Day 1: Making Meaning

Making Meaning of Our Memories kicked off this afternoon and I felt giddy and nervous walking into the classroom to meet the roomful of expectant adults. After a go-round, I learned I would be teaching several college professors, former journalists, and a former President of the Board of Trustees of none other than Interlochen Center for the Arts itself. Some are published writers, all use writing in business or education in some way, and about half are looking specifically for guidance with concrete memoir skills and generating new material.
I like to begin by asking my students to do two things throughout the week:
First, read like a writer. What is the feeling you are left with at the end of a piece? How does the writer achieve that? What is the shape of a piece? How does it get from one thing to the next? Second, write like a writer. How does my mind choose where to go? What can I learn from that? In what ways do I see my writing reaching for discovery? How can I nurture that? Sounds simple enough, but I find that exercising the meta-cognition muscle does not always come naturally to people. Given a room full of willing students, however, a little reminder can go a long way.
We read and discussed Craig Lesley’s chapter titled “The Carnival” from Burning Fence. Next, we looked at “Tino & Papi” by Norma Elia Cantu. The differences in style and form are striking, yet both are memoir and both tell a truly moving story. I asked my students: How does memory come to you? Do you recall things visually first, in snapshots or movies? Or do you recall something based on an object, an heirloom, a trinket, a photo? Does memory come to you through an abstract emotion first and, if so, how do you bridge the gap into concrete events?
Tomorrow? Place-based writing and a craft lecture on the subgenres of nonfiction.
Showing 2 comments
  • Amy Z

    Sounds really great, Katey. Wish I was there participating!

  • bethannfranz

    I've been reading lots of memoirs, but I'm having trouble with the analyzing part, asking those questions. I get so involved in the story… Any suggestions for how I can train myself to exercise that "meta-cognition muscle"?

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