Bite Size Memoir Challenge is back!
I would love to inspire you to write up a few memories or self explorations in small, manageable bites. This post goes on to explain why (and how), with a roundabout exploration of E.M. Forster’s ubiquitous quote: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” along with my own recent experience writing a bite sized memoir concerning a rather hungry caterpillar.
Regulars will know I’ve taken a break over a busy summer and recently revisited a number of priorities. Thank you to everyone who contributed ideas to save time with administration along with encouragement to continue! Quite a few people seem to be just as busy as me and almost relieved that others were suggesting a fortnightly prompt. Others suggested I didn’t need to provide a compilation in line with many other regular prompts already out there.
I’ve welcomed these two ideas as they will save obvious time! I’m a little anxious less frequency means it might slip from people’s minds, but we might find others who like the less pressured environment.
For now, no other big ideas except I plan to do the odd photo post, especially in school holidays when I’m chasing my tail more than usual!
If you’re new here, you might be interested in having a look at its history and what “I remember” statements are all about. You can also read others submissions for various prompts by clicking the #BiteSizeMemoir tag and examining the posts that come up.
However, everything else you need to know to have a go, is summarised at the bottom of this post.
When I started Bite Size, I was especially keen to encourage ‘ordinary’ people to have a go – A few have, but it’s been more of a success with other writers.
– So! One more plea if you feel you aren’t (yet) a writer and would like to have a go – There are no qualifications necessary to enter and no judging of what is written. You can even have a go anonymously. That bit’s very easy – you’ll find you can fill the name part in on my posts comment section with anything you like (.. Mystery Memoir Maker..). Email addresses aren’t published – they’re just part of WordPress’s security and Spam filtering. And I promise I don’t pass them on or use them in any other way.
First a little ramble involving E.M Forster and a very hungry caterpillar..
Many of us regular memoirists find elements of peace, understanding, joy or self discovery writing memoir and as with all writers, a hell of a lot of fulfilment from just expressing something on a page. If you’ve never done it, you might discover it as something you hadn’t realised you were looking for. Any regular writer of any genre will tell you:
Writing is different from just thinking things through in your head.
E.M Forster is credited with “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” but it wasn’t actually he who said it. (Thank you to Paula Reed Nancarrow who had me on the hunt for the origins of this.) He actually quotes an anecdote in Aspects of the Novel, of an old lady ..
..’who was accused by her nieces of being illogical. For some reason she could not be brought to understand what logic was, and when she grasped its true nature she was not so much angry as contemptuous. “Logic! Good gracious! What rubbish!” she exclaimed. “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?” ’
Regrettably we all know a few people who spout all sorts of rubbish before they work out what they’re thinking, but writers can explore themselves without that disturbance to others – and then, share it!
Writing is my thinking, so I would rephrase the whole thing to be:
How do I know what I think until I read what I write?
In an almost entirely different vein (the links are there for me) but may be hard to explain.. there’s also The Very Hungry Caterpillar sitting on my desk.
When I cobbled together my throw a dice solution to provide Bite Size prompts for the last 2 weeks, I included Watermelon – deliberately – so I could describe a lovely bit of video we have of Max reading Eric Carle’s beloved children’s book.
Since then, the link between the caterpillar’s eating and this one bite at a time approach to tackling memoir has played on my mind. I couldn’t work out quite what it was until I read “The next day was Sunday again. The caterpillar ate through one nice green leaf, and after that he felt much better.”
Why, I wondered, did he feel much better?
Of course all his meals – his bites – result in a caterpillar becoming a beautiful butterfly. His hunger drives him to this ultimate fulfilment. And whilst the adult-me almost mourns the loss of the caterpillar, my 2 or 3 year old Max was delighted by the discovery he turned into a butterfly.
Memoir writing for me is a bit like that discovery – what’s going to unfold isn’t immediately apparent..
Finally, as I was picking through my notes from a meeting with my editor, I was reminded she had suggested I needed to show more of Max and Simon in my memoir – a hint that life still has to go on, even when there was a stark future ahead of me.
Thinking back to The Hungry Caterpillar, I suddenly got the ‘nice green leaf’ and why it made him feel much better. Perhaps after eating a load of rubbish on the Saturday, the simple, everyday ‘caterpillar meal’ of a nice green leaf is a metaphor for my simple everyday joy of watching my toddler discover the world. Life goes on amidst the threat of death. I’m not sure exactly when the piece of video was recorded but I know I was far from out of the woods. However, in that small moment, I was still able to discover my own joy in his delight. It’s a treasure to look back on and rediscover all over again. Writing my memoir more often reminds me of time lost, but these little morsels create a richer, more complex picture and of moments you cannot be robbed of. An editor’s gift I can justify finding more of to write about.
So, the prompt for this time’s Bite Size Memoir is:
And here’s my “Watermelon” in case you missed it. Confirmation of the guidelines for participation follow.
I don’t know exactly how old he is but he still has soft wispy golden curls and wears a nighttime babygrow. He must be tired because he is unusually still and calm, leaning back into the cushions on the sofa, the book propped on a cushion on his little lap.
I know he doesn’t read the story, but he and I have visited these pages so many times he knows every word of this favourite tale.
The words are almost recognisable, most consonants fully formed even with the necessary comfort of his dummy. He follows the pictures with his finger..
“One ollipop, one piece cherry pie, one shoshidge, one cupcake, and one slice of waller-melon.”
Eyes bobbing across the pages, his voice rises and falls, almost in surprise – He looks up at me and laughs.
“That night he had stomachache!”
– Still delighted that a caterpillar can be so hungry!
1. Topics will be posted every two weeks via my blog and Twitter (using the hashtag #BiteSizeMemoir – You don’t need a blog or Twitter to participate. If you follow my blog these posts and my other ramblings will be sent to remind you.)
2. The challenge will be to write about the topic using
10 x “I remember statements”
150 x words (prose or poetry)
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 or include in a fuller blog post, but please only submit one option within my comments section (i.e. 10 statements or 150 word prose/poem).
3. You will have two weeks to share your ‘Bite’ – in either of two ways:
a) Post your response in the comments section of the current topic – If you are a first-time commenter on my blog, WordPress will filter this so I can check for spam and you may not see your comment appear immediately.
b) If you have a blog you can post your response on your own blog and provide the link in the comments section of the challenge you’re responding. Please also link back to the relevant Bite Size prompt, in your post.
You can quickly find the latest BiteSize prompt whenever you visit my blog by clicking on the logo at the top right of the page.
A few rules:
1. If you need or want to be anonymous that’s absolutely 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 see it and I promise I will not write to you or share it anywhere!
2. Please keep others anonymous to protect their privacy and dignity – change names or use initials etc.
3. If you stumble across this after the deadline, what the heck! Feel free to have a go – I’ll get to read it even if others have moved on to a later prompt!