Your invitation to the journey of purposeful memoir! By Jennifer Browdy, PhD

Looking for some winter nourishment? How about giving yourself the gift of a weekend memoir writing retreat—from the comfort of your own home! 

This weekend, from Friday, January 14 to Sunday, January 16, I’ll be offering an intensive series of five writing workshops, carefully designed to stimulate your creative imagination and open up a safe, convivial space for reflection and inquiry. Hosted by the TLA Network, The Quest of Purposeful Memoir: Exploring the Past, Creating the Future, is open for registration now through Friday.

We’ll start by saluting the positive in your life experience, before dipping a pen into the inky waters of the more challenging moments, which we’ll transmute through what I call the magic of alchemical writing. 

We’ll quest into the past in search of the gold of life lessons inherited and learned that can serve us well in the present, and help us move with grace and intention into the future that is ours to create with each new dawn. 

The journey will unfold over three days—an introductory session on Friday from 12 – 1:30, followed by two sessions on Saturday and two on Sunday, from 12 – 1:30 and 2 – 3:30 pm. There will be some optional homework on Friday and Saturday, in case you are inspired to keep the quest going between sessions. 

To illustrate what can happen when you purposefully explore your past with the intention of creating a thriving future, I made a couple of photo collages I want to share with you. 

When I was writing my memoir, What I Forgot…And Why I Remembered, I went looking for positive moments from my childhood, trying to remember what it was that most brought me alive as a child. 

Childhood Memories, by Jennifer Browdy

The first collage of childhood photos shows me loving the woods, the beach, my family, and my pets—all of which I still love now, decades later. What’s missing is a childhood love that apparently never got photographed—my love of horses and riding, something I had totally given up as I moved on into adulthood.

It was only after doing the writerly quests that culminated in my memoir that I remembered how much joy horseback riding had given me as a child, and went looking to bring that exhilaration back into my life, decades later. 

Et voilà! The second collage shows the happy results of that quest. 

Riding Memories, by Jennifer Browdy

My point in sharing this is to emphasize how the inner work we do through purposeful memoir can lead to all kinds of transformative changes in our present and future. It’s a contemplative journey that is valuable even if you don’t seek to complete and publish a full memoir.

You will come away from the weekend with a pile of new writing, along with many new questions and new avenues of inquiry to explore as this long winter continues.

I hope you’ll try it with me and see for yourself.  I look forward to greeting you in the circle on Friday! 

Jennifer Browdy is a professor of comparative literature, writing and media arts at Bard College/Simon’s Rock in western Massachusetts, where she has taught for more than 25 years, with a focus on women’s personal narratives from around the world, and communications strategies for social and environmental justice. She is also a professor in the online Open Society University Network, administered by Bard College with partner institutions around the world. 

Jennifer’s environmental memoir, What I Forgot …And Why I Remembered, was a finalist for the 2018 International Book Awards. Her writer’s guide, The Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir, won a 2017 Nautilus Silver Award. Her latest book, Purposeful Memoir as a Quest for a Thriving Future, features her photographs of beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada, where she is a longtime summer resident. She has also created the Purposeful Memoir card deck of provocative photographs paired with evocative catalysts for writing.

Jennifer provides coaching and manuscript review for authors in fiction and nonfiction, and offers memoir workshops online and in person. Current online workshop series include Birth Your Truest Story, and Purposeful Memoir as a Quest for a Thriving Future. 

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Your Life is Your Life, by Renu Sarah Thomas

Each week in the TLAN course, Changing the World with Words, I  looked forward to the prompts and resources that took me on unexpected paths of self- discovery. My writing was almost always an outpouring from the depths of my heart, often as a poem and I did not focus on the craft. The more mature writing of others was invigorating but also intimidating and I hesitated to share my work which paled in comparison, and the way I used rhyme. 

A deep dive into the reading resources led me to viewing an interview with Pádraig Ó Tuama who says that poetry and rhyme offer a boundary that can help to contain our thoughts. This simple insight shifted something within me, in understanding my current style of writing and unashamedly accepting my creative process without comparison. So,  albeit with mild trepidation, here’s a poem of mine:

Inspired by the poem ‘The Laughing Heart’  by Charles Bukowski, one of the creative prompts on the course.

Your life is Your Life

Your life is your life.
It may not seem so now
Your life is your life,
It’s ok to ask how.

Your life is your life
Even when you feel caged in
Your life is your life
Scratch a way, use even a pin

Your life is your life
It ebbs and it flows. 
Your life is your life
In the midst of the blows

Your life is your life
Take the wheel in your hands
Your life is your life
Fly and decide where to land

Your life is your life
Be the change you want to see
Your life is your life
It always was, blessed be

Renu Thomas is a BAAT registered Art Psychotherapist, educator and workshop facilitator. Born in India, she has spent her growing years with her parents in England, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia and has lived in Dubai (UAE) for most of her adult life. She has a Masters in Textiles and Clothing from India and a Masters in Art Psychotherapy from Edinburgh, Scotland . She has extensive experience working with adults and children of varied ethnicities and having witnessed their stories, has a growing interest in the field of displacement and trauma. She is a self-taught artist and although she finds ceramics and acrylic painting centering and enjoyable, it is through writing that she has found liberation and empowerment. She passionately encourages others to pursue some form of creative expression, embrace their authentic selves and live on purpose. 

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash