Having struggled with the urge to write memoir, I was pleased this week to find a book that helped: Jane Hertenstein’s Freeze Frame: How to Write Flash Memoir (2013). This discovery came right after hearing a talk at Lighthouse Writers Workshop on flash writing, fiction or memoir, by Laura Miller. We did a flash bit during her talk, and for a habitual free-writer, it felt fine. I came up with something I liked and will keep. It started with Miller’s prompt, “a significant object.” I wrote about my beige car, reliable, but in no way as exciting as other cars I’ve owned. Of course, reality says that dependability and economy matter more than style and that new car smell.
From Hertenstein’s book I discovered not so much a prompt as a template that works for me: flash memoir as postcard. I first thought that such a brief space would lead to summary, telling without the senses, all in-the-head stuff. And then I did the dope-slap thing. No! It’s the picture on the front that is the flash. If I picture an event from my life and write it as an experience shared through the senses, I have a flash memoir (think 100 to 1000 words). And what, you ask, is the good of that minuscule text?
These discrete bits of writing will pile up and fill a notebook. I may or may not sort them and transition them into a longer narrative, but for now I’m delighted to work short, to allow these memories to work like mosaic, the distinct pieces building a fuller picture even though their edges show.