That is the title of a course I’m teaching this Summer at the iconic Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill under the guidance of longtime Director, the able Cherie Mittenthal. First a word about timeless Truro, situated on Cape Cod just south of Provincetown of Pilgrim fame where the magical water infused light illuminates the gentle hills and vails of this town lying between the sometimes-savage Atlantic Ocean on the east and the usually gentler swells of Cape Cod Bay on the west, where almost extinct right whales find respite.
What a place to teach! What a place to learn! What is it I will teach? In the course description I said it best.
“It will explore how the writing of a memoir will illuminate the meaning of your own life, deepen your appreciation of what you have accomplished and the personal characteristics which have made that possible, and inspire you to use them to follow a newly bright path to a never before dreamed of future. …. you will be prepared to write your own memoir for your family….and further should ambition lead you there.”
A tall order. But doable. I know, because I lived it writing my own memoir. In this podcast I tell the high points of that story guided by the able, humorous, and knowing hand of my friend and mentor, broadcaster Jordan Rich. In these eighteen minutes you
will acquire a strong notion of the art of memoir.
I never did like to dwell on the past. But you have to plumb the past to write a memoir. What an experience that is! You learn truths you never knew. Like how every single life is interesting. How incidents in your own life which seemed meaningless when they happened were profoundly important in you own maturation. How your inquisitiveness into your own roots lead you to a fuller understanding of your own family, and perhaps the family of your partner in life. How recapturing your life may spark your reaching out to old friends. How you will come to believe your effort will guide yet unborn family members of the future back to you and your and their forbears. Your work will be treasured by them. If you have ever witnessed the look on the faces and the water in the eyes of the guests of Henry Louis Gates Jr. on his program, “Finding Your Roots,” when they discover their own roots from long ago, you will know the truth of what I say. Is it any wonder I entitled my own memoir, “Larry Ruttman: A Life Lived Backwards: An Existential Triad of Friendship, Inquisitiveness, and Maturation.”
I suspect, though, that most of you lived your life forwards. I’m having the strange experience of so far living my best years in old age! Many are afraid to embark on a memoir. With encouragement you will find how easy it is. And the newfound talent that goes along with it, like the art of interview. And surreal experiences of appreciating departed persons in your life whom you hardly knew, like my headmistress in high school, Ms. Marguerite Greenshields, whose heartfelt words to us in the school yearbook brought her so alive in my mind that I shed tears that I never knew that great lady better!
Last and maybe least you will learn something about my own writing style as I answer Jordan’s questions, focusing on a story I wrote about him for my memoir. How, as usual when I sat down to write it I had no idea where to start, but secure in knowing when I found it, the rest would come to me as I wrote. I soon found the start with, “You want to know why I love this guy?” The rest flowed spontaneously and truthfully from my head and heart. In less than an hour the story was done. A few minutes of copy editing, and it was in final draft. Hopefully it meets my wish that the person reading it feels like they are sitting with me as I speak it. But it’s not my way or the highway. There are a zillion ways to write. Just be yourself. That is what attracts folks to you.
People, Always People