Thursday, December 13, 2012

“Where Are You From?” for your December stories

Do you remember our “Where Are You From?” exercise? It’s a deliciously fun writing project—but it’s much more than that!

Based on a poem by George Ella Lyon, your “Where I’m From” sheds light on “the sources of your unique you-ness that you’d never considered before,” according to the website.

And you know what that means! It means your “Where I’m From” is valuable memoir material. It can make your stories come alive for your readers.

Lyon’s online template suggests you write “Where I’m From” something like this:

“I am from _____ (specific ordinary item), from ______ (product name) and _______.

“I am from the ______ (home description … adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

“I am from the ______ (plant, flower, natural item.…)

“I am from _______ (family tradition) and ________ (family trait), from _______ (name of family member) .…

“From __________ (something you were told as a child).…”

.… and so on. (Read more at this link.)

For example, Lyon’s poem begins this way:

“I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.…
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm.…”

I propose you make a unique “Where I’m From” specifically for your December stories—maybe as an introduction to one or more of your vignettes.

Use Lyon’s template as a jumping-off spot, but feel free to soar way beyond it: Branch out in new directions. List December song lyrics, weather, tastes, smells, sights, sounds, textures. Add activities: Did you go ice skating? Make gingerbread houses? Go to The Nutcracker?

Did your parents or grandparents read you a special story every Christmas?

Did mistletoe play an important role in any of your December stories?

Consider writing several December lists: one for early childhood, one for your teen years, one for young adulthood, and so on.

Here’s a fun idea: Include winter fashion trends from various eras in your life.

My “Where I’m From” December stories capture deep-freeze winters in eastern Washington State, Christmas Eve ferry rides in western Washington, and one Christmas in Washington, DC. They include Salvation Army bells and fireplace smoke in crisp night air. And hot chocolate with candy cane stir sticks. Gag gifts and laughter. Bayberry candles. Cordial cherries and newborn babies. And Christmas carols, lots of Christmas carols.

My nine Christmases on the equator, however, were much different: three of them with temperatures of 104 degrees, hot winds, wildfires, and ashes heavy in the air. Melting Jello salad carried to Christmas dinner at the home of relative strangers. Being “home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

My Christmas list does not include lefse, lutfisk, or herring, but for some people, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without them!

Some of my friends and relatives celebrate Hanukah rather than Christmas. Maybe you do, too. If so, what flavors, songs, traditions, and stories will be on your “Where I’m From” list?

Give this some thought: What kinds of December details might your readers (kids, grandkids, great-grands) never guess about you?  

This is a busy time of year so maybe you can simply make a list of snippets to remind yourself later.

Then, when the time is right, create your own “Where I’m From” specifically for your December stories, and have loads of fun! (Warning: This can be addicting!)

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