Carole Mertz

As writers, we are always in a state of flux. We may be aware of the changes occurring in the world around us, but may not always recognize the inner changes. If we are introverted, the inverse might be true.

Whatever the nature of my inner state, I write because the practice grounds me and helps me discover new things about myself and my surroundings. If lightning strikes, I’m unperturbed; if floods rise, I’m ready with pen in hand. Further, if some emotional element in my life were to destabilize me, I assume I’d take appropriate time away; however, because of the writing habit I’ve established, I might even succeed in writing my way through the turmoil.

In May, 2017, I took Chelsey Clammer’s course (see www.chelseyclammer.com) on writing memoir based on the empathic writings of Leslie Jamison. Discussion and analysis of Jamison’s essays,* formed the backdrop for our approaches to our essays. I worried; I’d been writing only poetry for the past five years. Would I have enough ideas and skills to shape a coherent essay for feedback from the mentor and classmates?

Ms. Clammer taught me that, whether published or not, all of my writings are important. She showed me how rewarding it is to investigate a portion of one’s life and share it with an audience. I discovered I could write about a tiny segment of my past. The resultant essay gave information and a degree of entertainment to my readers. Two of the essays completed during the four-week course are now under consideration by editors: one at an essay contest at Under the Gum Tree and the other at Mom Egg Review. For the latter I wrote about a time when I’d nearly lost contact with my college-age son, in which I discovered the merits of my own persistence.

At the end of May I joined a free MOOC** organized and directed by the U. of Iowa International Writers Program.*** The participants in this course were both beginners and experienced, and came from all segments of the globe. Many of these writers were living in war-torn areas, or seeking asylum in countries foreign to them. Among these were the elites as well as the impoverished. To hear these voices from such diverse familial and economic settings, many unfamiliar to me, was totally enriching. Again, through the course I was confirmed in the realization that all voices matter, my own included.

I write through all kinds of conditions. I write to remain grounded and I write for self-discovery. But I also write to meet and join my voice to the voices of others in our troubled world.

*The Empathy Exams: Essays by Leslie Jamison, Graywolf Press, 2014 (ISBN: 978-1-55597-671-2)
**Massive Open Online Course
***The Power of the Pen, directed by Christopher Merrill and Venise Berry

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