Writing a Memory

“If a story is in you, it has got to come out.” -William Faulkner

Sometimes for me a story begins with a memory. At times it’s something full and itself a story, but more commonly it’s a flash of something from my past, an image that replays itself until I’ve incorporated it into my writing.

My contest winning story, Still Breathing, began this way. In my interview with The Muffin, I talk about how the flash piece began as a memory of an elk being skinned, something I’d witnessed while living in Montana as a pre-teen. This graphic memory replayed itself in my mind until it finally came out as part of the story I had been hoping to write after being inspired by the organization Truckers against Trafficking.

There are other images replaying in my mind now. In one, a bunny runs out from beneath a merry-go-round, and in another, I’m six years old and in a tee-pee built by my father in our old garden surrounded by Camellia bushes in full bloom. And then there’s the wooden bridge stretching across the creek in our backyard, built by my father, no doubt a gateway to something magical. All memories of my childhood, from one specific time, and all, I believe, part of a novel waiting to be written.

But more close to my heart at the moment are my memories of my summer in Syria in 2007. I remember the people the most; their kindness and generosity. And I know that they are now suffering. So I’m left to wonder, as my memories of Syria tumble around in my mind, vivid even almost a decade later, if such images can be spun into a story that conveys what my heart feels in response to the suffering of the people who were once so kind to me. And can such memories, once shared with the world, make a difference?

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