Author Archives: TOO YOUNG TO BE WRITING A MEMOIR

READING RESPONSE – Plan B

Plan B – Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott is a collection of mini essays that pours all of life through a sieve, and concentrates on the flecks of gold that are left behind. That is Lamott’s gift to her readers – she holds up treasures of her experiences to the light and lets it shine through. I found myself thinking, this woman knows all the most wise, profound people. By the end of the book, I recognized that Lamott simply happens to see the treasure in her friends.

Plan B is comprised of the thoughts and reflections of a religious woman. She talks about Jesus a lot – the way in which she is baffled by his love for George Bush – but she doesn’t engage in common evangelical rhetoric associated with American Christianity. She often will turn religious anecdotes on their head, not to be explicitly subversive necessarily, but because she sees the character of God (of whom she refers to as He or Her) in it. She writes: “the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely” (257). While the representations of religion in pop. culture are rigid, archaic and hateful at times, Lamott seems to point to a God of mystery. She delights in describing God as “a real showoff”.

Lamott is earnest in the demystifying of her neuroses; she manages to say everything while avoiding being obnoxious or causing the reader to feel embarrassed for her. She offers to us her disappointments with her body as an aging woman, the complications of identifying as a feminist while being disappointed with her body, the utter panic she feels in the sun as the daughter of a man who died from cancer. Pieced together with these confessions, however, is the practice of what Timothy Keller (an American theologian) refers to as “blessed self-forgetfulness”. She calls it ‘looking up’: “it’s not that I think less of myself, but that I think of myself less often. And that feels like heaven to me” (176).

What I love about this book is that it engages with any experience that makes us human. Lamott manages to speak of the grief of losing her dog with as much care as she does when describing her response to the horrifying war in Iraq. She dignifies an old knotted log with a beautiful description: “[it] had a certain eminence, the majesty of age – there was rot, and hairy sprouts, the kind you see in a grandfather’s ears. It was furniture, a barrier, sculptural and grave, not the sort of thing you could argue with” (97). Lamott is motivated by the inherently subversive nature of love and an ethic of care for those that are unlike us, whoever ‘us’ may be. This book is a call to love, not just the stinky man on the bus: your problematic uncle, the street canvassers after your money, the parent that you are angry with.

I think often of a time when I was surprised by love. I was angry, banging things around in the washroom, yelling at my husband about something that was disturbing me. It was the night before he was to leave on tour for a month; it was my birthday in two days. I stomped to the kitchen, throwing my hands in the air, rallying him to join my cause when he turned around to present the birthday cake with candles he had lit; he sang Happy Birthday to me quietly, alone and we both cried, remembering that he would be leaving the next day. We looked at each other blurry and tearful and began to laugh. My disaster was disrupted by love. When I think of treasures that I could have missed if I wasn’t paying attention, this birthday cake comes to mind.

 

I’M STARTING OVER – Process Post #4

It’s week five and I’ve decided to change some pretty core pieces of my site. Instead of weekly prompts from a creative writing prompt book, I will be writing reading responses for collections of essays that interest me. This week I chose the first two: Plan B – Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott and Hunger by Roxane Gay

I was reflecting on the my relationship with writing and one thing became clear to me: if I am not reading, I am not writing. My hope is that reading these personal essays by others will spur me on to be a more skilled and prolific writer. Ironically, I’ve always had trouble forming thoughts into language. Part of it is insecurity – the fear that I have nothing of meaning to share and part of it is fear of failure. Something that helps me is to have a story to start from. I will read it, take it in, chew on it. I often don’t know how to form words around an idea until I start writing or speaking. Engaging with other’s stories gives me the courage to form thoughts and experience into language.

In an episode of her podcast, Secret Feminist Agenda, Doctor Hannah McGregor (Assistant Professor of Publishing at SFU) talks about the importance of encountering “the other” while reading. When we “read things that do not give [us] the immediate thrill of recognition” we engage with and accept folks that are different than us. To me, the practice of reading work that I don’t recognize myself in is just as important as finding myself in other’s stories. I hope to come up with some meaningful material with respect to the ethics of reading in this way.

And, I changed my theme again. I felt that this theme was characteristic of the simplicity of my site. I want the writing to be on display while still being not mind-numbing to look at. I am playing around with fonts and colours. I want the colours on my site to be soothing and earthy, to be engaging but not loud.

This week I need to make some content changes to my home page, describing what can be found on my site, and decide on fonts that will be complimentary to each other.

PEER REVIEW #1 – An Elixir to Mayhem

Peer Review #1

Alexa Griffith’s website, An Elixir to Mayhem – Rules for Life, combines personal experiences, popular culture references and anecdotes to live by, all supported by texts that she has pored over. The concept of living life according to guidelines is one that I identify with in a time of societal change and upheaval; boundaries can bring freedom rather than restriction. When one knows what one’s priorities are, life is lived with a clear mind, avoiding constant second-guessing and reexamining of values.

