Memoir Writing Prompt…a little test for you :)

Grade A

Every now and again in Old Friend from Far Away, Natalie Goldberg throws in a little test.  These are multiple writing prompts that you write on for two or three minutes each.  It is a fun experiment to flex your writing muscles.  Let’s do one today! 

Here’s what she says about the test:

Here is a test.  The good thing about it is all answers are correct.  Right off the top you receive an ‘A”.

You have two or three minutes to answer each question.  Make sure you are specific.  Nothing vague.  You might want to begin each answer with ‘I remember.’

Ready? I’m going to share all the prompts with you, but only some of my writing responses cause…well…cause it’s my blog and I can! Don’t skip any though…you can do it! Here we go!

  • The first one:  give me a memory of your mother, aunt, or grandmother.  If it’s an aunt say her name, for example, “I remember my aunt Gladys…” Be detailed. Here’s mine for example:

My aunt Margaret was a brash drunk of a woman.  Her wealth made her lack trust for anyone around her, especially young children and she yelled about as if we were all servants.  She loved roses.  Her roses were the most beautiful bushes I’ve ever seen and like her, screamed the warning, “Behold my beauty! Beware my thorns!”

  • Give me a memory of the color red.  Do not write the word “red” but use words that engender the color red when you hear them.  For example, ruby, tomato, fire, blood.

His Chuck Taylor’s waited at the end of his feet begging for notice-signature shoes that shared his name and shouted Arkansas school spirit.  He wore them always with matching Umbro soccer shorts, even when it was cold. They matched his nose when the sun would bake it or the cold wind would chap it.

  • Give me a memory of a sound.  Again, try not to use the word “sound” in your writing. Here’s an example:

The hum of the generators was a lullaby at 2 am, especially when the fate of the world rested on my alertness. The low rumble of it vibrated the seat I was in and made everything else feel quiet and peaceful. While watching for the end of the world, I leaned my head against the padded wall and thought, “I will just rest it here for a while.”

  • Give me a picture of a teacher you had in elementary school. Two minutes..
  • Tell me about a meal you loved. Where were you when you ate it? What was the weather like out the window? How old were you? Who were you with? Two minutes…go!
  • Last one, tell me about a time you remember rain. Rain might not be the main focus of the memory, but write about a time when it was there with you.

He offered me his umbrella as we climbed the hill to our next class.  I was reveling in the feel of summer as it dropped on my skin I told him.  He looked at me as if I was a walking poem- desire lighting his eyes and closed the umbrella.  He turned his face to the sky, but he couldn’t be free so he opened the umbrella and continued to walk beside me.  It was the beginning of the end of our relationship.

So what’s the point here?  What are we trying to learn?  Nicole is teaching us to use our senses when we write.  We didn’t write about smell, so right now, list ten smells you remember. Be specific. For example:

  1. Wet dog
  2. sage and onions
  3. Charlie’s sweat
  4. buttercream frosting
  5. spring after rain
  6. Aunt Lora’s house
  7. old books
  8. White Shoulders perfume
  9. baby poop
  10. perm solution

 

This is what Nicole says about using your senses when you write…I love it:

Naturally, you are not going to cover every sense every time you write a scene. But doing this “I Remember” test is like acupuncture pricks alerting your mind when you write.  You go along describing something and then-ah yes, Snow was falling wet as my heart when I asked her to marry me. The word becomes bigger. Your love includes weather now- and feeling.

Memoir Writing Prompt…and thoughts on memory..

Memory is a funny thing.  I sometimes think my experience with it is exceptional because I know first hand what it is to be without one (I lost my mine once when I had a traumatic brain injury.) Sometimes I don’t trust the memories I have because I simply don’t know which ones are mine and which I have created based on stories I have heard.  In the end, it doesn’t matter….we all have exceptionally creative brains that fill gaps and rewrite stories all the time….can anyone really trust their memory?  No, I don’t think so…which is why I write at times….because at least then there is a record of what I believed when I believed it.  Memoir is an exercise in memory recall.

Did you write on our last prompt?  My friend who was so excited I was starting this series was disappointed that it was something so mundane…But Natalie Goldberg suggests that there are four prompts we should flex writing muscles with all the time: “I’m thinking of../I’m looking at../I remember../I don’t remember.”  So we continue with lifting the ten pound weights before we transition to the 25 lb ones.

I want to share a bit of what Natalie shares with those beginning this practice:

“Don’t cross out. Don’t worry about punctuation, spelling or grammar.  Be specific. Not car, but Cadillac. Not tree, but sycamore.  But don’t worry, if you write “bird” instead of woodpecker, you can figure out what kind it was two weeks later when you reread it. The important thing is to keep your hand moving. If you get stuck go back and write the prompt again…

Say what you want to say, not what you think you should say. Trust what you put down, even if the editor or critic inside you says it’s wrong or you made a mistake…feel free to write the worst junk in America.”

So here are the rules:

  1. No editing.  Write what you write.
  2. You may choose to share your post- just post the link in the comments.  Or you don’t have to.  I sat on some of these writings for a year before I was brave enough to post them.  Let them be true…without thought of audience AND then choose what you will share with the world at large.  If you choose not to share, will you share some thoughts about your experience writing this prompt?
  3. Write for ten minutes….at the end of your ten minutes, wrap up with a final thought and end your piece.

That’s it! Easy-peasy, right?  So let’s go!

