I Call You A Memoir

About a year ago, I entered my first writing contest, and I won. Maybe it was beginner’s luck, maybe it was my determination to win at something, well, perhaps it was more like I was seeking validation.

A call for submission went out from editors Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers for essays about the process of writing memoir. A collection of these essays would be published in an anthology, The Magic of Memoir – Inspiration for the Writing Life published by She Writes Press. At the time the call went out, I was working through developing my memoir and I certainly had a thing or two to say about the process of writing memoir.

 I knew I was meant to write “I Called You a Memoir,” and submit it for publication while along a journey of wrestling with trying to make something of my memoir, Under the Birch Tree.

 My focus on this writing process kept my head down and finger tips to the keyboard. I understood my story’s weaknesses which I tackled to make strong by reasoning if I understood intellectually what is memoir, than I certainly must be able to transfer that knowledge to paper. Right? Well, not so right. I struggled for a while to pull out a theme and thread it through. 

Writing a story of self-discovery and about finding home, a place to be, was an effort meant to take its time. However, I was impatient. My emotional writing process festered with frustration, anxiety and impatience and I spoke to my memoir as if in dialogue, asking what more could I make of you.

“I told you I would always find home, and that life was truly good. That’s why I wrote you, where I found meaning in you,” I wrote in my essay, speaking to my memoir. It was as if I was talking to a friend, where I couldn’t help but to be open and honest. I wrote it in one sitting while on a four hour airplane ride to San Francisco, edited and submitted it upon my return home.

In retrospect, I thought my memoir should mirror others’ who had tragic stories to tell with deeply rooted personal themes of perhaps addiction, infertility, divorce, abuse, neglect. But my story was not like theirs. “I was once eager to find complicated significance in what I now see as simplicity,” I wrote. My story was not complicated, tragic, or shocking but a common journey of self-discovery, widely shared by others who could identify with the many disconnections and discovered connections. I found my place to be through connections, and in sharing my story of finding home, I hope others could find their place to be too.

Interestingly, I had titled "I Called You A Memoir" in past tense, as if reflecting on a completed memoir. And so it is with Under the Birch Tree, with my words on pages now bound between covers of a memoir to be published on June 19, that I Call You A Memoir.

Perhaps simplicity is already there and you, too, are seeking complicated significance in your memoir writing?

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