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Location: Midwest, United States

I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Me in Memoir

So, I'm writing away every day on my dad-centric memoir during my Creative Writing class, as my students work on their novels or short story collections or poetry collections. It's going well. My word count is nowhere near where the official NaNoWriMo site says it should be, but I'm pretty much ignoring that anyway, just as I encourage my students not to worry about it. The important thing, I tell them, is that we write every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. But Monday through Friday, I give them - and me- at least forty minutes every day.

It's going well. I'm struck by how much writing is learning, figuring shit out. I know this. I tell my students this all the time. "Writing is a form of thinking. Writing is a way of gaining understanding about whatever it is you're writing about." But, despite that, it's still a revelation how much I figure out about myself when I write about myself. And though I'm focusing on my dad, this thing I'm working about is also about me.

And for that reason, I'm nervous. I have told my students that I'll share what I've written come December, just as I'm asking all of them to share what they've written. And I'll give them the option of sharing an excerpt, if they don't feel ready to photocopy every false step and hastily-worded metaphor. So I guess I have the option of sharing only an excerpt of mine. But that would feel very unbrave for the mentor-figure of the group. Plus, I'm proud and I'd hate to have my already paltry word count reduced by my reluctance to share.

What am I worried about? Mostly that this stuff, which is so fascinating to me, will be boring to everyone who's not me. Why should anyone else care about my "I remember this and I remember that and then this happened and then I felt like that." I try to recall that in my view Joe Brainard's I Remember is one of the most vivid, compelling, and hard-to-put-down books I've ever read, though it's just two-hundred-some pages of brief paragraphs (sometimes only a short sentence) beginning with the words "I remember" in no particular order and with no plan or structure. But he was a New York School painter and neurotic bon vivant living in sixties Manhattan. And I'm just me.

I've also been sort of meaning to post excerpts of the memoir-in-progress on this blog. And perhaps I will. Soon. But I'm nervous. I'm apprehensive, for the reasons I mention above, and also because I'm afraid the conflicted, expansive, befuddling dad story will open up it's maw and swallow my blog. I'm afraid I'll have to change the name of my blog from Oral Hygiene Queen (a name that identifies me as my mother's daughter) to "My Dad Issues" or "Good Daddy Gone Bad" or "Turned Around, Man, Found My Daddy Gone."

I think I'll post some bits anyway. I hope I do.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you do too.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Feral Mom said...

I've been hoping that you'd do some posts about your dad for a long time, so count me in the camp that's cheering you on! You are an amazing writer no matter what your topic, but I would love to read your work on this particularly complicated and difficult one.

(Can sympathize with being wary of reading it to your students, too, but I bet they will be blown away by the story and your writing and not focus to much on connecting it to the "you" they know. That's my guess, anyway. Great idea to do this for NaNoWriMo, btw.!)

9:12 PM  
Blogger LetterB said...

I would love to read anything from your memoir-in-progress, too. Hope you do post some here.

My husband has his 9th graders read "I Remember" and then do a similar writing exercise every year. They are always, always amazing. Even the most humble attempts. Such is the power of memoir.

9:01 PM  
Blogger petersteel said...

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11:04 PM  

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