Write for ten minutes on the prompt- “I remember.”

n-WOMAN-CHALKBOARD-large570

I remember the year we left the Christmas tree up until March.  It was after my sister, Lora’s, birthday before we took it down.  I think Lora thought it was something special we did in honor of her in that way only young children can imagine that the most mundane of things is a gift to them.

I remember my mother was filled with shame at the thought of it.  I wonder if she felt it was an outward reflection of an inner failure on her part that the tree was still up and glistening with icicles and homemade ornaments. We never turned the lights on after Christmas.   Those lights were great blinking beacons to her failure and a lighthouse alerting all who would come near that this home did not have it all together. 

I remember the day that she admitted truth….that we didn’t have it all together and that, in fact, that made us a stronger family not a weaker one.

I remember my grandmother was dying that year and my baby sister, Alexis, was young, celebrating her second year on earth- or perhaps she wasn’t born yet- perhaps I don’t remember that part at all.  I simply remember that there were good reasons for our delayed response to removing the tree at a socially acceptable time.  I remember that life had intruded with busy schedules and more important priorities and had stolen from us any of the moments we might have taken to stow away our Christmas memories.

 

 

 

AVFM: First Memories- A Christmas Post

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

I awoke in the cozy warmth of our featherbed, covered with one of Mama’s handmade quilts, listening to my little sister giggling incessantly.  A warm, moist nose nuzzled my neck, and I opened my eyes to the most beautiful little lamb I had ever seen.  Those big huge eyes were staring into mine, and I was transported!  My baby sister had obviously just greeted her new friend, too.

lamb
I called out, “Mama, Daddy! Look what we have!”  They came rushing into our bedroom, smiles as big as Texas spread across their faces.  My sister and I hopped out of bed and cuddled our new found friends with unabashed joy.  The cinnamon and cloves hung in the air, and the evergreen tree we just decorated stood in the corner by the sofa.  Our wood stove warmed the whole house as Daddy and Mama led us into the living room to look under the tree.  There were two pairs of deerskin moccasins, beautiful with beads and stitching and gorgeous in every way!  Daddy said, “Try them on and let’s see if they fit.”  They were absolute perfection!

Mama fixed biscuits and ham for our breakfast, with fresh milk from our milk cow, Bessie.  As Mama opened the oven,  we could tell from the fragrances that something VERY special was cooking in there.  I looked at the tree, with its popcorn strings and paper chains cut from a comic book, and this creation we all made together was magnificent.  My baby lamb bleated and Arlene and I ran off to our room to play with our new companions.popcornGarland

That Christmas is one of my first vivid memories and it stays with me to this day.  My sister and I were toddlers and we lived on a sheep ranch which would now be in the valley below the Fayetteville mall.  Life was idyllic and innocent in my world.  I’m sure my parents found it much more difficult.  We spent Saturday nights on the front porch listening to the Grand Ole Opry.  From our farmhouse, we watched the Fourth of July fireworks being shot at the drive in movie theater down the road.

But above all, this memory of Christmas is the most poignant—probably because I now know the truth of it.

The lambs, of course, came from the sheep ranch we lived upon.

The cinnamon and cloves spiced up the stick of bologna which was our Christmas dinner.  It was superb and so very special to us!

And those moccasins, beautiful as they were, represented the love my parents always gave to us.

The deerskin came from my dad’s good jacket, cut lovingly to fit our little feet.

The beading came from my mom’s one necklace, a set of beads my dad had won for her at the county fair.  She hand stitched them for us-creating as she always did- something beautiful out of bare essentials.

We’ve all grown up now, creating our own families and our own traditions.  But I never fail to remember this special Christmas and to pray that somewhere in my children’s world, my husband and I have created such a memory for them.

May this Christmas be filled with simplicity and joy and love for you!

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.

Unwrapping His Promises- The Promise of His Presence

But the afternoon passes without even waving and tomorrow morphs into yesterday without anyone noticing. ” He writes…my friend who blogs about love and life and what it means to be both.  He weaves a tale of busyness, of Christmas normal, and then of Christ’s love, of Christ’s choice, of Christ’s promises.  I was full of tears and hope when he writes: “Will you not sit with me as we unwrap these promises together?” 

Why yes, Duane Scott, yes I will.  

You can, too, you know…he’s created a beautiful downloadable printable with a writing prompt for each day between now and Christmas.  Share your words with us, here or through email. These are the best gifts of the season….don’t keep them to yourself.

The Promise of His Presence

The alarm clock sounded early this morning—well it seemed early—this morning it was actually set an hour later than normal.  Seems as if the alarm sounds earlier and earlier these past few days. We’ve battled a stomach virus in our house since last week—it brought with it a bone-weariness I haven’t experienced since my children were bassinet-bound babes.

I rolled over and snuggled into the warmth of my husband and began my morning prayers.

“Jesus, come….I invite you here. I love you.”

Heart full to bursting–gratitude spills over the edges of my early morning quiet.

“Thank you for this man, Lord.”

Happy tears sneak past the rims of closed eyes.

“Thank you for our family…for these kids…for this dog…for this house…for this life, Lord.”

This is how each of my days begins.  Ann Voskamp calls this love that flows from thankfulness “eucharisteo”…this life-filling gratitude.  It is the practice that keeps me centered…that keeps me focused…that reminds me of the beauty of all that God has given me.

This morning as I pray, I sense something more.  Something deep wells up.  Something bubbly and exciting.

Something called Joy. Unexplainable…Not for any earthly reason….just a love song from my Lord.

And as I open my eyes, a song plays in my head….

“and He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own. And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”