Memoir

Here are some descriptions of some of my current memoir projects.

MICRO-MEMOIR/FLASH MEMOIR

Whatever you want to call it. These are short pieces (under 1,000 words) that explore a single incident.

Driving Blind Under a Desert Moon

935312_493960847318287_1781259062_nMy only real experience driving, as a blind girl, on real roads, ever. It was kind of a disaster of an experience. I originally wrote it as a response to The Sun‘s Readers Write topic of “Cars” but never submitted it for a number of reasons. The actual experience got even crazier after the end of this piece but because of the original topic, I just stuck to the part about the cars and driving. Here it is:

Dusky Waters, Orcas Island

camp-sunsetThis started as a writing exercise. We read Peggy Shumaker’s “Moving Water, Tuscon,” and were supposed to write about our own experiences with nature, and leave the end a little ambiguous. This piece has since been edited and renamed, but I’ll stick with the original blog post of this piece. Here it is:

BOOK-LENGTH MEMOIR

Eclipses of Jupiter

I am albino. Albinism is a recessive genetic condition that means my skin and hair are white, and I’m legally blind. This project is focused fully on childhood and adolescence with blindness and albinism as the main subject. There are lots of tales of what it was like being “other” while in elementary, middle and high school, even though a lot of that is really difficult to revisit and write about. There are chapters about my first NOAH (the albinism organization) convention, chapters about blind camp, about other blind programs. And there is material about what kept me going through what was essentially a pretty dark time–reading, nature, music, friends from the blind programs.

Here are two excerpts from two different chapters about Camp Marcella, a blind camp, that I went to from ages 12-16:

I also posted (serially) an overly long chapter that chronicles my fourth grade year and all the troubles, blindness-related and otherwise, that I had that year. Here are the excerpts:

Status of the project: Working on First Draft. Several completed chapters, outlines for many more.

Moonchild

Moon

After a sheltered and chaotic childhood, during which I worried that my parents would murder me in my sleep, I felt more different on the inside than I am on the outside. I lost (and found) myself in alternative rock music and counted down the days until I could escape to college. I felt eclipsed. The first few chapters (see below) offer snapshots of these childhood eclipses.

Moonchild details my freshman year at college. As I dealt with finding my way around college, I had intense social anxiety. I didn’t know how to talk about albinism with people, so I didn’t. I was at school on a creative writing scholarship, and I had writer’s block as big as the Great Pyramid of Giza. I wasn’t even sure if I felt anymore. The eclipse deepened.

Then a song inspired a story idea and touched me on a deep emotional level. Almost spontaneously, I found myself talking to my best college friend about albinism and what it was like growing up in my skin. I came close to talking about my childhood night terrors. When I found out that the song artist was going on tour and the closest concert was states away, because I couldn’t drive, my desire to attend became a quixotic quest. This adventure lead to other, wilder quests that completely defed the way I grew up and expanded my realm of experience and ability like concentric circles. In each new quest, I explore how my partial blindness and “looking different” pose obstacles and how I overcome them.

It turned out though, that opening back up to music, to feeling, didn’t just mean that I felt like a rock goddess, but also that I felt the murdered child inside. For the last months of school, I struggled with these conflicting feelings and sorted through the fallout of my upbringing. Thus began the real quixotic quest, the inner journey to come to terms with my albinism and my history.

The book is also a vivid visual journey about what the world looks like to someone with impaired vision.

Here are a few full chapters:

And here are some shorter excerpts:

Status: Slowly overhauling and reworking. Finished first draft in 2005. Revised several times through 2008. Now, revisiting with fresh eyes.

Learning to Swim

Another project focuses on a yearlong time-frame in my early 20s when I was traveling the country a lot, staying in hostels and at organic farms, and then subsequently moving across country and dealing with all kinds of struggles and narrowly escaping being homeless. This was basically my quest to get out on my own for good. And it was really hard. In fact, part of this one follows the three-act structure of feature films so perfectly that I’m adapting that portion to a fictionalized screenplay version of the same name (the script needs a new name though, it works much better for the book project because there’s a lot of actual water and swimming so it’s not JUST metaphorical).

