From memory to memoir…..

I worked with Carry Gorney on her memoir and am delighted that she has agreed to provide some thoughts about her experience for this blog:

Send me a parcel with a hundred lovely things
Send me a parcel with a hundred lovely things

“I come from a family with heads still in the Weimar republic. My own consciousness eventually leads me to the community arts movement of the 70s. I wanted to produce a far reaching memoir, knitting together my family story and my own.

My Mum’s ending is my memoir’s beginning, My own world spirals out of control as we both descend into the chaos of her failing body. We cling to familiar patterns of coffee and knitting needles which clickety-clack through my book as the story unfolds.”

Journal prompt: Is there anyone close to you whose decline has overshadowed the richness of your relationship with them? Write some short pieces about some of the experiences you shared and see if your collages bring them back to you as they were.

Work in progress:

“Sometimes I write about an episode a character, an incident with enthusiasm.

Sometimes I just lift my fingers and something arrives on the page which hardly needs editing; vivid, funny, alive ..

Sometimes I step back into a time long before me; blurred and monochrome yet strangely familiar. I have to grit my teeth and forge ahead with stories that belonged to others. I put dark and dismal passages on to paper. For every personal anecdote, there has to be a historical context, back and forth, between memory and the history book. I lay on the sofa eating chocolates eyes closed, resisting, yet eventually returning to chronicle the elusive before I am allowed to grasp hope, dreams and new beginnings.”

Journal prompt: Research some historical information about your chosen story and write about the connection between history and your personal experience.

Write the bits you can:

“Writing it was making a collage, small pieces, sepia images, letters in brown flimsy envelopes; ‘opened by censor’ stamped on the back. Eventually the fragments came together into paragraphs, chapters and sections, that spanned half a century.”

Thea and John Ernest 1941
Thea and John Ernest 1941

“My life and its procession of characters emerged as if carved out of a block of marble, the structure appeared, eventually the detail, the colours, the smells, the feel of wool between fingers …a whole book was there. It has an orange and grey cover, it’s no longer in my head….it’s out there…you can read it.”

Thank you, Carry.

Send me a Parcel with a Hundred Lovely Things by Carry Gorney is available here and on Amazon

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