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I never know how to describe this project. I tell people I’m writing creative nonfiction essays, and hope that’s confusing enough that they don’t question me further. I hate throwing out the word “memoir.” It sounds pretentious. I say “David Sedaris-y type essays,” so people know they’re short, and not stuffy rhapsodies. These essays say who I am, at one time, in one style of writing with one title, and they tell the stories of people as I remember them. The narrator is not exactly me, and the characters are not truly my brother or aunt or whoever. Aren’t memoirs for old people to write? people ask me. My best answer is Sure, but I’ll never be this version of myself again.
This project came to me slowly. I don’t remember an exact moment of deciding this was it, I only remember the thought of seeking solace in the retelling of stories, making sense of how I am here and why that is. I have written four creative essays for this project ranging from 10-20 pages each, and am going to write a more academic essay reflecting on my experience and what I learned about memoir. As part of my project I assigned myself memoirs to read: On the Road by Gloria Steinem, Hold Still by Sally Mann, The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander, and currently I am reading an anthology of essays edited by Ariel Levy. These books are all very different and each has altered my writing slightly. Above all this project has taught me how to live in the past tangibly, that I love writing endings more than beginnings, and that often it is necessary to make up dialogue.
Koren, Mara, "Faces Bright With Relief: Creative Nonfiction Essays on Growing Up" (2016). English Summer Fellows. 10.
Available to Ursinus community only.
Presented during the 18th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 22, 2016 at Ursinus College.