February 2, 2010

26 Minutes of Your Life

Theo Nestor is a Facebook friend and a real-life acquaintance, a friend-of-a-friend whom I've met twice and had an easy time talking with -- which is not a small thing for me, an introvert who finds getting-to-know-you chit-chat  annoying at best.

Theo is also a writer, a real one with an agent and an editor and an honest-to-god physical book that you can find in any book store. I've seen it here at my local Target.  Her book is the very warm and witty How to Sleep Alone in A King-Size Bed, a memoir of sudden divorce and starting life anew.

It's not some slammed-out, shallow chick-lit thing about pain and redemption and cougar sex, either, but a really insightful account of a marriage, a childhood, a whole complicated life.

On top of being a single mom and college instructor and working on her newest book, Theo also curates a blog, 26 Minutes, where she throws down the challenge to anyone to set a timer for 26 minutes and sit down and write a piece of memoir.  Back in November, I took a deep breath, sat down with my spiral notebook at the kitchen table,  looked at the clock, and began writing. I wrote and wrote in a headlong rush. It was almost Thanksgiving, never a favorite holiday of mine, as its nearly always been fraught with some sort of family stress -- and that's during the good years.  Maybe that was why the words came so easily, as I went back into my memory and wrote about another Thanksgiving, when I was around twelve or thirteen years old.

I went over the time limit by about 10  minutes, but of course I wasn't going to stop writing mid-sentence. Especially when that exercise was the first time I'd sat down to just do it in a very long time.  And I don't think the strict time limit was ever the intent behind Theo's prompt.   I re-read what I'd written just once, then sat on it, as the holiday came and then the Christmas season behind it.

On Sunday, Theo posted a Facebook link to another new essay on the blog, and it got me thinking about my own.  I spent an hour or so typing up my longhand pages and editing in a few places (but reigned myself in hard from the whole-hog rewrite that I typically do).    I contacted her, asked how to best submit, and after I sent it over, she posted it up on her blog almost immediately, and linked to it from her Facebook page.  She said some mighty flattering things, by way of introduction.   The whole experience seemed to happen very fast, so quickly it left me a little light-headed, but it really wasn't that fast -- not when the concept of writing a memoir has been slowing forming in my head for the last year or so. 

I have been fairly open with close friends about many parts of my rather fractious childhood and adolescence, but I've always cloaked my life in writing behind the veil of fiction.  Lately, I'm just exhausted at the thought of doing that anymore -- and frankly, not imaginative and inspired enough to just make something up -- Um..you know: Fiction. 

Considering the battering and buffeting my psyche has taken lately just mulling over a memoir, I hardly consider it taking the easy way out. 

Anyway. Enough throat-clearing, as we used to critique back in workshop class.  Here's the link: Here's my 26 Minute Memoir

1 comment :

  1. Wow, the product of 36 minutes, plus a bit of polishing . . . ? It read like a thorougly shaped piece. A joy to read (although I know the event was not so joyous). It immediately reminded me of my own awkward father visits, like visiting another country, not just, you know, dad.


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