Wednesday, August 31, 2011

“Where Are You From?”

I’ve been having a whale of a good time with a writing exercise making its way around the writers’ blogosphere.

I have a hunch you'll enjoy it, too.

Based on a piece by George Ella Lyon, you can take a jaunt, a pleasant meander—a treasure hunt—that leads you to “the sources of your unique you-ness that you'd never considered before,” according to the website “Where Are You From?” at

The exercise gives us an opportunity to “look afresh at what we normally take for granted” (George Kneller).

George Ella Lyon’s Where I’m From begins this way:

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.…”

(Read more of this poem and how George Ella Lyons got started with this adventure at

Here is an excerpt from the "Where I'm From" essay Ann Kroeker wrote:

“I am from the persimmon tree, ripe fruit dropping, splitting, squishing soft into the grassy lawn below. I am from sweet-spring lilac and lily-of-the-valley.… I am from soybean and corn fields, hay and straw, and Black Angus cattle grazing in the pond field.… I am from Dick and Lynn, editors who carried home the scent of newsprint and ink in their hair and clothes.…”

Melissa Brotherton, a gal from my growing-up territory, writes words I treasure. Here’s a snippet:

“I am from rhododendrons and daffodils celebrated by parades and lemonade stands, from volcanos that rest, and gray beaches littered with rocks and worn down shell fragments.… I’m from a city whose name you only pronounce correctly if you’re from there.…”

Here’s an excerpt from Stephanie Precourt’s essay:

“I am from crayons left melting in the sun, from Kool-Aid and tying a sheet to the box fan in the hallway.… I’m from Irish lullabies and stumpy cankle legs, from Wilsons and Maynards and Hoovers and Riddles.… I’m from I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart.…”

(Continue reading Stephanie’s piece at

My own attempt has been great fun—it’s four pages long and I’m not finished! I’ll share excerpts soon.

How about you? Where are you from?

As part of your memoir, perhaps you’d like to write an essay about your one-of-a-kind you-ness. You can start by looking over this template at

Consider the template just a suggestion, a starting point. Feel free to branch out in new directions. For example, like Stephanie, I included song lyrics in my essay. You could include poems or Bible verses, too. Anything goes!

Give it a try. Look afresh at your uniquely unfolding life—maybe you’ve been taking it for granted.

What kinds of information, even everyday stuff, might your kids, grandkids, and great-grands never guess about you? Put it in writing!

(A word of caution: Writing “Where I’m From” can become addictive. You’ll want to keep pen and paper on your nightstand.)

If you compose your own Where I’m From, please share it with us!

Leave a link to your blog in the comment section below, or on Facebook (, or e-mail me at GrandmaLetters [at] aol [dot] com. (Replace [at] with @ and [dot] with a period, scrunch everything together, and your e-mail should reach me.) Write “Where I’m From” in the subject line so I’ll know it’s not spam. Thanks.

Soon I’ll suggest a way you could use this format to structure your memoir. The idea intrigues me. Y’all come back!


  1. Thanks for this reminder not to take our lives for granted. I look forward to looking at your link. I loved the excerpts you posted. They make me smile and think about where I'm from.

  2. I absolutely LOVED doing this last July when Charity Singleton invited us to use that template on her "There and Back Again" invitation. Here's a link:

    Look forward to seeing pieces of yours! FOUR pages - wow!!

  3. Olive Tree and Diana,

    Thanks for your comments. I hope you are enjoying your "Where I'm from," Olive Tree!

    Diana, I was SURE you had written a post about WIF but couldn't find it! I'm not sure what I was doing wrong, but thanks for the link. I'm using a computer I'm not acquainted with and this has taken me 5 minutes to type so I will not linger!

    Hugs to you both,