This Saturday, GWN headquarters hosted some special guests: little sisters, parents and grandmothers from beyond the grave crowded into the room and joined our Memoir Workshop—and boy, did they have plenty to say.
The workshop began as all workshops at GWN do: with warm greetings, laughter and that familiar buzz that comes from the energy of a room full of women writers. As we settled into our chairs, knees touching, we flipped the turquoise pages of our workbooks open to reveal what was in store: Blasts from the Pasts, Family Portraits and a Craft Talk with memoir author Susan Morse.
Engaging, humble and intelligent; these are just a few of the adjectives to describe Susan. As she read from her family memoir, The Habit, she touched on themes common to us all: the difficulty in trying to heal family relations in times of crisis; resentment; forgiveness; hope; and healing with humor and love. She spoke about her writing process and, essentially, how writing found her-at first, through her emails to her siblings with updates on her mother’s health, and later, in parlaying those emails into the story of dealing with her mother’s diagnosis.
As we began our own writing exercises, we were asked to think back on a family memory of our own. Who is the character in this memory? What’s happening in this memory? Suddenly, those special guests started whispering to us, reminding us of such minute details as the smell of their cologne, the curve of their smile. The whispers grew louder until they roared in our ears, and our pens scribbled furiously across the workbooks in our laps.
Family memories often live like photographs at the back of a forgotten drawer. In writing, we bring them to light.