In October, 2014 our local writers’ group published an anthology of stories, recipes, poems, and photographs. We love our book and what it represents. It’s a communal effort that pays homage to our collective past.
A little over a year ago as we bandied ideas back and forth, we knew we wanted to write something, but we weren’t sure what it would be. We wanted to honor our past, especially the people who had figured so largely in it. Should we model it on the Foxfire books? Should we interview senior citizens, including those we didn’t know, to learn more about yesteryears’s traditions?
The more we talked, the more frustrated and unfocused we became. Finally, we came to a consensus to just begin submitting stories and poems that centered around holiday traditions, especially Southern ones. But then, there was Vanessa, a writer who had come to America from Germany as part of an equestrian team and who had no holiday memories of the South. Like many of us, however, she loved her grandmother and had many fond memories of her.
When Vanessa suggested a story about baking Easter cookies with Oma, we all loved it. Because of this story, “Christmas Cookies at Easter,” we decided to broaden our contents to memories of anyone and any place and any time (not necessarily holidays) that had contributed to our psyches. In fact, we cast the net even farther and decided that the principal players didn’t even have to be related to us.
Writing, editing, and publishing the anthology was fun and rewarding but also demanding and labor intensive. We wanted to do another one this year, but at a recent meeting, someone wise finally said, “Let’s publish a book every other year.” I think everyone present exhaled a sigh of relief, not because we don’t want to do it but because we want to do it well. We’re all working on projects of our own that need attention, and the pressure to meet another publishing deadline by October would hurt both our individual and collective work.
But here’s the good news. With profits from Serving Up Memory, we’re going to host a writing workshop this fall, probably in October. Location, date, topics, food, speakers, and classes are under discussion. The only thing for certain is that we’re doing it. We know there are dozens, maybe hundreds, among us who have stories to tell, and we want to assist them in doing it. By assist, I mean motivate, cajole, and encourage.
We left our last evening meeting with an assignment to think about what we need to do to make the workshop a success. I just took a first step and am asking anyone who’s reading this to give me/us some ideas about what you’d like to learn more about.
I think the most important thing is that we all have a story. Do we have the confidence to tell it? I feel that I don’t have a command of written language. Another person may need help with the focus of the story. Someone else may feel lacking in grammar. I do think that anyone who signs up for a writing workshop hopes to find the encouragement to move on. So I know your group will be focused on moving forward. Start it. Just do it. That kind of thing. Otherwise, since I have no expertise in the area……
Your response shows that you have an excellent command of written language. So now the question is whether you have the confidence to tell your story. Maybe you’ll consider coming to our workshop–and even joining our group. In the meantime, thanks for commenting on the blog!