Memories and Memoirs

When I was a young(er) writer finishing my B.A. in mass comm in Dover, DE, I found my way into an active statewide writers' group. I had the opportunity to read my stuff out loud in public for the first time. It was exciting, you know, for Delaware.

I thought bigger states would lead to bigger things, or at least to a "writers' tea party of my imagination," as described by fellow group member and then-stay-at-home mom/writer Julianna Baggott. (I might be paraphrasing, but that's how I replay it.)

Even though I've been lucky enough to write what I like and sometimes get paid for it, I've never again been part of an active community of writers. Until today. Margo Hammond, a former book editor for the St. Petersburg Times and all-around Book Babe, lead a memoir class - at a tea house even - with writers, both aspiring and seasoned.

The class was packed and I drank way too much coffee, despite the whole tea drinking dream. Margo began by giving us a choice of three writing prompts. I picked writing a letter to someone dead.
Dear Grandfather Morgan,
I don't even know your first name, and I've never addressed any of my grandparents as "Grandmother" or "Grandfather." It's too formal. You're the only grandparent I never got to meet. You died when my dad was in junior or senior high school, my uncle half his age.

I've seen one photo of you from Granma's wallet, which I kept for years after she died. 30 years after your death. She was 30 years younger than you, a single mother in the early 60's.

I don't know what you did for a living or even if you loved Dot and your family. She never talked about you, she never dated or remarried. Did you scare her, scar her, leave a bad first impression of love? Why on earth did you think it was a good idea to marry your daughter's best friend? Like my Granma though, I married someone three decades older than me.

I loved what Margo said about authenticity: "The more specific you write, the more universal it becomes. And the more people will want to read you."

As much as I love journalism and the pleasure of telling someone else's story, I much prefer them to have the tools to tell their stories themselves. Not to mention getting the chance to tell my own.

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