|Cindy Martin is a community college dean in Grand Rapids, MI, who has taught more than her share of writing classes, including advanced comp, magazine writing, and writing for mass media. While not technically a Writers’ Workshop grad, she WAS born at the University of Iowa Hospital to UI students (her daughter is one now!) and spent her early years in a WWII quonset hut along the Iowa River. She attributes her writer’s gene to her journalist father, Joseph Brown, one-time editor of The Daily Iowan—enviable credentials by any standard! Her sentimental Iowa City heartstrings pull her back for beers at Joe’s Bar. Last wishes? To be buried near the Black Angel in Iowa City’s Oakland Cemetery. You can see excerpts from Cindy’s memoir on her website.
She says: I’m exploring the memoir as a means to establish a late-life habit of daily writing. Last June at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, I took a beginning memoir class, which gave me two starter strategies: 1) find an entry point to your story; and 2) find writing pieces to model against.
Since then I’ve picked up a number of memoir how-to’s, memoir shorts, and full-length memoirs, some recommended by We Wanted to Be Writers’ readers.For now, I’m reading women writers to see how their prose moves; I’m trying to understand the rhythm of the pieces, the voices. It’s difficult, I think, to go underneath the words themselves when I write. I’m tempted to grab the first worn-down saying I run across, words lurking there at the front of my mind, those usual suspects ready to tell the story. I’m trying to tune out that noise and recall what actually happened (without words)——what scenes looked like, what the people said, what I heard, how I felt. That way perhaps I’ll discover a story closer to the truth.
Here are my bedside books, all read in fits and starts, a little here, a little there, each night with a different purpose:
• The Bookmaker’s Daughter: A Memory Unbound, Shirley Abbott
• My Invented Country, Isabel Allende
• The Memory Palace: A Memoir, Mira Bartók
• The Road from Coorain, Jill Ker Conway
• A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid
• The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Maxine Hong Kingston
• Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life, Abigail Thomas
• Thinking About Memoir, Abigail Thomas
• One Writer’s Beginnings, Eudora Welty