Children, War, and Memory

sirIn her book Sir, HR Hegnauer writes with quiet, stirring, and at times hilarious power about her grandfather (Sir) and her grandmother (Mrs. Alice). Her rich glimpses of the past reveal how her grandparents formed and informed her childhood and young adulthood.

Sir is about human connection and disconnection, about bodies and gender, and, largely, about memory—its ability and its fallibility.

On page nine, Hegnauer writes about war:

I learned about war for the first time in the first grade. We had just started fighting in the Persian Gulf. Mrs. Thom said that we wouldn’t hear any bombs, but that they were real, and they were dangerous — more dangerous than anything we’d ever hope to know. I remember her telling me that we had never lost a war before, and that this was something to be proud of. When I walked home from school that day, Matt told me that not only had we never lost, but that we had never actually been to war until now. I told Sir that we had never been to war before, and now we’re in the Gulf, but don’t be afraid because we won’t actually hear any bombs. I told him like I was an expert on the politics of war. He said, then what the hell was I doing in 1944? I said, I don’t know. Maybe it was only a battle and not actually a war. Sir looked at me. I remember this look for sure like he’s looking at me right now.

Writing Prompt: Write about your earliest memory or understanding of war.

Considerations and Suggestions
As Hegnauer does above, include conversation or dialogue between yourself and another child and/or yourself and another adult.

• Include concrete details, accurate or not.
• Infuse doubt.
• As always, experiment with form and point-of-view.
• Write for 20 minutes.

For more about Sir and HR Hegnauer’s writing, click here and here .

Sir
HR Hegnauer
Portable Press @ YoYo Labs
2013, 96 pp., 6″ x 9″
Poetry
$16.00 Paper, 978-0-615-23100-6
Cover illustration by Brenda Iijima

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Childhood Toys

Saturday, August 16

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Write a about a childhood toy or game.

Writing suggestions and inspirations:

1. Describe the game. What did it look like? How did it work? Did you play it with others or by yourself?

2. Do you associate any particular sounds or smells with this game? Was it a new or old game?

3. Was it a shared game? Did you own it or did it belong to a sibling, friend, or cousin?

4. Was there a time that your played with it regularly or did it disappear then reappear?

5. Describe a typical conversation between two people playing this game.

6. Did any frustrating moments arise from this game? Any tears? Any triumphs?

Sign Up

For Wednesday, August 13

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Write a poem or prose piece inspired by a sign.

Over the next few weeks, be on the lookout for unusual, playful, or cautionary signs. Then, incorporate one of them into a written work.

Suggestions:

1. Write from the point-of-view of someone who passes the sign frequently. What goes through their head?

2. Write a short essay (first person) about your reaction to the sign. What stands out for you? Why?

3. If the sign is a warning, write from the point of view of someone who ignores its message. What happens next?

4. Try writing a poem that includes all the words in the sign, but reworks, remixes, or re-purposes them.

Purple. Violet. Lilac. Lavender.

For Tuesday, August 12

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Walking around Beach Haven, New Jersey last Wednesday, I came upon this fabulous house.  Over the next week, walk around your own neighborhood (or a new one) and find a house, townhouse, or apartment building that captivates you. Stand or park in front of it for 5 to 10 minutes, writing down notes on what you see, hear, and feel.

Later, expand your writing by responding to one of these questions (or one of your own.) Let your imagination run wild on this one.

  • Imagine a quarrel between two people who live there.
  • Imagine a perfect day at home for one of its residents.
  • Imagine how the house looked the day that the current owners moved in. What were they thinking, worrying about, anticipating?

Window Shopping

For Friday, August 8

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From small towns to big cities, window displays hold a special allure. For this prompt, stand in front of a window display for 5 to 10 minutes, writing down notes on what you see, the display’s design, who its intended audience might be, and most importantly, your emotional response to it.

Later, expand your writing by responding to one of these questions (or one of your own.)

  • What emotions does the window display bring up for you (or your character)? What does the window seem to promise?
  • If you could own one thing in the window, what would it be and why?
  • Imagine stealing one item in the window? Who would steal it? Why?
  • Is this the kind of store where you normal shop? Why or why not? If not, write about walking inside for the first time. If so, write about passing it by.

 

 

End of Day

For Thursday, August 7

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Write a poem or flash fiction piece that includes a sunset.

Playing off of yesterday’s post, try incorporating yesterday’s suggestions or work with some of these.

1. Write from the point of view of someone on the boat or on the island in the photo. Imagine they are eager for the sun to set. Why?

2. Write about the most dramatic sunset you’ve ever seen.

3. Write about waiting in relation to the sunset.

4. Sunsets are often symbols of conclusion or contentment.  Try writing a piece in which a sunset conjures up opposite feelings, perhaps of new beginnings, agitation, or anticipation.