Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Writng Exercise--I Remember...

I have a writing exercise to share with you. It's one that worked so well for me in triggering memories. From those memories, I found many possibilities for writing personal essays, the kind that many of the anthologies are looking for. 

You begin by writing two words--I remember. Then let your mind spiral you back to your childhood, young adult days ow wherever and begin to freewrite--just continue writing, letting your mind take over, perhaps your subconscious mind.  Keep going as long as you can. When I did it, I thought of the place I lived in my growing-up years, and as I began to describe it, more and more memories came to me. I'll paste the first half of what I ended up with below and will add the second part tomorrow along with what can be done next. 

I remember...
By Nancy Julien Kopp.

I remember so much of my childhood days. Incidents, events, people, and places return to me over and over, sometimes in my dreams. I so often am the age I am now, but the dream is set in someplace of long ago—a place where I might have been as a child. My childhood home figures prominently in my dreams and memories.

I grew up in a 3rd floor apartment. Six of us crowded into a 2 bedroom apartment which also had a small kitchen, pantry, dining room (which is where I slept) and a living room with a small sunroom extension on it and one bathroom with a clawfoot tub, no shower. We also had an outdoor balcony, very small and scary when you leaned over the railing and looked way down below. We never had a chair or table on the balcony like people would today. It was a place we were seldom allowed to go, reserved for those Kodak moments.

We climbed the three flights of stairs to our door carrying so many things. Laundry baskets, grocery bags, the live Christmas tree we had each December. Whatever we needed or wanted was toted up those three flights. The enclosed front stairs were carpeted, and as we climbed, we could smell dinner. Sometimes it was dinner cooking and sometimes it was a lingering odor from yesterday's dinner. We had to pass four other apartment doors to reach our floor, and the dinner smells from all four mingled. I often tried to single out the aromas to see who had eaten what that day. The back steps were outdoors and wooden. Up a big double set to the first floor, then split off to a single width set on either side, then onto another double set, and another single width set on either side leading to our floor. One more double set of steps and we landed on our back porch. There were four apartment doors on that big porch. And above the railing on our side ran a clothesline on a pulley. My mother often did hand-washing and hung the clothes to dry on that line. When there was an infant in the family, diapers fluttered in the wind every day of the week, drying quickly on summer days, and freezing to a cardboard stiffness in the winter.

Part II tomorrow...

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