Memoir writing

by Delia on August 17, 2010

Patti Miller’s memoir writing course happened in May – I’ve been slow in getting it up but here it is. Melissa, one of the course participants, wrote this account of the week:

A wave at breakfast

In May I participated in a Writing in Paradise workshop (Memoir Finding the Story). The course ran for six days and the presenter was Patti Miller. The workshop was enjoyable and I gained new insight into my life by joining in.

Each morning we sat in a circle and shared our written memoirs with our new friends by reading them aloud. I found this exercise to be invaluable to my writing as it gave me positive feedback about my work and also further knowledge on how to improve the skills I already had. Some of the exercises in the workshop were challenging but I felt Patti helped us work through these emotions by allowing us, her students to see our lives through our own eye’s and gave permission to tell it, as we saw it.

As the individuals members read their stories aloud about their mother’s, fathers, their favorite songs and relationships it conjured up memories that I hadn’t thought about for a long time. Memories about everyday life, like having my photo taken on my first day of school, or the roast chicken my Mum cooked up for dinner. Sad memories as well, the family dog passing away, illness of a Grandparent.

As the memoirs spilled out I started to develop feelings of compassion and joy, for what these people were saying. I may have known them for less then a week but I felt behind every person was a story, and a story that was well worth hearing.

Once we asked to draw a picture of our house and place ourselves inside the house and remember an event from the past. This assignment conjured up not only emotions but evoked our senses so we could all smell touch, see, hear and feel as well. Another exercise we were asked to write how we felt by using words that showed certain emotions. Instead of writing,’ I feel anxious’ we might write ‘my nerves were jumpy’ or ‘my skin felt prickly.’ This was difficult but we all managed to pull it off.

Patti was caring and empathetic to all our needs and recognised the emotional commitment that writing often brings and encouraged all of her students to look after one another. As a group I felt we all responded with understanding and compassion. The structure of the course was presented professionally, I found in particular the information on how to put the memoir together insightful.

Sometimes you need an extra pair of eye’s to make the connections in your body of work fit together, this is easier to do when you have support from an experienced writer.

I had a terrific time doing the memoir workshop in Fiji. It was great to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and sit back in an idealistic environment and write to my hearts content in a beautiful location such as Daku Resort.

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