Four years ago today I posted this picture on Facebook with the following announcement:
Running the Marine Corps Marathon has always been a dream of mine and I’m not getting any younger so it’s now or never Baby!! I’ve been training since January, have already paid my entry fee for my bib, and will be paying all my own expenses in DC the weekend of the race (25 Oct 15)…now to earn my bib by raising money for the Semper Fi Fund, an A+ charity that provides immediate financial assistance and lifetime support to post 9/11 wounded, critically ill and injured members of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Every penny I raise will go to the SFF. Please support our Warriors and the Semper Fi Fund.
Today, I’m happy to announce that the story of my magical 2015 Marine Corps Marathon journey will soon be published in an anthology. I’ll share more details when I can, but seeing this picture reminded me to keep dreaming big, because you never know where your dreams will take you.
I attended the Rochester, MI Writer’s Conference at the end of April and A Rally of Writers in Lansing, MI last weekend. The Rochester conference focused on self-publishing and isn’t something I need to worry about yet. At this point, I just need to edit my shitty first draft to get it into a working manuscript.
A Rally of Writers, on the other hand, offered multiple sessions in 3 different time slots throughout the day. With so many topics to choose from, there was something for everyone so my choices were memoir and poetry.
Will “The Poet” Langford opened the session and among the many poems he performed was “Pamoja”, which was even more moving since that evening the Michigan State Spartans were playing in the NCAA Final Four. Will The Poet’s ability to weave poetic phrases around metaphors was brillant, beautiful to listen to, and brought tears to my eyes more than once. He inspires me to seek out safe spaces to learn to perform spoken word and I looked forward to his afternoon poetry session.
The memoir session was taught by Mardi Jo Link, a journalist and self described “accidental memoirist”. Link summarized her session by saying memoir needs truth, a timeline and logic the reader can follow, an invitation to experience a life the reader will never know, and a change in the narrator the reader can relate to. I’m working on incorporating all these elements in my memoir, but an off-handed comment about her sons generated a light bulb moment for me. We just never know where know where our next source of inspiration will come from.
In the “Writing Home” afternoon session, Will The Poet talked about his journey to Africa and the need for a home to carry with him in his travels. Church, communities, events, schools, neighborhoods, and work can all be places where we feel a sense of being at home, so he told us to write down five. Then using one of our choices, he brought us to the page to write our own sensory based poem. This is how I feel every time I fly to San Diego and see the Marine Corps Recruit Depot adjacent the airfield as we’re landing:
We touch down on the runway…home. Outside I hear the silent cadence of Marine recruits marching. I taste the bitterness of regret, but catch a whiff
of promise in the person I became when I marched with them. With the opening of the hatch, I’m transported back to the present until the next time I connect with my Marine sisters.
I’m headed to the Michigan Writing Workshop in Livonia on May 4th to round out my Spring writing conference circuit. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting like-minded writers, picking up gold nuggets to incorporate in my own writing, and communing with the writers over lunch. Now I’ve found a new home in the writing community.
Yesterday I became a Medium paid subscriber just to write a comment on a post where the writer was questioning her memoir writing plans. I wrote this comment as much for me as in response to what she had written “I’ve come to understand that when I’ve faced resistance, it was because I was still processing what had happened and wasn’t ready to put it on the page. Be patient with yourself and the process.”
It’s tough writing memoir because a lot of stuff jumps out that you had boxed up and put in the back storage closet of your mind. If we ourselves haven’t processed what’s happened to us and made peace with our past, what spills onto the page is unresolved emotions with no universal lessons for the reader. No wonder it takes some people so long to write to write a memoir.
I find myself questioning whether I can really do this. Only in the last couple of years have I disclosed to friends my mother’s mental illness. Now I’m writing about it for the world to see? It’s scary. But I’m writing my story for others out there who like me was feeling they’re the only ones to bear the pain of loss to mental illness. You are not alone.