31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest: Memoir


Writing is a powerful search mechanism, and one of its satisfactions is that it allows you to come to terms with your life narrative.”~William Zinsser, “How to Write Your Memoir.”

“Remember,” she said. “Writing is discovery. You will learn things about yourself you never would have imagined as you put word to page.”

I’ve experienced this truth repeatedly over the years, but my jaded self needed reminded. I was in a workshop on writing memoir, and the leaders were giving us a series of writing prompts. Cat Pleska and Fran Simone are successful memoirists and experienced teachers of the craft, but also, they trust in this process. Writing—putting words to one’s own story—has the power to heal.

“There are many good reasons for writing that have nothing to do with being published,” says William Zinsser in the above-mentioned essay.


So we wrote. We read George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From” and wrote a version of our own. Then we chose a few lines from our poems of origin and wrote some more on the three elements of memoir: scene, summary, and reflection. We listened to the brave ones read their scratchings (I wasn’t one). And then we wrote some more.

A friend once told me I must write my memoir. You have to, she said. And I felt an odd sort of churning inside of me. I will have to wait until a few people I love pass into the next life, I said.

So, when I wrote my poem of origin, I was well aware of those elements of my life that made my friend say, you must.

I am from whispers in the dark,
scratchy kisses—scent of beer; open windows, curtains blowing inside-out, fresh-hoed corn,
and Johnny Cash playing on the stereo …

The leaves are almost at peak color in our little valley and the way they scatter in the breeze feel like a slow, peeling away of all the things we hide behind. This almost-empty nest has me thinking about the nest from which I flew. And I remember: writing is discovery.

This post is part of my 31 Days of the Almost Empty Nest series. I’m writing in community with the thirty-one dayers. Women all over the world are joining together in the month of October to write every day about something they’re passionate about. Check out some of the other writers here. So much good stuff. To read my first post, with links to all the days, go here.

Almost Empty


  1. […] Day one: Dizzy Day two: The Not-Alone Alone Day three: World Communion Day four: The Night Between Two Days Day five: Every Little Thing Day six: I Go Alone Day seven: Full Day eight: Disappointment Day nine: Secret Ingredient Day ten: Anniversary Giveaway! Day eleven: Dinner for Two Day twelve: The Letter Day thirteen: Two Natures Day fourteen: A Table the Reaches Across the Miles Day fifteen: Growing Season Day sixteen: Horsepen Mountain Day seventeen: Unlocking Time Day eighteen: Writing as Prayer Day nineteen: When Obama Came to Town Day twenty: Falling Star Day twenty-one: Memoir […]

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