Welcome to the first “Bite Size Memoir” challenge.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.. “Bite Size Memoir” is an invitation for anyone to spend 5 minutes here or there (perhaps with a gorgeous little notebook), recording some snippets about their life. Each week, I’ll provide a prompt for inspiration, so you don’t have to think where to begin. The challenge here is to keep it short with either 150 words of prose or poetry, OR 10 x “I remember ..” statements (Read more about this in last week‘s post).
Bloggers are welcome to use it as a blog-hop, so anyone popping by can follow the threads and see what else you’re up to.
If you don’t have a blog, you can share your ‘bite’ in the comments section below. And of course, please feel free to comment on how you found the exercise as well.
There’s a reminder of exactly how this works, at the end.
Last week I explored the idea of recording memoirs in a bite-size way as a way of approaching a big job done in manageable bites. As I’ve reflected on before, I tussle regularly with routines and structure – sometimes they help me, other times they cramp my style. I’m not great at finishing big projects, so I regularly run along this seesaw from one end to the other! The best I can come up with are clear plans with loose structures or loose plans with clear structures. But I definitely need a bit of something to tackle the bigger tasks! Bite Size Memoir should enable me to tackle the problem of recording a flavour of me, without staring at a mammoth task.
So please take the 10 x “I remember..” statements or 150 word limit as either permission to be brief or to practice with constraints!
DEFINITION OF MEMOIR
I like the author Gore Vidal’s simple definition of memoir: “A memoir is how one remembers one’s own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked.”
There are no rights or wrongs about it (other than it should be the truth as you see it.) And everyone has a memoir waiting to be told.
The First Bite-Size Memoir topic is “School at Seven” (This topic is closed now, but you can read the complain of responses here )
One of the reasons I’m starting here, at age seven, is that the study of memory suggests seven to be an age most of us can remember back to. (We obviously have earlier memories but they’re more often isolated incidents).
Most of us will also have experienced school. If you didn’t, perhaps the prompt still provokes memory of that age. I’d still love to hear from you – perhaps re-titled “No School at Seven”.
In our house, “School at Seven” made for great reminiscing and even sharing of new insights (after more than 25 years together.)
To illustrate different approaches, I’ve first tacked it first with 10 x “I remember statements” – This is a great way of filling a blank page if you’re a hesitant writer – and secondly with 150 words of prose. I’ve loved cheating a bit here, as I’ve been able to cover more ground using both! – Nothing to stop you doing the same at home but please choose only one to share. 150 words of poetry is a third option, but isn’t something I’m practiced enough with to go public with 😄
I Remember School at Seven
I remember learning words I kept in Nan’s old tobacco tin.
I remember playtime and British Bulldogs, hopscotch and skipping.
I remember the roughly tarmacked playground and picking gravel out of my knees.
I remember 1/3 pint bottles of milk and drinking the cream off the top with a red straw.
I remember a pot-bellied stove in the classroom and hot water pipes big enough to sit on – or as one kid did – shit on.
I remember going home to tea at A’s and having butterscotch Angel Delight which we never had at home.
I remember the poor kids who smelled and Mum telling me to be nice to them because ‘god only knows..’
I remember reading books at home and Dad teaching me sums because we did a lot of art at school.
I remember my brand new Start-right shoes and those poor kids ill-fitting hand-me-downs.
And I remember wondering why the grown-ups couldn’t fix things for them.
Lisa Reiter (age 47), UK
School at Seven – 150 words
I had a squint and I drew a beautiful cathedral while in the blurry world of eye-drops and patches. I was devastated it wasn’t a masterpiece when I finally saw it. And that teacher was in trouble with Mum and Dad for telling me “I shouldn’t come to school if I couldn’t see.” There were different conversations at home when I was caught sniffing glue in the cupboard before I knew it was wrong.
More trouble, standing in the corner after giving S a bloody nose, indignant at the injustice of being in trouble when he’d lifted my skirt! And he coloured people’s arms in blue! The teacher went mad – ‘Stupid boy..’ Playtime was tough because V played bitch-god over who was ‘in or out’ with me often ‘out’. A mischievous tom-boy anyway, chasing T round the playground to kiss him. Him crying and me running faster!
Lisa Reiter (age 47), UK
A REMINDER OF HOW THE BITE-SIZE MEMOIR CHALLENGE WORKS
- Each Friday I’ll suggest a topic by 2pm UK time (BST) via my blog and Twitter (using the hashtag #BiteSizeMemoir – You don’t need to be on Twitter to participate.)
2. The challenge will be to write about the topic using
10 x “I remember statements”
150 x words (prose, or poem if you want to stretch yourself)
Either will make you pick and choose your words carefully whilst keeping a tight focus for time’s sake. You might want to write more, to keep at home, but please only submit one option within the limits for sharing (i.e. 10 statements or 150 word prose/poem)
3. I will aim to compile responses and share them via another post, the following Friday morning, before the next challenge is issued.
4. Therefore, the Deadline for sharing your ‘Bite’ will be 2pm (BST) on the Thursday. You can share in either of two ways:
a) Post your response in the comments section of the current topic – I will find it and cut and paste to the compilation of responses. (If you are a first-time commenter on my blog, WordPress will filter you so I can check for spam and you may not see your comment appear immediately but don’t worry – I will find and share it)
b) If you have a blog you can post your response on your own blog with a link back to this post, and then also provide the link to me in the comments section. I will then link your contribution back to your post, in the compilation of responses I post next Friday.
5. Give your response a title that includes the challenge prompt of the week – include the year you were born or your age and the country the events took place in – I won’t enforce this but I think it provides a significant context for other readers.
A few rules:
- If you need or want to be anonymous that’s fine – When you post a comment just put ‘Anon’ or a nickname in the name field. It does ask for an email address as part of spam filtering but only I will see it.
- Please keep others anonymous to protect their privacy and dignity – change names or use initials etc.
- If you’ve got an axe to grind, please do it somewhere else.
- If you stumble across this after the deadline, do feel free to contribute and include your blog link but you won’t be included in the compilation.
Finally, I welcome feedback, particularly if anyone spots a flaw in the process! Please remember to submit your Bite Size Memoir by 2pm (BST) Thursday 8th May 2014. Have fun !