Commodifying Myself

Guest Post by Ryan Pemberton

“It’s a funny feeling,” I confessed to an editor-friend as we worked on my first memoir, a book on calling. “In a few months perfect strangers will be able to read some of the most intimate stories from my childhood that even my closest friends don’t know.”

She nodded thoughtfully, her brow furrowed.

“And the conclusion I’ve come to is that strangers can know these stories about me and still not know me. They’ll still be strangers.”

I’d been talking about how, in memoir, we attempt to write ourselves into knowable form.

Along the way, I’d pondered the relationship between being “known” and being “possessed”—as one might say she “possesses” a thorough knowledge of the English language—and how this relates to story-telling.

A quote from Richard Chess’s recent Image blog post complicated matters.

“We are our stories,” Chess suggests, reflecting on the Israel-Palestine conflict. “The stories into which we are born, the stories in which we’ll one day die.” [Read more...]

Avoiding the Mirror

Guest post by Cathy Warner

I have circled around this story several times, trying to write my way into it.

I begin with an inciting event:

An eighty-nine year-old man lies unconscious, unresponsive in intensive care in a California hospital. His name is Vince and he was hit by a car in the town he’s lived in near forty years, the same town that was my home for twenty-five.

I am now nine hundred miles north, but in my mind I see the pharmacy he left, the crosswalk, his wife waiting in their minivan parked outside the beauty parlor. I picture her stumbling from the car with her uneven gait, pedestrians rushing to her side, to his aide, sprinting to the fire department down the block for help.

I read the news on Facebook first, that “an elderly gentleman” had been hit, and stopped at this description of him. Though he’d been retired from his work as missionary to Pakistan the twenty-five years I’d known him, he was far from gentle.

From there my words add up to a litany of how hard this man—who died days later from his injuries—was to love, a long complaint about our relationship.

It doesn’t work. My editor tells me: “Basically you still believe he was deeply misguided about most everything and that you have the correct ideas, so the piece just becomes a ‘He was wrong and overbearing and fearful but we’re still all one in Christ.’”

[Read more...]

Commonplacing

Encore Guest Post by Ann Conway

Here in central Maine, the world has come down to bone. The songbirds are gone and crows, which poet Mary Oliver terms “the deep muscle of the world,” have taken over my street. The landscape seems empty; the ground, a carpet of desiccated leaves.

One longs for the blanketing stillness of snow. The world, dark at four, appears grim.

I’ve started keeping a commonplace book in the hope of seeing better.

Most wintry day thus far, 43 degrees in a dark gray sky. Gunmetal black river with brown lawns silhouetted against it. Gulls float over downtown…at the hoarders’ house, shrunken tomatoes still cling to the vines. [Read more...]


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