means close to the top, I am at least starting to get glimpses of sun.

 

 

AWP Bound

Well, Beantown is but a few hours away. Firstly, the American history nut is so excited. And my inner Thoreau is pleased to finally be able to visit Walden Pond. I’m also excited about the conference. I’ve already seen several AWP-types at the airport discussing their novel and dossier. Oh brother. 

Regardless, I’m pumped. 

Transitions and Distractions

Well, things have settled down over here. I still can’t believe that when I get out of work I can’t call my mother, but it’s starting to become a part of my routine, so I guess that’s good. I’m grateful that AWP is this week because AWP is always the best distraction. Husband’s work gets crazy this time a year, and he’s gone a lot. AWP is a nice transition/distraction to the craziness. 

I’ve been submitting my work these past two months and have already submitted for March. I have an essay I’m working on for the end of March, so hopefully I’ll have a few new publications soon. I was hoping February would be as successful as January. The first place I sent something to repsonded almost immediately (like four days) and so I January was a great way to kick of the year. Tenure track resume by October. That is goal.

I’m looking forward to Boston. I’ve never been and am an American literature nut so it’s fun to think I’ll be in a city that discuss so often when I teach. 

I love AWP; it’s always such a rejuvenating experience. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the bullshit of teaching high school and forget that I’m actually writer. It’s been my mission this year to reclaim my inner artist. I told my students today that I was writer first (which was dumb because they are sixteen and don’t get it and one kid said, “you can’t be a writer, you’re not published.” It felt good to inform said student that I was, in fact, published. I wanted to add, “you little s*&!, but I do need the job to pay my bills. That shut the kid up.) I don’t want to be a bad, or even mediocre teacher, but my end goal is not high school. It’s college-level and not community college, but four-year university. 

Husband is always reminding me to not settle in my career. I’m glad I have his support. He understands that putting forth tons of effort into a job like teaching is not beneficial. It’s all about the writing.

I’ll try to post from Boston this week. I wonder how many of you readers will be there. Maybe you’ll start up a random conversation with me (I’m very much a talker) and not even realize it’s me.

See you in Boston. 

Hitting Me Softly

Frankenmommy passed away on Thursday morning around 4:30 in the morning. Since then, it’s been a natural disaster that won’t quit. Until Saturday night, I hadn’t slept since Tuesday. I was put in charge of funeral arrangements and have had to mediate fights between my father and Blacksheep and my youngest sister and Blacksheep. 

Nothing about my mother dying feels real yet. I don’t believe it, and don’t think I will until I see her beautiful face resting in her coffin. I have dreaded many things, but this morning I shook as I gathered my toiletries to shower. Today will suck. And that is fact. 

I have to say, despite having to go through this awful experience of falling on hard concrete, my family, especially Husband and my friends, have created this giant fluffy pillow to help me land softly. I feel completely embraced in love and good thoughts and for this I am truly grateful. 

I hope that today that pillow catches my inevitable free fall into my mother’s death which currently seems like a horrid dream but is sadly my new reality.