Wordsanctuary Revisited

Musings of a writer-teacher-counselor.

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Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

I am inquisitive and have worked in writing, editing, and teaching. I am a citizen of the USA and also concerned about the world. This is an addendum to my original blog, Wordsanctuary. That's at www.wordsanctuary.blogspot.com Please check out my column at www.insidehighered.com, "A Kinder Campus." Click on Career Advice to find it. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Memoir, Memory, Mentors

"All emotions are pure which gather you and lift you up; that emotion is impure which seizes only one side of your being and so distorts you."

--Rainer Maria Rilke
Today, over lunch at Claddagh's Irish Pub, we caught up with a friend from Columbus who is an avid reader. I told him about Joe Mackall's recent book Plain Secrets (Beacon 2007), which I devoured during the grading of research essays as a reward. Joe wrote about a particular group of Amish--Swartzentruber Amish--and his friendship with a family living near him. The fact that he built the friendship is as amazing to me as the actual book, which is a finely polished gem.
Joe was a fellow student in a few classes when I was an undergraduate at CSU many moons ago; it was good to read his work recently and learn of his success.
His wife Dandi is a prolific children's book author; according to her website, she has published over 400 books; she must have great energy and stamina.
Another book by Joe, The Last Street Before Cleveland: An Accidental Pilgrimage (U of Nebraska P, 2006), is his spiritual autobiography I would say...and I read that in one curious gulp before moving on to Plain Secrets. At least a few folks would agree with me that it's a book revealing great vulnerability, regrets, gratitude, and an unexpected awakening:
I do not tire of memoirs, especially those by people I have known even a bit. I have several drawers and folders full of my own spiritual memoirs and thoughts. Whether I will ever put that particular jigsaw puzzle of words together, I don't know. But at least I have tried to probe and explore and have had some fine, sensitive spiritual advisors along the way...from Jewish, Unitarian, Buddhist, Catholic, Unity Church, and other traditions...
One of the most satisfying pieces of my professional life has been fostering, observing, admiring the growth of memoir writers...first through OASIS which folded due to Cleveland Clinic cutbacks (they were one of our valued sponsors), and then our spin-off group, Writers' Circle, which has flourished and blossomed but is currently hibernating.
The picture of me on this blog was taken when we met at Mayfield library...one of our varied meeting places. (Look closely: You can see my son's sneaker-covered foot peeking out near the elbow of my left arm...the right one on the picture.) We met at Kaufmann's, an occasional coffee house when others at Kaufmann's were conducting healthy adventures, such as frying fish, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Beachwood Family Health Center, South Euclid-Lyndhurst Library, University Heights library, Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Joseph-Beth Bookstore, Workmen's Circle, my back porch...a now-defunct coffee house...too bad I was so busy teaching and motivating, I did not take copious notes of the incredible creative processes I observed. No matter.
With writers of varied personalities and genres, it never got dull.
I miss Fran and Miriam and Paula (read some recollections at http://wordsanctuary.blogspot.com/2005_06_01_archive.html) and Florence and Sanford and Olive and Betty and Bill and Harriet and Shirley, and others who have died...They were vibrant, inspiring, and courageous writers. Although I was technically their teacher, the reality is: We were a community of writers, learning from and supporting one another. Family health issues in Fall 2007 led to my putting Writers' Circle on hold for a while. Perhaps we will rekindle the ongoing experiment some time.
The work of some members of the group is in Cleveland's Bicentennial-Tricentennial Time Capsule to be opened, Universe willing, in 2096. It was compiled into a chapbook called Beauty in Youth and Age, featuring senior writers and high school students. Only one or two "collectors' items" are left. It was an honor to facilitate that group and arrange the manuscript...I credit Lauren Feiglin for her faith in the project and her confidence in me as a teacher. She was the type of mentor who stood in the wings and said: "good job"..."what do you need"...and had remarkable creative gifts herself.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled onto your blog by doing a web search on "Memoir Memory", and from the screen's worth or so that I read, I feel that I already know you, and want to know you more. It made me feel good that you never tire of reading memoirs (especially those of people you know, even just a bit.) I was doing this search because I am in the process of writing memoirs. I just listened to a recorded webinar about marketing one's book, and the speaker (an author himself said, "Don't sell your book - sell its benefits, what it does for the reader." Great. My memoirs are doing a lot for me, but I don't really know what a reader will get out of them! Will they improve an older reader's memory by getting them thinking about their own experiences? Will they give anyone a good laugh? I guess I need a few good memoir lovers to read them and tell me what they got out of it. Or maybe I should just go back and write a How To book. Sorry for the wordy comment; thanks for your blog.

March 21, 2009 at 1:27 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

Thank you for your generous comment. I apologize for the absurd time delay in responding. I hope all is going well with your writing. Thank you for visiting Wordsanctuary Revisited.

January 25, 2010 at 7:41 PM  

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