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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Thursday Thoughts: Out Loud

For Thursday, July 17  Prompt 74

IMG_0607Do you read your work out loud as you write and edit?

If so, how does it change what you write?

If not, try it. See if it affects your word choice, sentence length or dialogue.

 

 

City Sidewalks

For Wednesday, July 16, 2014  Prompt #73

 

IMG_2338

 
Write about an encounter on a city street.

Writing Tips:

  • This can be an encounter between two people, a person and a sign,  an older person and a toddler, three dogs, or some other combination.
  • Balance observation, description, and dialogue.
  • Write for 15 minutes.

Book Suggestion: Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City.

Summer Solstice Ritual

June 21, 2014.  Prompt #51

Summer-Solstice-Stonehenge-1024x380After dinner with friends tonight , I marked this longest day of the year with a walk to Wonderland Lake. There, redwings chattered, the foothills reflected themselves in the water, and two mallard chicks paddled behind with their mother. On the path home, I nearly bumped into a mule deer. I like to celebrate the cycles of the year: solstice and equinoxes; full, new and blue moons; lunar and solar eclipses. I revel in a colorful sunrise and sunset.

Instructions

  1. Write about an annual, monthly or even daily ritual that you (or a character) observe.
  2. Your ritual can revolve around a holiday, a seasonal occurrence or something societal, such as the last day of school, the opening of hunting season, or the homecoming football game.
  3. Write for 15 minutes.

Further Writing

  • Write about a very personal ritual, not connected to society as a whole.
  • Invent a ritual for yourself or a character.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. On separate pieces of paper, each member writes a one-sentence description of a ritual they partake in and a second ritual that is entirely made up.
  2. Place the papers in the middle of the table and read the descriptions out loud.
  3. Guess which rituals are real (that it, one that someone in the group or someone they know actually observes) and which are entirely imaginary.
  4. Choose one description — real or fictional — and expand on it. Add back-story, details, and conflict as needed. Write for 20 minutes.

Looking ahead

Two of next week’s prompts will focus on editing and revision.  To prepare, find a story, poem, or essay to revisit.  You can use a rough draft or a polished piece with which you are willing to experiment.

 

Developing Character

facesJune 20, 2014.  Prompt #50

To write effectively about characters, it’s crucial to thoroughly develop their fictional lives. Once you have a clear sense of who they are, you’ll be able to better write dialogue for them and describe their gestures, expressions, and habits. How does your character entertain herself, how does he dress, what does she like to eat? Even though you won’t directly incorporate every fact you develop for your character, establishing a strong background deepens all facets of your story.

Instructions

  1. Choose a character from a story you are writing. This exercise can also work for a non-fiction essay.
  2. In a few words or single sentence, answer the 20 questions below about your character. Feel free to change pronouns or details accordingly. Write for 20 minutes.
  3. Here are the questions:
  • Your character’s most prized personal possession is
  • Your character’s favorite color
  • Your character’s favorite holiday
  • Person he loves the most
  • Friends she most respects
  • What people like about her
  • His greatest fear
  • Cruelest thing she has ever done
  • What he most regrets
  • Is she a planner or spontaneous?
  • Her fantasy is to…
  • The most damaging this that ever happened to him was
  • How much money does she have in her savings account
  • He brags about…
  • She is afraid that people will find out…
  • He lives in an apartment, condo, tract house, farm house, restored bungalow, on the streets, or ….?
  • What he most dislikes about his appearance
  • Her most treasured memory
  • He drinks what kind of beer, wine, or juice?
  • The only thing she ever stole was…

Further Writing

  • Expand one of your answers above. Write a 10-minute short prose piece.
  • In your short prose piece, circle 20 words that stand out for you.  Shape these words into a poem, adding additional words as needed.

Variations for Writing Groups

  1. Each writing group member writes down two questions about a character at the top of a blank sheet of paper. For instance, What is the one thing your character does secretly? Describe their pet. or She will lie when…
  2. Mix up the papers and then choose one at random.
  3. Write a one paragraph response to each question. Write for 20 minutes.

Looking ahead

Two of next week’s prompts will focus on editing and revision.  To prepare, find a story, poem, or essay to revisit.  You can use a rough draft or a polished piece with which you are willing to experiment.