I miss being a student sometimes—sitting in class, taking reams of notes, typing them over, highlighting them, outlining them, finally winnowing them down into weird anagrams that made facts and insights bloom in my mind when I glanced at where I’d jotted them down on the front cover of my blue book.
I especially miss being a student in a really good class, one with a passionate, knowledgeable, generous teacher who made me take those reams of notes not only because I would need them to do well on the test, but because something inside me knew I would need them for…my life.
Last Saturday, I got to take a class like that with memoirist Thomas Larson at the Writers’ Center of Indiana. I loved sitting in the back corner of the room, being a student, and at the same time having the pleasure of watching a whole roomful of students, rapt, madly scribbling, just as I was.
I loved and felt honored to hear about the memoir ideas of the group, among them: food and grief; a family processing the loss of the early, death of a daughter; growing up and growing into a life one’s parents can’t understand: forming a steering committee of friends charged with presenting challenges to help you figure out who you are and where you’re going; weaving as a metaphor for integrating family photos into a narrative.
I loved one student’s title for a humorous memoir, a phrase her southern mom used when things weren't quite right: One Bubble Short of Plumb.
The title for the memoir floating around in my own head is My So-Called Career: How I Became a Writer and Ended Up Right Back Where I Started.
Or something like that.
Tom’s focusing exercises helped me see that the memoir I imagine could be framed by finally gathering up the courage to write way back in the late seventies and the good luck of discovering the Writers’ Center, which gave me a place to start, to finding myself the Executive Director of the Writers’ Center, still learning about writing and at the same time knowing that I’d made the class happen, perhaps providing that crucial spark for someone in the room, a springboard for fulfilling her own writing dreams.