During one session I was bemoaning the banal subjects I wrote about and the small-time caliber of the publications. Would I ever be published in something more reputable, I asked? To which Allison replied: “Have you ever taken a writing class?”
Upon arriving home, I picked up the mail and found a catalogue from the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts. I flipped to the literary section and found a memoir class starting the next week. Allison’s words in my mind, I signed up. The teacher? One Joan Potter.
Before we moved, I had spent a two-year stint as the Parents’ Paper’s editor-in-chief, during which time I wrote a monthly column. I wrote about raising Sofie and Ariel; I told stories that were funny, or scary, or ridiculous – but always they were heartfelt. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing memoir.
The first piece I wrote in Joan’s class was about spending weekends at my grandparents’ apartment as a child. I described opening the drawer in the night table between my grandparents’ twin beds and finding tangles of multicolored ribbons. I wrote it in third person. “Why are you calling yourself ‘she?’” Joan asked.
I rewrote it using “I,” and then I wrote a piece about weather, and another about eating potato chips in the back seat of my parents’ car, my father fuming as we sat in traffic on the way to Cape Cod. The stories flowed from me, and they felt good. Although looking back at them now, I see they needed work. But I loved the class, and I loved sharing my stories with others.
I thrive on encouragement, and Joan was encouraging. “You should take my class at the Hudson Valley Writers Center,” she said one day. “The writers there are great.”
So I did, and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Now, more than two decades later – from classes, to our writing group, to “Still Here Thinking Of You,” all interspersed with regular sushi lunches – here we are. Thank you, Joan, and Happy Birthday!