Helen and Teacher

Helen and Teacher
The Story of my Life

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Original Class Info

Writing Your Memoirs: We all have an Interesting life story to tell!

Overview: In this course we will explore the genre of memoir. We will review the works of writers who have written about ordinary events in their lives which have inspired them in order to see that our own lives contain many meaningful experiences that will serve as inspiration for our own writing. Students will sample three varied techniques that will show them how to take their life experiences to create a memoir to record their events. Students will receive a packet of materials, samples, and other resources to help them continue with their project once they complete this class. Students will discuss classifying and organizing events and collecting artifacts and photos that will help them in their project. They will also be encouraged to discuss and reflect on the significance of remembered events and to keep a notebook of their thoughts and feelings. The instructor will share examples of memoir that she has taught and created in order in inspire the class. By the end of the session, students will have drafted an introduction and set of notes or outline to help them begin their Memoirs.

Topics covered include:

1. Defining a Memoir, compare and contrast with biography and autobiography
2. What is an epiphany? What is a significant event to you and why?
3. Using treasured objects as catalysts
4. Writing around a photo, or using illustration
5. Using favorite recipes or patterns to tell stories
6. Organizing events around:
a. Stages of life: infancy/childhood; adolescence/adulthood/family life/professional life
b. Major life events
c. Holidays and family/friend gatherings
d. Emblematic moments
e. Audience

Objectives/Outcomes: The student will demonstrate:
1. Oral and written language skills to create, clarify, and extend their personal understanding of what they experience through their senses through introspection and interaction with others.
2. Practice and apply basic investigative techniques to generating material for memoir , including the use of questions Who? What? When? Where? How? Why?
3. ability and confidence to use oral and written language to the needs of their audience
4. Interest in writing and reading as a means to understanding themselves
5. creation of Memoir to record and preserve emblematic moments in their lives
6. Knowledge to help them complete their project and continue their interest through possibly joining a writers group that specializes in Memoir writing.

Materials and techniques instructor will share with students include:
Books, excerpts poetry, essays include:

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of things Past
Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory
Barbara Pym, A Very Private Eye
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Joan Didion, On Keeping a Notebook
Gunda Davis, Pumpkin Soup and Shrapnel
Personal Memoir and Journals belonging to the author
Works by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Journals of Sylvia Plath
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Works by Maya Angelou
Dolly Parton, Coat of Many Colors
Works by Tasha Tudor
Barbara Cooney, Hattie and the Wild Waves
Jean Little Little by Little
Robert Kimmel Smith The War with Grandpa
Works by Ray Bradbury
Works by Charlotte Bronte
Crescent Dragonwagon, Home Place
N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain
The Diary of Anne Frank
Patricia MacLachlan, Sarah, Plain and Tall

Students will also receive a bibliography of these and other works helpful to their interest in Memoir. Above works will be prepared and excerpted, where necessary, by the Instructor.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Miss Charlotte Bronte meets Miss Barbara Pym: The Woman in Black

Miss Charlotte Bronte meets Miss Barbara Pym: The Woman in Black: I am dying to see this film, and I would love to hear from anyone who has. It is based on a book by Susan Hill, who wrote a sequel to Rebec...

Friday, February 17, 2012


Something fun:



A clerihew is a humorous pseudo-biographical quatrain, rhymed as two couplets. This light verse form was created in 1890 by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875- 1956). Bentley, who is mainly remembered for his classic detective story Trent's Last Case, first started writing clerihews with his friend, G.K. Chesterton, as a diversion from school work. The first collection of clerihews was published in 1905, and soon the verse form was named after the author's name.


Keep in mind the clerihew form and pattern
(a) quatrain (four lines) (b) rhymed as two couplets :aabb
(c) name of the subject usually ends the first line (or, less often, the second line)

(a) Sir Humphrey Davy (name first)
(a) Abominated gravy.
(b) He lived in the odium
(b) Of having discovered sodium.

Here are some examples of clerihews. Whose bio is it?

