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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/books/item_id/2278700-The-Personal-Element
Rated: E · Book · Personal · #2278700
On the Personal Essay

I love blogging. I am blogging for years. Now I want to learn more about the craft of the personal essay.

With the help of Phillip Lopate's The Art of The Personal Essay (1995) and Crafting the Personal Essay, A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction by Dinty W. Moore (2010).

Charity Marie > 🇺🇦 formed a group at Slack with WakeUpAndLive️~wonder search and daninidaho to explore this interesting genre. I am really excited! *Heart*

"The hallmark of the personal essay is its intimacy. The writer seems to be speaking directly into your ear, confiding everything from gossip to wisdom. Through sharing thoughts, memories, desires, complaints, and whimsies, the personal essayist sets up a relationship with the reader, a dialogue - a friendship, if you will, based on identification, understanding, testiness, and companionship."
Phillip Lopate in The Art of the Personal Essay.

Greetings, PETRA

cartoon on writing a blog

"Crafting Essays Mentoring Program by Charity Marie > 🇺🇦
September 5, 2022 at 9:56am
September 5, 2022 at 9:56am

Almost impossible – Assignment

My mother died in 2000. I was there when she passed away in her bed minutes before I watched her deliriously from the morphine grasping with both hands in the air as if she was seeing something, or someone and wanted to be there, make it her own.

Then she looked at me, not straight at me but I could tell she knew I was there, and then she said: “I am so sorry.” And instantly I knew what she meant and I replied, “Oh mom, it’s okay.” Then she started dying.

I shouted to my father and brother in the other part of the house: Come here, quick, she is going!
We sat there, all three of us, and watched her blow away her last breath.

What was it that she meant to say? What was it that I immediately understood when she told me: I am so sorry.

I am so sorry I never loved you! That’s what she meant. And I knew and I forgave her, that instant.

Because that was the truth of our complex relationship all those years. She never loved her firstborn child. Me.

I have always known in the back of my head, I have always felt that there was something essential missing in our relationship. Then and there I knew what it was. It broke my heart and mended it at the same time.

Why did she not love me? Why was she incapable of loving her firstborn? That’s what I had to find out, that was my quest.

Of course, it must have had something to do with her past being in a Japanese concentration camp at the end of World war 2 in Indonesia, where she was born. She took that war trauma back to the Netherlands as an 11-year-old child facing a new life in a different country The Netherlands.

It must have something to do with her complex relationship with my father who was dominant and overbearing at best, who raped her during the interlude between their engagement when they were apart for a few months. He forced himself upon her and that was the start of my birth as their firstborn. She told me years later.

It also must have something to do with her younger brother Frits who was a soldier in West-Guinnee during her pregnancy and was coming home, only to have blown to bits on a land mine on his way back.

All that trauma must have been so overwhelming on a beautiful Indo-European woman back in 1961 that it overshadowed the joy of becoming a mother. We never got a chance!

15 minutes contemplation
I don’t know why but I have a hard time focussing on the different kinds of essays by the writers that are presented so far. It’s difficult for me to grasp their significance by only reading snippets of their work. I find that I am skipping chunks of text and reading on.

So, I concentrate on the prompts and exercises.

August 30, 2022 at 7:14am
August 30, 2022 at 7:14am

Personal Essay, deadline 8/30 meeting
- Pick one childhood memory and pursue (Splash) (Chapter 7)
- Three quick tips: tackle something you don’t understand, make a list with common points around the subject and then don’t use any of them, surprise yourself. (Chapter 6)
- 15 minutes of contemplation/journaling of what you have learned and will use in your writing

- Pick one childhood memory and pursue (Splash) (Chapter 7)

Splash, taking a bath

The metal bucket full of water.

Taking a bath, the three of us.
We fit together in the tub, having
a good time playing.

Mother comes and sits with us.

She hands out the soap
we wash our faces, our ears, our hair.
She helps us with our body and arms.
One at the time, while the others
are carefully watching.

The basin on the patio at the back
of our house. So we can splatter
at our hearts' content.

We sprinkle and play and the world is fun.

Our weekly bath. The three kids together
in the nude. A happy memory, one
in a million.

Splash is one of the few memories I can recall of my childhood years. In detail, I see a grey basin full of water in our backyard in Pretoria Street in The Hague. The basin is oval in shape, large, it must be large because at one point we all fit into the basin, the three of us. 2, 5, and 7 years old? Probably. We left that house when I was 8 to move to a nearby town.

The house is situated on a dead-end street. A front garden with two trees, a golden yellow laburnum, and blue wisteria. Inside a long narrow hallway with one glass door with a door to the front room that leads to the back room, a kitchen, stairs to the parent’s room, and a small way to the children’s room. From the kitchen, you came to the enclosed backyard.

