ABIGAIL THOMAS, daughter of renowned science writer Lewis Thomas (The Lives of a Cell), is the mother of four children and the grandmother of twelve. Her academic education stopped when, pregnant with her oldest daughter, she was asked to leave Bryn Mawr during her first year. She’s lived most of her life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and was for a time a book editor and for another time a book agent. Then she started writing for publication. Her memoir, A Three Dog Life, was named one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. She is also author of Safekeeping, Two Pages, and Thinking About Memoir. When Thomas can’t write she paints on glass. She lives in Woodstock, NY with her four dogs.
“Getting Started” 9/4/14 – The Exercises
Word Café got off to a spectacular start with Abigail Thomas reading selections from Thinking About Memoir, and a sneak peek at her upcoming book What Comes Next and How To Like It. Here are a few of the insights I gleaned:
— Use a notebook to write down everything and anything. Don’t call it a Journal (or worse yet, “journaling”) and don’t worry about writing well. It’s for you, not for posterity. It’s the equivalent of singing in the shower.
— If you don’t remember something, write two pages about not remembering. One thing can lead to another.
— The places you resist most are where the live coals are. You can say, “Hot dog, I’m onto something.” Or you can take a nap.
Here are three exercises we gave out before the break. (You’ll always have a choice, and whatever you don’t start writing in class, you can try at home. Go ahead!)
- Write two pages describing any decade of your life using only three-word sentences. (Abby’s example: “Slept with Israelis. Needn’t have bothered.”)
- Write two pages in which the second sentence is “It wasn’t funny.”
- You are going someplace and you find a box. What does it look like and what do you do? Two pages.
If you’re sensing a theme here, Abby’s published a book of exercises and writing prompts entitled Two Pages, available from The Golden Notebook Bookstore.
Come back for more!