Here’s an excerpt:

Status: Mostly written in rough-draft form. There are a few chapters and transitions that still need to be written but for the most part it’s down on paper. Still, I wrote a lot of it so long ago (2003-ish) that I’m sure it needs a complete overhaul.

A Case of You

This one is centered around a crazy relationship I had in my mid-twenties but has been difficult to write because the relationship kind of traumatized me for a long time afterward, and because memoir always requires you to look at yourself under a magnifying glass, warts and all, and this story has a lot of warts. I also feel a little weird about this one because this guy asked me not to write about him. Straight up. And I said I wouldn’t, even though I was already planning on it and literally taking notes on things (many of which are so cryptic that I have little to no idea what they mean anymore). So there’s that, the idea of being a person of my word even if when I spoke the words I was planning to betray it.

Sometimes I think this project is just for me, never to be seen by anyone else’s eyes, to help me sort through this mindfuck of a relationship that affected me for years after it ended. To solidify what I learned from that so I don’t ever repeat it. It’s definitely the most raw writing I’ve ever done, and it’s hard to imagine it ever coming together into anything readable, much less publishable. Other than a few things I read to a writing group in 2008, I’ve literally never shared a word of it with anyone.

So it may never see the light of day on this blog or anywhere, and I have no excerpts to post, but on the other hand, I still treat it like a serious work. I have it storyboarded on a posterboard behind my bookshelf, I have maps of the chapters that are still unwritten. I evaluate the writing the way I would with any work. And sometimes I think there are important things that this project tries to say in an artful way. So time will tell.

Status: About half-written, in (very) rough draft form.

I’m writing for different parts of all these projects simultaneously, and everything keeps reshaping as I go along, so I expect these definitions to morph and redefine with time and writing.

NOVELLA-LENGTH HYBRID

I don’t even know how to categorize this, but…

Somebody That I Used to Know

I think of this as an EP. It’s longer than a short story (and certainly longer than micro-memoir or flash memoir) but not book-length either. And length isn’t its only grey area. It’s also part non-fiction, extremely rooted in facts and factual sensory details. I was so concerned with accuracy that there are parts I acted out to make sure I had notes about timing right. It’s also part fiction. And, it’s part essay. It alternates between scene sections (told in third person), and essayistic sections addressing things like songs that forever remind you of ex-lovers and why it’s a bad idea to fall for people with birthdays on holidays, told in second person. And yes, me being me, there is chemistry in it. And music, lots of music. In fact, the title will probably change but it’s a place-holder for now because that song plays a somewhat central role in this fucking crazy hybrid piece.

And, perhaps, more to come! Or at least changes to come.

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3 Comments

3 thoughts on “Memoir

  1. Pingback: » NewsFlash – Vol. 5 #7

  2. I had a boyfriend who is legally blind. All it means is that you have worse than 20/200 vision. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t see at all.

    He was so blind as a toddler that he didn’t know trees had leaves (“a green blob on a brownish straight thing” is how he described remembering them) but then at the age of 4 his parents realized he was visually impaired and not just clumsy; they took him to an eye doctor who gave him cartoonishly thick eyeglasses, and so he got vision. Technology gradually improved and eventually he got special contact lenses which made his vision better than 20/60 and allowed him to drive.

    He keeps them in while he sleeps. He’s deathly afraid of being left without vision in case of a late-night fire or some other unlikely emergency.

    • Hi Hana,

      Thanks for sharing! You’re right, legally blind doesn’t mean you can’t see at all, and many people don’t make the distinction. Mine is about 20/400 without correction, 20/200 with, and I’m a very visual person when it comes to learning, taking in the world, watching TV/movies.

      I have found that the experience is a little different for everyone. It’s great that your friend can now drive (I have to say I’m a little envious of that since I can’t). Again, thanks for sharing his/your story on here!

      ~EJ

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