In winter time it was very cold, the room upstairs where my parent’s slept had crystal flowers on the window and on the bed sheet. When it was too icy they slept downstairs in the back room where there was a sofabed.
In the front room, there was a coach and a television set. I watched the man’s landing on the moon in 1969 and saw my first opera Carmen (Bizet). I was 7 at the time.

- Three quick tips: tackle something you don’t understand, make a list with common points around the subject and then don’t use any of them, surprise yourself. (Chapter 6)

Why did my parents have kids?

It was common in a marriage
They loved each other
The church told them
They thought they would make good parents

My parents were 26 and 28 when they got their first child, me. They would have three. I think everything was sort of okay when we were very young, but my memory fails me a bit. Still, marriage was not a safe environment for us kids growing up. We fought a lot and were very jealous of each other. They had a difficult understanding among themselves: a lot of bickering, verbal fighting, and a total lack of fun for us kids.

I think that stood out during my childhood. A total lack of fun, no laughter I can remember but a grim atmosphere. Why was that?

My father had a very good job as a civil servant with good pay and pension. We lived in a nice house and moved to a bigger place when I was 8 years old. They rented all their lives so there was no mortgage. We had family although not close by, but in the North and South of the country. My mother had a good friend she saw frequently, who had children of our age.

But the marriage was not good, not safe, not loving for us kids. My father was very dominating, my mother was of Indonesian descent with war trauma. It was difficult for her to cope.

I remember my aunt, the oldest sister of my mother saying that if my parents stood near a pool and all of us were drowning, my parents would save each other, not the kids. They were very drawn to each other in a love-hate relationship but were not very capable of raising kids. I think that is true.

Later, much later I learned from my mother that I was conceived out of rape. In those days when the wife didn’t want to have sex the man was entitled to force it upon her. They were married so it was his right. I think that stood in the way of my mother and me. Furthermore, when she was pregnant with me her youngest brother died coming home from the war in New Guinea. That shook her up as well.

The relationship between my mother and me was doomed from the start!

What will I use for my own writing?

I am not sure. I loved the story of Virginia Woolf’s moths, but the other anecdotes didn’t do it for me. Although I loved the fact that memories will flow if you give them a chance. The exercises are good. Surprisingly enough I could remember more than I thought I could.

August 20, 2022 at 5:31pm
August 20, 2022 at 5:31pm

Reflections on Chapters 1-3 Crafting the Personal Essay

I am afraid my memory is not good enough for writing personal essays (memoirs). I read some of Dan’s work and I am in awe of his details. I don’t have that, my brain isn’t working like that. I tend to forget easily and move on. How will I recollect those memories? Because they are there, I am sure. Perhaps: ask the right questions?

I had a notion: perhaps I rush a little when writing. Stop, pause, think and let the memory take over is something I never tried before. I might just do that.

2. The Personal, not private essay

Exercise: The Flood of Memory: find one small detail, write for 10 minutes

Holiday with my grandparents when I was a kid.
A forest in the south of the Netherlands. My grandparents lived there when I was a kid. The three siblings fought on the way over, as we always were. My parents fought with each other as they were always doing. Not a nice start.

But when we arrived it was good. A big house with a cherry tree. We helped pick them, my grandmother put them in jars for the winter. We ate a lot of cherries. The boy next door had a harelip, and the family living on the opposite side of the road had three or four kids we always played with. My cousins lived in town, we had sleepovers.

There also were bad memories. My grandfather put his tongue in my mouth once, I was shocked and told my mother. She didn’t dare to tell my dad because she was afraid of what he would do. Later I learned he had tried something on her too. Dropped his pants in front of her. She never told my father.

After that, I stayed over with my cousins most of the time. It was a nice holiday, playing, reading, and visiting their other grandparents, in a beautiful house in the country. With lots of other kids, cousins of my cousins. An orchard, long tables with food, chatting people, fun.

Exercise: Gestures: Small gestures that reveal little details:

My mother’s face grew dark all the time when my father badmouthed her or they fought with each other. His face was stern, as his face always was. When did I ever see them laughing, or smiling?

Except for that one time. I must have been three or four years old. There was a long hallway in our house with a glass door. My father was chasing my mother for fun. They were laughing and giggling. I was watching them. Suddenly my mother broke the glass door, there was blood, it was awfully red. I screamed and screamed.

Exercise: The Full weight:

poem What I remember, my dog Arie died June 2, 2021

What I remember

Remember fifteen years
Love of the canine breed
It is when we first meet
An instant click.

Fox-terrier, you were
Loyal, goofy, and smart
Closed you into my heart
Went all the way.

Those last days of sorrow
Old, grey, and with a fit
Your eyes suddenly lit
-it's time to go.

I held you in my arms
Carried you in the night
And at morning light
Off to the vet.

