Last night I wrote a blog post called “My Children” about my nieces and nephews and the void they fill in my life. Lately, I have been feeling a parent’s sense of pride in another group of individuals – my students.
I teach at a local community college in Lebanon, NH and my students there run the gamut from 18-year-old matriculating college students to middle-aged men and women, often teachers, seeking professional development to seniors there for adult enrichment and everyone in between. For the last five years or more, I have also been teaching privately in the home of another student, where a small group of select writers have been working on long-term projects. This week I added a new student to the mix, a young women with a great story to tell of working for a large corporation during the economic recession. I found myself excited by her vivid detail and equally as proud as my long-time students shared their work. One of them has been working for the duration of our class on a children’s fantasy book about a girl with cancer and the magical adventures she takes to experience healing including playing soccer with an elephant. This student asked me to try my hand at helping illustrate the story and I came up with the above photo. I haven’t shared it with him yet, but I know his wife follows the blog, so they may get to view it here first.
Another student at Lebanon College is writing her mother’s story. Her mother is a Holocaust survivor and this student is well on her way to creating a publishable work targeting middle-schoolers. I have been sharing with my students some of what I have learned as part of the Hubbard Hall Writers’ Project including the necessity of a blog in promoting one’s writing. This message has been underscored by some of the guest speakers who have come to class. I was pleasantly surprised to learn this week that my student had taken the advice to heart and launched her own blog: Popjeaandme, Popje being her mother’s childhood doll, who plays a prominent role in the story. In addition to being pleased by the fact that she had started a blog, I was also thrilled to see my student exploring some of the memories we discuss in class: the difficulty of faulty memory in writing a memoir, the definition of memoir and its ever broadening genre. In one of her most recent posts she asks the question that if she is writing her mother’s story is this truly a memoir? Is she a memoirist, a biographer? Is her work a pseudo memoir?
On my Pinterest page I keep a board called “A Memoir By Any other Name” which is a list of all the memoir-related books I thus far have found, attempting to deal with some of the challenges of memoir by redefining what the genre is called; thus, we get a para-memoir, a true-life novel, a biomythography, a mostly true memoir and a metaphorical memoir as well as new ways of telling stories such as graphic memoirs. I find this such an interesting part of the genre and I am thrilled that my student will be addressing some of these issues on her own blog even as she takes us on the journey of writing her book.
My students are not my children. Most are adults with fascinating stories to tell, but I can’t help but feel a pride in guiding them and seeing them gain more confidence and an increasing body of work. They continue to inspire me.