E. C. Bentley
Mused while he ought to have studied intently;
It was this muse
That inspired clerihews.

- Michael Curl
James Joyce
Had an unusually loud voice;
Knightly knock eternally wood he make
Finnegans Wake.

- Michael Curl

Cecil B. De Mille,
Rather against his will,
Was persuaded to leave Moses
Out of 'The Wars of the Roses'.

- Nicolas Bentley
Dante Alighieri
Seldom troubled a dairy.
He wrote the Inferno
On a bottle of Pernod.

- Edmund Clerihew Bentley

The people of Spain think Cervantes
Equal to half-a-dozen Dantes;
An opinion resented most bitterly
By the people of Italy.
- Edmund Clerihew Bentley
The meaning of the poet Gay
Was always as clear as day,
While that of the poet Blake
Was often practically opaque.
- Edmund Clerihew Bentley

I doubt if King John
Was a sine qua non.
I could rather imagine it
Of any other Plantagenet.

- Edmund Clerihew Bentley
Alexander Selkirk
Was too grand for hotel work.
He informed a maid
That he was monarch of all he surveyed.
- Michael Curl

Now it's your turn...

Amanda Knox and Being the Little Professor

Well, memoir will pay in a big way for her. I'm glad; she has millions in legal bills, and I'd love to read the inside story of a very corrupt legal system at work. These are things I know, from professional experience, and from teaching.

And, speaking of teaching, I was pondering that student we all love and love to help, the one who tries and tries, studies all the time, but doesn't always get the best grades. I think this student should be given every consideration, and should never be failed. Also,with regard to internships where applicable, I think these are the students who should be put in them, to learn first hand, hands on, to improve skills to match his/her zeal. Maybe we could work with site supervisors who are willing to take on those who have the drive and ambition, but could use a little extra help. That's what happens when a teacher listens to the radio! Even our memoirs are a way to show we have learned in the past by doing. Just check out the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Broken for You

This is a wonderful book, written in parts as if it were a memoir, with Margaret, the main character, reviewing her life through her collections of priceless European china. Each object in her house has a story, and that story is written down, if not embellished, by Wanda, the young woman Margaret more or less adopts.

Then, the objects are shattered, and remade into mosaics that tell their stories in more poignant ways. You see, the objects are all the result of ill-gotten gain. Margaret's father trafficked with the Nazis in
WWII, and the collections were stolen from Jewish families, many of whom were sent to their deaths.

This book shows us how to tell our stories through our objects, both cherished and common, and also tells us how to remake our lives, even when they are shattered. I compliment Kallos on her command of the names of fine china, and on the details of porcelain prodcution. She also uses her own background as an actor and gives us more knowledge of mosaic as a fine art.

The objects are themselves characters, and unlike the knick knack wall of How to Make an American Quilt, the remade mosaics are hopeful and positive. I wonder if Kallos is Greek; there appear to be Greek children's books similar to some I have on her site, and her book covers are blue and white, colors of the Greek flag, and of the Aegean.

There are many quotes by Yeats, and wonderful protrayals of books of affirmation. The book stresses and defines a life lived well, and Margaret, reminds me very much of legendary collector Margaret Woodbury Strong, found of the Strong Museum, now the National Museum of Play and home of the National Toy Hall of Fame.

Good luck to Miss Kallos; may she always write.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Barbara Pym Conference

This is just a friendly reminder that the annual North American Barbara Pym Society conference is now only six weeks away. Early registration has been heavier than usual, with over 40 signed up already, and we'll be getting some free publicity in the Boston Sunday Globe on February 12, when the books column will feature the conference along with a photo of Barbara. So if you are planning to come and have not yet done so, I urge you to register soon so there's no chance of disappointment.

It promises to be a weekend of fun, fellowship, and outstanding presentations. Details are on our web site, www.barbara-pym.org

I hope you will be able to join us.

Tom Sopko
North American Organizer

Thursday, February 2, 2012