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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Creative Memoir Writing

Heather Summerhayes Cariou, who gave a notable workshop on memoir writing at the recent writers' conference, writes "thank you for a marvellous two days in Thunder Bay at the Sleeping Giant Writers Festival."

She adds a set of quotes to use as prompts or springboards to creative memoir writing. Many are the words of well-know people but others reveal Cariou's own wisdom. Cariou is the author of Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister's Memoir. (check out http://www.sixtyfiverosesthebook.com/)

“I am the place in which something has occurred.” ~ Claude Levi-Strauss

“Your own self-realization is the greatest gift you can give the world.”

“Every person’s memory is his private literature.” ~ Aldous Huxley

“Any writer of any worth at all hopes to play only a pocket torch of light into the bloody but beautiful labyrinth of being.” – Nadine Gordimer

“If you don’t tell the truth about yourself, you can’t tell it about anyone else.” – Virginia Woolf

“Take no care for your dignity. Don’t be afraid of appearing angry, small-minded, obtuse, mean, immoral, calculating or anything else.” [I would add: IN FIRST DRAFT] “Don’t approach your history as something to be shaken for its cautionary fruits. Tell your stories, and your story will be revealed.” – Tobias Wolff (to Mary Karr)

“You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.” – Florida Scott Maxwell

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking of it profits me, beyond any other effect.” – Audre Lorde

“What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? – Audre Lorde

“...we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.” – Audre Lorde

Loose Control

The unspeakable can be spoken.

“In real life get out of the way when a person with a gun is running down the street. In your writing life step in front of his path, let him shoot you in the heart.” ~ Natalie Goldberg

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story or tell a story about them.” ~ Isak Dinensen

What are you calling attention to?

“The ecstatic widening of association leads to revelation of more content.” ~ Anya Achtenberg

“Look for verbs of muscle, adjective of exactitude.” ~ Mary Oliver

The secret to life, and writing: Show Up. Pay Attention. Tell the truth (without judgement or blame). Let go of the outcome.

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