The possible harshness of the idea of living life according to a set of rules is softened by Alexa’s casual, conversational tone in her posts. Alexa’s content is rife with examples of what Audrey Watters refers to in “The Web We Need to Give Students”, as “demonstrat[ing]… learning to others beyond the classroom walls”. The learning that Alexa is demonstrating has also been obtained outside of the classroom while informing the way she engages with academia: full of “discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility” (Griffith). I was also intrigued by the connection with the developing voice of Alexa’s site and the article “Why I Am Not a Maker” by Debbie Chachra. Chachra writes: “I want to see us recognize the work of [those] whose work isn’t about something you can put in a box and sell”. Chachra maintains throughout her article that the flow of information and ideas is no less valuable than a physical product. Alexa’s voice is representative of this; she has spent time and energy on the practice of living life well and documenting her experiences for her public.

Alexa’s site would benefit from an “About” section, as I felt that main identifying statements in her week 2 Process Post could be helpful to her public upon first glance. I did notice some pretty glaring punctuation issues and would encourage Alexa to edit her posts thoroughly, specifically with respect to run on sentences. There are a few sentences in which commas should be replaced with periods.

I want to touch briefly on the title of the website. It feels a little bit awkward to me. I wonder if this could be remedied by changing ‘to’ in An Elixir to Mayhem to ‘for’ in order for it to read An Elixir for Mayhem. Alternatively, it is possible that, because of the casual tone of the site, the title could be seen as a little bit heavy-handed; the word elixir has connotations of providing a magical cure to an illness, which I’m not sure is reflected in the tone of the content.

In “Why We Need Social Paper” by Erin Glass, she emphasizes the need for “a space and a culture which promotes the practice and exchange of reflective thought” through engaging in “the collaborative, the social and the public”. I look forward to the development of Alexa’s voice in these aspects as, at this point, An Elixir to Mayhem does not explicitly invite engagement from a public, though I find the content engaging and conversational in nature. Alexa’s content does, however, invite her public to engage in reflective thought, even if it is implicit.

Works Cited

Chachra, Debbie. “Why I Am Not a Maker.” The Atlantic, The Atlantic Monthly Group, 23 Jan. 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/.

Glass, Erin. “Why We Need Social Paper.” CUNY Academic Commons, The City University of New York, 11 Dec. 2015, https://commons.gc.cuny.edu/papers/45249/.

Griffiths, Alexa. An Elixir to Mayhem. WordPress. http://alexagriffiths.com/. 28, Sept. 2018.

Watters, Audrey. “The Web We Need to Give Students.” BRIGHT Magazine, BRIGHT Magazine, 15 Jul. 2015, https://brightthemag.com/the-web-we-need-to-give-students-311d97713713.

 

 

PROMPT – WEEK 3

I remember the first time I noticed the man’s face in the moon. It was the first time I really looked at it. He looked lonely up there, all alone. Did the sun keep him company?

I thought about how the moon is a kind of clock. The moon is out: I go to bed. The moon is on the other side of the earth: I am awake. The moon is visible in the blue sky: what a phenomenon. It marks the seasons. It says: Ready or not, winter is here. It says: Do you hear the birds singing? It’s spring. 

I’ve heard it said that there is no scientific basis for the observation that everyone loses their mind a bit on the full moon, but I have to be honest: I subscribe to that pseudoscience. As a nineteen year old I taught ballet to kindergarteners and I can say in full confidence that they went rogue when the moon’s full fat face looked down on us. 

Do we see a man’s face in the moon because we are narcissists? Or do we see it because it is worthwhile seeing ourselves in the world around us?  

ART AS SCHOLARSHIP – Process Post #3

I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between words and images in the creation process of this site – specifically with respect to accessibility and readability of graphic novels. Meghan Parker is a SFU graduate and her thesis is a “graphic autobiographical inquiry in comic book form”. My intention is to engage with this kind of practice as my site develops. I hope that it will not only help me in my efforts to engage with a different part of my brain and engage with a different expression of writing and scholarship, but help the viewers also to engage with my writing in a way that lights their brains up in a different way.

I think that this expression of learning and writing is fitting especially for this class, as we are exploring publication of self as a legitimate form of scholarship. In her thesis, Parker touches on how many people have tried to delegitamize art as a form of scholarship but undermining her work. I do see creative writing as an academic practice and have had conversations in which people don’t take creative nonfiction writing seriously to my face. I’ve mentioned to acquantinces that my primary interest is in personal essays and they aren’t quite sure what is so important about it. But, personal essays are not just academic to me, they embody a well-written, scholarly art-form that help me to understand myself and the world around me in a meaningful, transformative way.