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Memoir Boot Camp - Jacqueline Woodson - Class 6

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Session 6
Memoir As Poetry
Taught by
Jacqueline Woodson
E L E V A T E Y O U R M E M O I R
B O O T C A M P
Why This Story Now?
Hero’s Journey
Character Development
Narrative Arc
Revision
If the Girl Walks into Lake Michigan
Nightly, the girl snaps her arms onto her
shoulders, her legs onto her
hips, each finger and toe into the correct
socket, matching knuckles.
She maneuvers her heart into her chest,
carefully attaching veins and
arteries to prevent leakage. Her kneecaps
creak but are soothed by
foamy waves.
She searches the littoral berm in the
moonlight for the havier, his celibate
heart, his lowered head. He’s the girl’s
love: animal, chaste.
She lies beside him, her forehead on his
her breath slowing.
One night she follows his tracks past the last
sand bar, where they
disappear. The girl with unhinged parts
gladly loan him a leg,
a foot, an eye—but so much is missing. How
does she go on?
Unclean
I said “shit”
in front of the church ladies
gathered in our kitchen
for coffee and doughnuts,
three-year-old me:
the potato-shaped, sturdy-legged
parrot-tongued echo chamber.
I fell down, scraped my knee,
and said “shit” in frustration,
the word I had learned
from my mother
crammed and dammed
into the corseted life
of a minister’s wife
where she couldn’t say
“shit”
if she had a mouthful.
Of Power and Time
It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my
desk. Then the phone rings or someone raps
the door. I’m deep in the machinery of my
Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open
the door. And the thought which I had in hand,
or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work
solitude, concentration without interruptions.
needs the whole sky to fly in . . .
I am, myself, three selves at least. To begin
there is the child I was. Certainly I am not that
child anymore! Yet, distantly, or sometimes
so distantly, I can hear that child’s voice—I can
feel its hope, or its distress. It has not
Powerful, egotistical, insinuating—its presence
rises, in memory, or from the steamy river of
dreams. It is not gone, not by a long shot. It is
with me in the present hour. It will be with me
the grave.
When I Tell My Family
When I tell my family
I want to be a writer, they smile and say,
We see you in the backyard with your writing.
They say,
We hear you making up all those stories.
And,
We used to write poems.
And,
It’s a good hobby, we see how quiet it keeps you.
you.
They say,
But maybe you should be a teacher,
a lawyer,
do hair . . .
I’ll think about it, I say.
And maybe all of us know
this is just another one of my
stories.
Writing Prompts
• Find moments that are snapshots or fragmented—for which
you might not yet have a narrative line or full story. List three of
these and write one. Choose words carefully to reveal emotion
and images.Try to see if you find a metaphor or an image that
helps you with the emotional essence.
• Write a selected moment in poetic prose—going beyond facts
and trying to find the essence of the feeling you are wanting to
explore.The theme.
• Choose a moment from the memoir you’re working
on and write a short passage instead of a long narrative
you might have been planning. How short can you make
the essence of it?Are there metaphors that come to you around
your theme?
CONTINUE WITH US
Children of the Land
We invite you to register for $50
Visit www.magicofmemoir.com/register
6-Month Mentorship Program
$200 off for all Boot Camp alum
www.writeyourmemoirinsixmonths.com
Share

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Memoir Boot Camp - Jacqueline Woodson - Class 6

  • 1. Session 6 Memoir As Poetry Taught by Jacqueline Woodson E L E V A T E Y O U R M E M O I R B O O T C A M P
  • 7. If the Girl Walks into Lake Michigan Nightly, the girl snaps her arms onto her shoulders, her legs onto her hips, each finger and toe into the correct socket, matching knuckles. She maneuvers her heart into her chest, carefully attaching veins and arteries to prevent leakage. Her kneecaps creak but are soothed by foamy waves. She searches the littoral berm in the moonlight for the havier, his celibate heart, his lowered head. He’s the girl’s love: animal, chaste. She lies beside him, her forehead on his her breath slowing. One night she follows his tracks past the last sand bar, where they disappear. The girl with unhinged parts gladly loan him a leg, a foot, an eye—but so much is missing. How does she go on?
  • 8. Unclean I said “shit” in front of the church ladies gathered in our kitchen for coffee and doughnuts, three-year-old me: the potato-shaped, sturdy-legged parrot-tongued echo chamber. I fell down, scraped my knee, and said “shit” in frustration, the word I had learned from my mother crammed and dammed into the corseted life of a minister’s wife where she couldn’t say “shit” if she had a mouthful.
  • 9. Of Power and Time It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings or someone raps the door. I’m deep in the machinery of my Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work solitude, concentration without interruptions. needs the whole sky to fly in . . . I am, myself, three selves at least. To begin there is the child I was. Certainly I am not that child anymore! Yet, distantly, or sometimes so distantly, I can hear that child’s voice—I can feel its hope, or its distress. It has not Powerful, egotistical, insinuating—its presence rises, in memory, or from the steamy river of dreams. It is not gone, not by a long shot. It is with me in the present hour. It will be with me the grave.
  • 10. When I Tell My Family When I tell my family I want to be a writer, they smile and say, We see you in the backyard with your writing. They say, We hear you making up all those stories. And, We used to write poems. And, It’s a good hobby, we see how quiet it keeps you. you. They say, But maybe you should be a teacher, a lawyer, do hair . . . I’ll think about it, I say. And maybe all of us know this is just another one of my stories.
  • 11. Writing Prompts • Find moments that are snapshots or fragmented—for which you might not yet have a narrative line or full story. List three of these and write one. Choose words carefully to reveal emotion and images.Try to see if you find a metaphor or an image that helps you with the emotional essence. • Write a selected moment in poetic prose—going beyond facts and trying to find the essence of the feeling you are wanting to explore.The theme. • Choose a moment from the memoir you’re working on and write a short passage instead of a long narrative you might have been planning. How short can you make the essence of it?Are there metaphors that come to you around your theme?
  • 12. CONTINUE WITH US Children of the Land We invite you to register for $50 Visit www.magicofmemoir.com/register 6-Month Mentorship Program $200 off for all Boot Camp alum www.writeyourmemoirinsixmonths.com
  • 13. Share