I am in the process of writing a memoir. The word memoir is from the French mémoire: memoria, (meaning memory or reminiscence). It is a collection of memories in which someone writes about moments or events, whether public or private, that took place in the person’s life. The “rule” in memoir is that what is written in the work is understood to be factual, at least as factual as memory can be. One can elaborate by saying I can imagine that this person did this or may have said that, but you need to stick to the truth as you see it.
I was under the false impression before I started writing, that a memoir was the story of a person’s life and I thought this was a bit narcissistic, unless you were a rock star or a celebrity of some kind. When I came to understand the meaning of memoir, I started to remember the little snippets in my life, the interesting people who had stepped in and out of my world, and my somewhat eccentric family. Suddenly I had a huge desire to share.
In keeping with my MFA thesis and my three years of photographing my ancestral family home called Chape-Inn during the Maine Media Master’s program, my memoir is primarily about my history at Chape-Inn and the people with whom I have come in contact over the years. I am also fortunate to have the journals and letters from my great-grandmother and grandmother that tell stories about their life at the camp in the early 1900s. In using these sources as inspiration, the “I imagine that” becomes a very interesting way of telling stories.
In addition to the memoir writing that will likely take me many more years to complete, I have directed my skills to writing poetry. I had the pleasure of working with Sean Kernan during one of my semesters at Maine Media. A true Renaissance man, Sean is a writer, photographer, actor, filmmaker and wonderfully sensitive mentor. I believe I wrote some of my best poetry when we were working together. I am working on what is referred to as a chapbook and hope to have it done by the end of next year. A chapbook is a small collection of poetry, generally no more than forty pages. It is normally centered around one theme, and since I’ve been on a creative roll with my ancestral summer home for the past thirty years through my photography, the poems will all have something to do with this place. I always fancied myself somewhat of a writer since my undergraduate degree was in English and I have enjoyed writing (and reading) my entire life but I never thought that poetry would be an appropriate medium for me. I was surprised at how much I enjoy it and how the assembly of a few carefully selected words can express deep emotion and create a visceral and compelling environment. It makes perfect sense to me now – my poems are like my photographs: layered fragments of what is important to me seen through the filter of my imagination.