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

My Hidden Quirks

An Umbrella in the Dark by Tom Mrazek

Another writing prompt from Dinty W. Moore – List Your Hidden Quirks

  • I obsessively collected rocks and shells until my husband shamed me out of the habit. I still have a shell collection from 1993, when my mom took me to Clearwater Beach, Florida.
  • I used to read the dictionary and the thesaurus for fun. My mom had a full set of Encyclopedia Britannica that came with a 3-volume set of Webster’s Third International Dictionary. I used to sit on the carpet in front of the bookshelf and read through the words in the dictionary. This year my mom and I made a sad decision to part with the set, but I could not part with the three brown volumes. I hope one day to find one of my children poring over them intently, though with the Internet that may be a pipe dream.
  • I collect books that I don’t always read. I love the idea of reading them, but I don’t always get to them. I’ve begun to examine my reasons for this, but I’m not quite ready to share yet. Still processing.
  • I am SOOOO messy. A young man and his dad came by today. The young man is autistic, and I loved watching him go throughout our house, exploring and picking up random items to try them out. He walked all through the house, and even into the garden. I welcomed him and his dad to “Chaos,” a cluttered place of piles and random projects in the works that often invades my home, especially on mornings like today when my baby cries for an hour and I have to take a nap when it’s all over. After 20 minutes of exploring, this young man looked up at me and said, “How do you get anything done around here?” Hahaha! I said, “I often don’t.”
  • I have kept a journal since I was in middle school. I’ve filled notebook after notebook with Bible verses, deep and shallow thoughts, teenage angst, chronicles of my many days, ideas and plans – all written by hand. I have kept every single one of these journals over the years. They’re in several boxes in several different closets and cupboards around my house. I have done this ever since reading Anne Frank’s diaries, thinking that one day someone will come across my diaries and consider them an important window into the decades in which I lived.
  • I am obsessed with office supplies. If I could buy thumb tacks, post-it notes, highlighters, pens, notebooks, and paper clips every day, I totally would. Target and Office Depot are my favorite shopping spots for office supplies. Target because there’s just something about Target that makes me happy when I walk through those doors. I wish their supply was better, because I don’t really like Office Depot. I go there because they have a better selection than Target.

What is your most unusual quirk?


Written by: Angela Magnotti Andrews

Notice the Metaphors

The Tardis, Canberra by russellstreet

This is another writing exercise from Dinty W. Moore. His instructions are to find a place where you can sit comfortably and take in a wide vista. As you sit, take in as much detail from the scene before you and for everything you notice say, “That reminds me of….”

Moore writes that a metaphor is “for spurring us along so that we might see the world in new ways.” (Crafting the Personal Essay, p. 44-45)

Your list of metaphors may include 30 to 40 ideas, and you will discard all of them except the one that hits the mark. When that one idea hits your solar plexus, start writing and see where it leads you.

Here’s my list and where the exercise led me:

  • An eagle soaring alone high in the sky all alone reminds me that I can be free all by myself.
  • It also reminds me that some things are worth doing even if they don’t clothe me, feed me, or protect me.
  • A boy raking debris out of the garden reminds me that skill and efficiency are the gifts of age.
  • A child asleep on the couch reminds me that anytime is a good time to rest if I’m tired.
  • A car rolling backward down a steep hill reminds me that sometimes we can try as hard was we might and we still have to start back at square one.
  • That same car reminds me that dreams always have a truth to share.
  • A plant upside down in the sink reminds me that bad things happen all the time, and it’s rarely a crisis.
  • A blanket in a heap on the floor reminds me that what’s important to me isn’t always important to my children.
  • A pair of candlesticks on top of the TV reminds me of grandparents lost to death.
  • A pair of throw pillows remind me of shopping with Armina for home decor in Redding.
  • Amalia the bear reminds me of the importance of separating myself from my emotions and my thoughts.
  • A discarded pot tumbling down the street in the wind reminds me that things outlive their usefulness and become obsolete.

We shouldn’t leave them to rattle around in our lives. They cause distraction, just as the sound of that pot arrested me on my walk. I had to look back, and small as it was I had to involve others in its retrieval and removal. Had my son thrown it away as soon as it had surrendered its contents, I would have walked unencumbered by distraction.

It was a home to a living thing one moment, and the next moment it was trash causing a ruckus in the road.

I think of my possessions. How many things do I own that are arresting my forward movement because I’ve failed to throw them out after they served their purpose?

Do I really need a copy of that bill I paid last month? Couldn’t I get a copy fi I needed one for whatever reason?

It sits on my desk, cluttering up the space, while simultaneously sitting on the PUDs hard drive taking up no space. Meanwhile, every time I see it I’m reminded that money is tight.

I lose steam. I lose perspective. I lose momentum and motivation. I sit down to contemplate why I’m not sitting at my desk writing instead of pondering that old bill that obscures my keyboard with its black and green lettering.

When I get up next, I’m going to recycle that bill and all the others I paid last week. Their moment has passed. They’ve served to remind mew of what I owe, and if I discard them now, they will stop rattling down the pathways of my memory causing a ruckus.

I will know they are paid and I will see my keyboard inviting me to sit awhile and write or research. And if I sit and write, then when the next bill comes in the mail I will have the money to pay it.

And then I can throw that bill away, too.

What did you see? What did it remind you of?


Written by: Angela Magnotti Andrews