Making Memories Work

Hi all! Please welcome Rosalind Adam to the blog for yet another episode of GPF! Ros is an awesome lady and one of my favorite bloggers. (Yes yes. I know I say that all the time.) So please head over to her blog to give her some love.

Making Memories Work

I am always amazed at the memories that lurk in the depths of my brain… or wherever it is memories live. In my blog bio I admit to being a nostalgia obsessive and many of my posts are inspired by memories, but I’ve earned money from memories too.

Using memory as a starting point for writing can produce unexpected outcomes. One of my favourite writing exercises, especially when working with a new group, is to have 5 minutes free flow writing about a room remembered from childhood.  It always produces surprises. People write about things they didn’t remember they remembered and rooms can hold particularly powerful memories.

In 2008 I was the facilitator of a Heritage Lottery funded project collecting memories about Leicester’s Jewish Community in the 1940s and 50s and creating a book, a website and a touring display. The 70 elderly contributors thoroughly enjoyed the writing workshops even though for many it was their first taste of creative writing. I’d known most of them all my life so I enlisted the help of Miriam Halahmy  for the workshop activities. They loved her and her contribution was invaluable.

We worked together for three months collecting memories that tumbled onto notepads in a random, disjointed way. I then had the job of turning the memories into the Jewish Voices book. What an experience that was, slotting the memories together to tell a story that had never before been told, about a tiny, self-contained community that experienced an enormous upheaval in the 1940s as families of Londoners poured into Leicester to escape the bombs. Together with refugees from Europe, they helped to create the large, diverse community that emerged from the war. The project website is Leicester Jewish Voices.

The format of this memory project can be used with all kinds of groups, not only religious communities. There are memories everywhere and if we don’t record them they’ll be lost forever… but if a memory project isn’t for you then at least give the writing exercise a try. You’ll be surprised at what emerges onto the page and, who knows, it could provide the spark for that next best seller.

For more about free flow writing and the memory project visit my website or my blog.

Thanks so much for this lovely story, Ros! I’m dying of curiosity, so I’m going to ask all my readers this: If you could write about any personal memory or moments in history, what would it be?

Then, I just want to remind you all that I only have three GPF slots left for this year, so if you still want to post (about any writing/literary topic) on my blog, please contact me at mishagericke(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Have a great weekend everyone!


22 thoughts on “Making Memories Work

  1. I remember reading that since the Civil War happened in the 1860's here in the U.S., there has been one book a day published about it. I know this fact is random but it has to do with me remembering it and also about a period in time so I figured it would work. Oh…and it's also about writing.

  2. Misha, thank you for sharing this lovely lady with all of us. I too love Ros's Blog, she is an amazing lady, a great inspiration to others. I'm honoured to call her my friend.

  3. Great post Ros and lovely to see this on Misha's blog. I well remember the project and how well I was received into the Leicester community. I still miss hopping on the train and coming up to meet you all. Carry on blogging in the rain, Ros!

  4. A big thank you to you, Misha, for having me as your guest.

    Hi Michael, isn't it amazing the amount of information we have stored in our brains and that's an incredibly large number of books. Didn't I say that memories were fascinating!

    Hi Pauline, and thank you so much for your kind words. *blushes copiously*

  5. Wow, this is fascinating, Ros! I'm going to check out the Leicester Voices project site, how fascinating.

    Thanks for sharing this great post, Misha!

  6. I love that kind of personal take on history. It's one thing to read the historical facts about something, but to read the diaries of people who lived through the time is often more revealing and interesting.

  7. What a great writing exercise, Rosalind. I'm eager to try it. Especially since I've been trying to capture memories of my grandmother, who fell victim to Alzheimer's.

    A memory I would like to write about…using the walk-in closet of my room in a house I lived in NJ when I was 10 or hiding in big pine trees to daydream and play make believe. I can already see I was a very introverted child growing up.

  8. Hi Julie, I'm so pleased you find it fascinating too. I hope you enjoy the additional information about the memory project.

    Hi L.G., me too. It's what makes history come alive.

    Hi Laura, do give the writing exercises a try but don't think about it before you do it. Just pick up your pen/pencil and scribble. Enjoy.

  9. My grandparents both survived WW 2 in occupied Netherlands. I grew up hearing stories about their suffering, building hiding places, starvation, etc. Though I didn't use their exact stories, I did use them as background and “emotional energy” for a story set in the Netherlands during the war.

  10. Hi Victoria, you're welcome and it would be lovely to know if it goes somewhere special. Do let us know!

    Hi Connie, those must have been very painful memories for your grandparents but it's so good that you've recorded them within your story so that they're never forgotten.

    Hi nutschell, It's pretty cool being here. Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

    Hi Duncan, I hope you're jotting those memories down. You always think you'll remember them but you don't unless they're written down.

  11. When I think about all the memories out there just waiting to be recorded – AMAZING stories from people who don't even realise they've got a story to tell – it makes me sad to know a lot of them won't ever be heard. Local/oral history is so important.

  12. Hi Misha and Ros .. it's great to read about how Jewish Voices came about .. living in the same town all your life .. does offer up lots of interesting ideas .. so glad Miriam came up to help pull the project together .. must have been fun – as well as learning so much.

    Your thoughts about drawing on our past are such a good idea – I'm sure we have loads of memories tucked away ..

    Great guest post – thank you .. cheers Hilary

  13. Hi Trisha, I DO agree with you. It's so important to collect memories of years past, even if it's only our grandparents memories. I wish I'd asked questions of my grandparents.

    Hi Hilary, thanks and yes, the project was both fun and fascinating.

    Hi Julie, thanks and do visit my website to find out more about the Jewish Voices project.

  14. I have your fascinating Jewish Voices book and it is so thought provoking. Memories of rooms are interesting. But what about memories of dreams about rooms? I always seem to view things from similar rooms reminiscent of my childhood and like my Mother we always find rooms we didn't know existed in our dreams.

  15. Memories often trigger what I write, but I try not to write specifically from the standpoint of those poignant emotions. Often they become so painful that I end up feeling saddened instead of empowered by the words that flow.

    This was quite interesting.

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