This week I’ve been on a writing course at the Garsdale Retreat: Memoir/Life Writing. It was an intense four days with tutor Cathy Rentzenbrink. She wrote a successful memoir The Last Act of Love and has published two books since. Of course, we were meeting via Zoom. Rebecca emailed us recipes to make up for the fact we would not be eating her delicious, home cooking. There was an afternoon chatroom option, but it could never replace Rebecca’s home-made cake!
One way to elicit memories for a memoir is to think of objects. I’ve read exercises about shoes, seen a tutor on another workshop bring in her first shoes. I have no memories of the shoes I wore as a child, but I have fond memories of the green shoes with three tiers – glamorous and comfortable – I wore that year when I was doing my MA at Sheffield University.
I do recall the astonishing poem My Shoes by Charles Simic. It starts:
Shoes, secret face of my inner life:
Two gaping toothless mouths,
Two partly decomposed animal skins
Smelling of mice-nests.
There are four more stanzas, with a surprise in the second stanza – two dead siblings.
Last year at Garsdale, I was delighted to find that another woman on the course was wearing identical boots! Briefly, I felt like I had a twin sister …