Selfie writing in the morning sun

Inspired by 27 May 2023 writing workshop

Carmen Bugan’s workshop on memoir was so beautifully compacted and animated that it is impossible to do it justice in a few words. It offered a rich and wide-ranging presentation and a lively discussion. It led from Plato, and life as an act of remembering, to Dante drinking from the river Lethe and the loss of memory.

We were asked to examine our relationship to memory at different levels – personal, cultural, historic, literary – and its role in our writing. Other questions were: how do we access memory? What part do sensory observations play in our writing and how do they connect to memory? Do we use memory to make sense of the puzzle of our lives?

Exciting writing exercises were proposed. One involved a line from Seamus Heaney: “Sing yourself to where the singing comes from.” Another concerned the role of touchable objects (e.g. an aquamarine ring) that trigger memory fragments of emotional and spiritual significance. A citation, also from Seamus Heaney, showed how connecting a humble everyday object or act to an intimate memory potentiates the impact on the reader.

Asked about fictionalizing a memoir, Carmen evoked the writer’s responsibility toward truth, the self, the persons portrayed in the story, and the reader. To put truth in print demands courage. Carmen is a true paragon, exemplified in her writing and her life.

With her broad, adventuresome experience and big, perceptive heart Carmen Bugan represents a vast array of knowledge, feelings, dreams and aspirations. That she managed to transmit all this and more in a mere hour-and-a-half makes her a truly inspiring teacher. How ingenious of her to have chosen Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory and mother of the nine muses, as her ally!


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