Memory and Imagination

This weekend I am writing from Port Discovery, Maryland. I am here for a writer’s retreat organized by the Odyssey Program at Johns Hopkins University.

Our theme is “Memory and Imagination.”

Last night we dined together and then shared excerpts from our favorite memoirs and poems. I read from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me.

This morning we had a poetry workshop. My poem was about making Middle Eastern meat pies with my grandmother as a little girl. I was inspired by the instructor’s mention of aroma as a powerful memory tool. I was instantly transported to my grandmother’s kitchen and the smell of onion, olive oil and ground beef in the frying pan.

This afternoon our guest speaker, who has published short stories and an autobiographical novel, read to us and offered some advice. He said to trust our own authority and that specificity is the key to a good story. I have taken this advice to heart.

Tonight is our “Night Write.” I will let you know what materializes in my notebook.

Tomorrow we will share our work.

This weekend has been a learning experience and mini-vacation all in one. I have learned a great deal more about the craft of writing, both in poetry and prose. 

What I have learned will come to serve as the catalyst for my memoir about my family history and has inspired me to continue working on an anthology of poetry I began several months ago. My reading list has been refreshed with suggestions from my instructors and fellow participants.

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