My Sask Lit students are reading Lloyd Ratzlaff's Backwater Mystic Blues, a collection of memoir-essays, and imitating it. Like Lloyd, they've been writing--in a series of journal entries, two or three every class, that may turn out to be chapters in their own memoir-essays--about such things as where they used to go to be alone, what liquor or cigarettes (if any) they scoffed from their parents or older siblings, and, juiciest of all, who their "most enchanting creature in the world" was.
That last matter raised a storm of delight in the classroom today when one student told us about a certain guy she adored years ago. After a pause, someone else in the class said "Are talking about Neal _______?" She was. Turns out the two students, who don't even know each other, both know this Neal. "I am so going to facebook this guy tonight," one of them said.
(And I told a story of my own. One afternoon in grade five or six, I was sitting in my desk with my head on my left arm down at scribbler level as I wrote My girlfriend is Barbara Barker. (It may have taken a full minute to write it, so enchanted was I by this creature.) I became aware of someone standing in the aisle next to me. It was Barbara Barker, leaning over to read what I'd written.)
I've observed many times that students willing to commit to memoir writing learn much about themselves and about writing. On Wednesday I'm going to remind those students who haven't yet made the commitment that if the 50s-style moments like those lived by Ratzlaff don't work, then what they have to do is let their own realities write and be written. Seems obvious.