Thursday, June 17, 2010

Writing Your Life

Tonight, my class on Writing Your Life met on my front porch--I think this was their fourth meeting, and they are really coalescing into a tight-knit group. I've found this happens with other small groups of women who meet regularly--they bond as sisters. It happened with the contributors to Grace & Gumption: Stories of Fort Worth Women and to the cookbook that will follow in a month or so. But it probably happens more often with this group where we share intimate details of our lives. I contributed an essay for general consumption tonight called "The Horseless Carriage," about how I felt about being single at 71 and the men I've loved in my life. One longtime friend praised me for my openness but said, "This just isn't the Judy Alter I've known as director of TCU Press." Others shared equally unknown secrets, and we laughed over the cookbook chapter of one member who recalled the '60s when we all drank cocktails--remember Gimlets and Manhattans and Salty Dogs (if you served my brother a Manhattan, he used to say, "Say good night to me now."). My parents drank a lot of Manhattans when I was young, but I am sure one would do me under the table now. And Old-Fashioneds--my, how I loved them. Haven't had one in years. At the end of the session, we always have a circle and ask how each person is feeling--some said "Better," some said "Tired," and I said, "Freedom." It's a really rewarding experience, and the ladies seem to enjoy it a great deal.
I've also written 700 words on my mystery today, which feels like an accomplishment. When I read it last night, it wasn't as dull as I thought, and today I inserted an incident in earlier text to heighten the suspense and then went on to write the 700 new words, which I feel is a pretty good accomplishment for a day.
Had a thoroughly enjoyable lunch with Elizabeth, usually my co-partner in this evening's class, though she asked to be excused tonight because she really wanted to write on her memoir project and had some things she wanted to get down on paper. I know that feeling and willingly agreed. I hope she'll share with us next week. I should mention that the class is inspired by the Story Circle Network (look for it on Google) although not many members have joined the network.
The Sisters in Crime listserv has had a lot of posts in the last few days about gender language and discrimination--I think the general conclusion is that pronouns and whether God is he or she don't matter much, but the condition of women in  underprivileged countries matters a lot. I thought about that tonight, with a group of educated, middle-class, economically comfortable women sitting around me telling their life stories. Some of us do indeed have hardships to recount--the loss of a child, physical abuse, physical ailments--but these all pale in the face of what women in other cultures face. We should be grateful. But it also occurs to me that men wouldn't be involved in a group like the one that met on my porch tonight--okay, this may be a generalization,but I am drawn back to the now-old book, Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, which contends that women want to talk about things; men simply want to solve the problem. I still believe it.

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