I’ve been writing about third grade. Many things changed that year. The classroom was larger, lots of new faces, we began having “special” classes like music, art, gym, library and shop (yes, Los Alamos elementary schools had wood shops in each building), girls evolved into cliques, boys discovered teasing girls, we experienced our first political campaign, complete with chant-downs (“I like Ike!” … “Stevenson! Stevenson” … “I like Ike!”), and my mother was hired to be the school secretary. Memories gush forth.

This year set the tone for the next three years, so it’s rich in content. My huge challenge will be turning more of this raw, introspective content into compelling scenes. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I spent much of my time enjoying my own company as I grew up, so dialogue opportunities are sparse.

Another challenge is piecing in simple explanations of things like ditto and mimeograph machines. People over forty grew up loving ditto fumes, but this technology is now practically fossilized. It was especially important to me, in light of the hundreds of hours I spent in the school office with my mom. Ah, these details provide great scene potential! Show, don’t tell… .

On another note, I finished reading Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen. Superb book! Then I read William Zinsser’s latest memoir, Writing Places. He tells of his experiences in each phase of his amazing career as a writer, and the various offices he used along the way. I had not realized that he was probably the first person in the United States, maybe even the world, to teach memoir writing. As early as the mid-seventies he had realized its power to heal and transform and he began including tips on memoir writing in the second or third edition of his classic On Writing Well. Every writer needs to read this book. I will soon reread his book Writing About Your Life. It is a “must read” for those who aspire to write memoir.