So, there you were put down
I watched you leave this world
Back home in bed, I curled
I was alone.

My little friend, my all
Rest in peace; you'll be missed
Within two months, I kissed
Another dog.
August 18, 2022 at 6:04pm
August 18, 2022 at 6:04pm

Recollections about the essay form.

My earliest memories of writing an essay were in kindergarten, age 10-11. Topic: the carrier pigeon.

I loved the essay in high school. That's all I can remember. I was good at it during Dutch classes. I can't recall any topics anymore, shame.

At uni, we had to produce a number of essays on philosophical topics. I also loved doing those. With great results as I remember. Dream interpretation was one of them.

In my youth, I wanted to write about all topics. I always read a lot, so, in my opinion, I could write about anything. Once I started a romance story, but I didn't like it, it was not for me.

Now, it's still the same. I am an omnivore. I read and write anything.

My first diary was cut short by my little brother who read it. I was so angry I destroyed the journal and regretted it ever since. Never took up journaling again until 6 years ago at WdC. After someone anonymously gifted me with an upgraded membership and I started blogging. Have been at it ever since.

August 17, 2022 at 4:27pm
August 17, 2022 at 4:27pm

Introduction on Slack

My name is Petra, (Wies Blaize as my pseudonym) and I found the program via Charity’s invitation.

I am from the Netherlands in Europe, born in the city of The Hague where I live now after residing elsewhere for years. The Hague, the administrative capital with lots of history and a fine city center, is the place for me. With more than 70 nationalities it is an international hub which makes it interesting but it faces also the problems of the big city. A thrilling mix.

I have been a Dutch poet in my twenties, publishing three poetry books but spent my time being a (Theoretical) Psychologist and Youth counselor for many years. When I got molested at the job, I quit my profession and after struggling for years with the ending of my career I became a writer. First, in Dutch with a different outcome, I published a few stories, but it all came together after I joined Writing.com, the online writer’s community more than six years ago. What a difference that made! I started writing solely in American/English and although I have still trouble with grammar and spelling (but tools like Grammarly do help) I find it a calling to be an ESL writer. It gave me back identity and joy in Life.

I have published a few short stories and poetry, and although I am blogging for years now I have never tried to publish non-fiction. My goal never was to get published but to get read, and being a member of Writing.com was sufficient in that regard.

My hopes for joining are getting the hang of writing personal essays (blogs) while learning more about the craft. Ultimately I want to write in such a way that it would be interesting and doable to publish my non-fiction.

To answer the question of my writing strengths is really challenging. I have never thought about this, to be honest. But my passion for writing comes to mind. I love the craft, the life, and the struggle.

There is not much of a life besides writing. I live alone with my dog Sprout and have recently joined the Red Cross movement to be a Social worker for Ukrainian refugees. It will start after the Summer. Furthermore, I am mosaicing and singing in a protest choir.

August 15, 2022 at 7:05pm
August 15, 2022 at 7:05pm

Why do I write?

In November 2020 I answered this question as follows:

"My objective, my aim, and my purpose of writing are the need to express myself with words and sentences. I feel this inner light to give a voice to what’s in my soul.

I write first and foremost to satisfy myself, but I want others to acknowledge my existence at the same time. I always write with an audience at the back of my mind. I wish to instruct, enlighten, and entertain as much as the next person, but that is out of my hands as soon as the poem or the blog, the short story, or the novel has been published. It’s out there now in the world, and in a way, it has nothing to do with me anymore. It has to stand on its own two, or four, or whatever feet.

I know I am proud or joyous or thrilled about its existence. Sometimes it’s not the best work, but it’s always my work, and it represents a piece of me in that period of time. That’s enough.

My work is my kids; some are healthy and strong; some are challenged. But all are mine, and I acknowledge their existence."

I would add today:

I write because that's the only thing I know how to do for the last 10 years. Blogging is my main daily writing although I try to write short stories and poetry as well. But blogging is my love! It's a combination of journaling and answering prompts.

I love writing because it gives me a reason to wake up in the morning, It structures my day and it gives me pleasure and so much more. When I am in the flow of creating with words I feel there is no time or place in the physical world. I am in the zone, the flow, or whatever you want to call it. I am totally focused on writing. It's my passion!

One of the reasons, probably, but I am guessing now, is that I have to be totally focused because I am an ESL writer, and English is not my mother's tongue (Could you tell? *Bigsmile*) so it takes time to find the right words and work with Grammarly to avoid the biggest mistakes.

Second, I type with one (additional two) fingers, so I am writing SLOWLY!

And third, I always wanted to be a writer and now I am. Thanks to Writing.com I am evolving my craftsmanship. I have published some stories and poetry and I have finished a novel.

I am still an absolute beginner, but I am getting there.

Writing is what makes me utterly happy! Writing is my love!


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