A Family Memory

Chefchaouen by denverkid

In Crafting the Personal Essay, Dinty W. Moore has so many wonderful writing exercises and prompts. I have endeavored to complete each one he offers. This one is among my favorites, because it invites collaboration.


Think of a memory that you share with other family members.


  1. Ask each family member to write or recall the memory. Write your own recollections down. If your family members prefer to tell you their version of the event, record it as they tell it without allowing your recall to influence how you write it down.
  2. Once you have collected each person’s memory of the event, look for opportunities to compare and contrast each other’s stories.
    1. Explore the gaps – the places where huge discrepancies exist. Why would each person remember the event so differently? Take into account their personalities, their unique life experiences, and their own role in the event.
    2. What do these recollections tell you about your family’s hierarchy?
    3. What is truth? Does truth matter?
    4. How does this exercise impact the way you think about history as a whole? Is truth about certain events possible, even when everyone “knows” what happened?


A Few Memories I’d Like to Explore This Way

  1. Event: Mom locking us out of the house on weekends.
    People Involved: Mom, Mike, Mark, Me
  2. Event: Fights with siblings.
    People Involved: Me, Mike, Mark
  3. Event: Gladmoor Park
    People Involved: Me, Mike, Mark, Mom
  4. Event: Thanksgiving at Grandma’s
    People Involved: Me, Mike, Mark, Mom, Cousins, Joseph, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles

What events would you like to explore? Which family members would you need to interview to complete the exercise?

Written by: Angela Magnotti Andrews

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