(I’m on a hiatus from writing about writing. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from Writing the Sacred Journey.)
Memoir revolves in an orbit of its own choosing, and therefore its pieces are often unified by a theme or period of time. The material is always the author’s life, and the narrator, (the speaker, or “I” voice), is always the author. Unlike autobiography, which attempts as complete an account of one’s life as possible, starting from the beginning, memoir begins where it wishes and concludes when its story is told. Memoir is more elastic, unpredictable, and crafted than autobiography. Because memoir does not strive for a complete accounting of one’s life, it depends on other elements, typically themes, to give it form. Continue reading
I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. –Emily Bronte
Some mornings, before I’m fully awake, I lie in bed swimming in a sea of dreams. Their images (a cup, a pew, a panting dog) float around me in nets of narratives but then dissolve as I climb into consciousness. Every rare once in a while I can pull one into the air. Once I realize I’ve done this, I repeat the dream to myself until I can reach pen and paper. Even if I have no idea what the dream is about, the fact of harvesting the dream feels significant. I’ve heard you, my remembering seems to say. The gift of you, I’ve received. Continue reading
Over the next few months I’m sharing excerpts from Writing the Sacred Journey so I can take a break from writing about writing to actually do some writing!
One spring I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was privileged to hear Jane Yolen speak. Yolen, the author of over a hundred children’s books, identified herself as a Jewish Quaker. She spoke on the hazards of addressing spiritual questions in books for children, explaining that children’s book buyers are primarily public schools and libraries, which tend to shy away from spiritually inclined literature. Nonreligious publishers are often unwilling to take on material that might prove controversial. Yet as Yolen pointed out, children ask spiritual questions: Where did Rover go when he died? Why do some people attend church and not others? Who is God? Yolen argued that we do wrong by our children when we censor stories that might aid them in their seeking.
After Yolen’s lecture a member of the audience asked, “To whom do you think children’s authors should be accountable for the moral quality of their books?” The questioner was concerned that indoctrinating content might wind up in her children’s hands. Yolen responded fiercely, “Every writer has three responsibilities: first to the story, second to yourself, and finally to your audience.” Continue reading