Tag Archives: memoir

just published: new memoir from the Winter 2013 issue, Steve Coffman’s Perfume River

29 Jan

Unexpectedly, Lo-an took us next to a small temple, less impressive and well kept than Chien Mu and Minh Mang, yet still exotic in its brightly cluttered way. Made of wood, three levels of altars were connected by narrow stairs with timeworn flags hanging from the banisters. Each level offered its own red and gold shrine and money plate. The temple was crowded with statuary. A central female figure was  flanked by nine larger-than-life male figures on her right and nine equally large females on her left. The center figure was the Mother Goddess, whose temple this was, Lo-an explained. These honored disciples had witnessed the miraculous reappearance here of the Mother Goddess in 1843. It was a temple for people with bad troubles. We were stretching our legs and nosing about, taking a picture or two of this dusty and forlorn temple of misfortunate souls, when Lo-an abruptly announced, “This is my temple. Please, I must pray a little here.”

Bobbie and I on one side, Karl and Roy on the other, we were all suddenly jolted to a new level of respectfulness and interest as she bought a bundle of incense, then supplicated herself in the center of the altar and waved the incense two times on one axis and three times in the other, two times and three times once again, and then after placing the bundle on the altar, prostrated herself in prayer, the perfumed smoke now filling our noses. After a few moments of prayerful bobbing, she raised herself up and took a decorated red and gold wooden canister full of spindly sticks off the altar. She shook the canister causing four or five sticks to jump out onto the kneeling platform in front of her. Tossing us a lightly embarrassed smile, she said, “Too many. I must try again.”

On her second try, only one stick jumped out upon the altar. She immediately grabbed it up, examined it on each of its four slender sides, then excitedly ran into a back room behind the altar that we hadn’t seen before. In less than two minutes, Lo-an returned, her eyes wet and shiny, so much happiness in her gait and on her face that she almost seemed to be dancing as her singing voice announced: “Good news! Wonderful news!”

When we started back to the boat, Bobbie touched Lo-an’s arm and said, “Whatever your troubles are I hope they get better soon.”

Lo-an nodded profusely and thanked Bobbie. “Now I think they will, but I must pray very much,” she said.

(keep reading)

new memoir from the Winter 2013 issue: Steve Coffman

24 Jan

from “Perfume River”:

The intermittent cortege of sand-loaded sampans had a cumulative effect on me. Beyond their visual interest they began to take on a certain weight of some transcendent enormity being somewhere built or buried. Perhaps both at the same time. Eventually, we came to a spot of hillside where the lush green of palms and banana trees had been peeled away to reveal the source of sand, a large portion of the hill already gone, several dozen men incessantly shoveling sand onto waiting boats.

Vivian Gornick, Rousseau, and memoir

13 Jan

When Rousseau observes, “I have nothing but myself to write about, and this self that I have, I hardly know of what it consists,” he is saying to the reader, “I will go in search of it in your presence. I will set down on the page a tale of experience just as I think it occurred, and together we’ll see what it exemplifies, both of us discovering as I write this self I am in search of.” And that was the beginning of memoir as we know it.

from Gornick’s The Situation and the Story

Alice Walker on imagination and memory

11 Jan


… no matter how “fictional” the account of these writers, or how much it was a product of invention, the act of imagination is bound up with memory. You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage.Occasionally the river floods these places. “Floods” is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that: remembering where we are, what valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place. It is emotional memory — what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared. And a rush of imagination is our “flooding.”

from “The Site of Memory,” in the perfect William Zinsser-edited collection of craft essays Inventing the Truth

memoir bootcamp

8 Dec

memoir bootcamp

Jumpstart Your Memoir is a six-week workshop that includes prompts, readings, individual coaching, structure and freedom (yes, you need both), and weekly Skype dialogue focused on your project.

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