Column: Why the San Diego Memoir Writers Association thinks you have a story to tell

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Members of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association believe that your truth can set you free. And they’re ready to help you say it.

“When people come into our classes, they carry a burden, a secret. Something that’s been hurting for a long time, ”said founder Marni Freedman, who is also a writer, writing teacher and therapist.

“They take it out and unpack it, and they do it in such a beautiful way that they start to see their life. They make sense of their most enduring struggles and issues, and they begin to see themselves as survivors rather than victims. “

The group was born out of the Certificate in Memoir Writing program that Freedman started at San Diego Writers, Ink. In 2015, Freedman and fellow writing professor Tracy Jones decided to organize a theatrical showcase where memoir writers could have their stories acted out by local actors.

It was such a success that Freedman and Jones realized that the San Diego memoir writers were more than people with stories to tell. They were comrades with lives to share.

Freedman formed the San Diego Memoir Writers Association in 2016. The goal was to create a place where writers of all skill levels could learn to turn their personal experiences – their loves, their losses, their adventures – into well-crafted stories worthy of writing. be published. .

Members have access to monthly meetings, which can include local authors, editors, editors and publicists, as well as writing classes and workshops. There is also a monthly open mic night, where writers can take a deep, cleansing breath and read their plays to the group.

And in addition to the annual San Diego Memoir Showcase opportunity, memoir writers have the chance to be featured in “Shaking the Tree,” a collection of themed stories that includes the plays performed in the showcase, as well as additional stories chosen by a panel of judges. Writers do not need to be members of the Memory Association to participate.

The third volume – “Shaking the Tree 3: I Did’t See That One Coming” – was released in September. Some of the writers will meet on Sunday for a reading and book signing at Diesel, A Bookstore in Del Mar.

Despite the collection’s prophetic title, the theme was chosen before the pandemic. But these short, vivid stories – about being held at gunpoint, and the politics making oddly enthusiastic bed-mates, and an online date that goes wrong in a very surprising way – share a message. on the power of resilience. And it fits at the time of the pandemic in a way that even experts at memory could not have predicted.

“Reading these stories now, it feels like you understand them on a deeper level because we’ve all been through something that we didn’t see coming,” said Jones, who is now a board member of administration. “The biggest surprise is the power of the book, because we have all been through collective trauma. It turned out to be the perfect volume at the moment.

One of the writers reading Sunday is Laura L. Engel, who certainly didn’t see her life-changing San Diego Memoir Writers experience coming.

“The first class I took, I said to my husband, ‘I don’t think I can do this. There are real writers in this class, ”said Engel, who decided to attend one of the group’s meetings four years ago because she had just retired and was interested in writing a story. family.

“But in second class I could just tell the support was there. The community was so uplifting. The thing about writing memoirs is that it’s so intimate that we almost become like family. “

The family story Engel was trying to write became “You’ll Forget This Ever Happened,” a memoir about the little boy she gave up for adoption in 1967 as a single teenage mother. living in New Orleans.

This boy found her 49 years later, and their reunion inspired Engel to write about the devastating impact her abandonment had on the decades that followed. The memoirs will be published next May, but the story and its author are already very present in the San Diego memorial community.

A scene from Engel’s book in progress was performed in the 2017 showcase and published in the first volume of “Shaking the Tree” under the title “Secret Son”. Another scene, titled “Do They Know”, was performed during the 2018 showcase and published in the second volume of “Shaking the Tree” a year later.

This year, “It’s Just a Pair of Glasses,” Engel’s story about a terrifying night with her abusive first husband, is in the new “Shaking the Tree” and will be played in the 2021 showcase on December 7th. at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla.

Four years after roaming her first class, Engel is now president of the San Diego Memoir Writers Association and the author of a full book. Telling her story changed Engel’s life. To tell you the truth, she recommends it.

“It’s a story I never thought I’d talk about, and writing it helped me make peace with it. I feel like every time we write and tell the truth, we connect with others. It makes you a stronger human being to write about these things, and reading about them also makes you stronger.

Shaking the Tree 3 will be read and signed Sunday from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Diesel, A Bookstore, 12843 El Camino Real, Suite 104, Del Mar. dieselbookstore.com


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