January 2018: Times Past

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

January 12, 2018

Times Past with Irene WatersBy Irene Waters

Unlike Charli scooping snow from her porch as the Lady of the Lake weaves her winter charm and C. Jai, holed up escaping the cold, I hail from the Sunshine Coast of Queensland  and our weather is glorious. Warm to hot days with inviting surf and river activities. Pools to fall into or exercise with noodle.  Sultry breezes blow at night and palm trees sway. It is a delight wearing light, possibly skimpy clothing. In other words, I’m having fun in the sun.

Reading this you may wonder what has this to do with Times Past. This is the present. Charli and C. Jai prompt me to think of the few very cold experiences I have had and they have given me an amount of understanding as to what it is like to live in a cold climate. As a memoirist I believe that from our past we create the future we wish to have. Our experiences give us our identity and without our memories that identity fades and disappears as in those suffering from dementias. Reading memoir is a way for finding understanding of a life different from your own, to learn that you are not alone with the condition you find yourself in, sometimes it allows the inarticulate to find expression for what they themselves are going through and they provide social histories. Unlike some who perceive memoir writing as naval gazing, and a second-rate form of literature, I see it as a crucial part of identity creation and life itself. Everyone tells memoir and most fiction has elements of memoir buried within it.

Memoir is a part of a genre called creative non-fiction. Creative non-fiction is a true story told in a compelling way. This means it has a narrative arc as in fiction and it uses elements from fiction in the writing of it. Memoir has as a sub-genre only recently started to be studied and has few rules. In this nine month series that Charli has invited me to present I will examine what elements make up the genre, areas of danger in writing memoir, memory, writing other types of creative non-fiction, writing memoir as fiction, fictive elements, BOTS and the narrator in memoir.

On my own site, Reflections and Nightmares, in the first week of the month I will give a prompt for a challenge called Times Past. This is a monthly memoir prompt challenge that I hope will give us social insights into the way the world has changed between not only generations but also between geographical location. The prompt can be responded to in any form you enjoy – prose, poetry, flash, photographs, sketches or any other form you choose. You may like to use a combination of the two.

I invite you to join in. Charli is going to post her response on the third Friday of the month. If you wish to respond there are three ways you can do so: respond in the comments section of my post (these can be any length) for the month giving a link or ping back to your post, link on Charli’s post or in her comment section with a 99 word flash response. With your contribution please include with the heading your generation, (these can be found on the Times Past page ), the country that you lived when the story took place and whether you lived in a rural or city area at the time.

In the post on the 2nd Friday of the month I will give the prompt and the address where this can be found on my site. This month the prompt is High School Graduation. Was high school graduation a big event for you or did it pass unnoticed? As a city baby boomer high school graduation was not an event that my school, at least, made much of a fuss about. I believe that this may have well have changed with different generations and certainly by geography. I know from the American television shows (Gidget, Happy Days and numerous movies) that in the States high school graduation was quite different to what mine was.

Looking forward to your memories.

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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Well, it’s always something around here! I have enjoyed your Times Past posts, Irene, and look forward to these developments. I am especially looking forward to reading more about this genre. This is really becoming a full service ranch I must say.

    • Charli Mills

      We get to learn from the master with her knowledge of creative non-fiction. Irene and other memoirists at the Ranch legitimized “BOTS” for us. But we can’t really say, Flash Creative Writing because it’s not all that flashy of a phrase. I’m delighted to have Irene lead us and connect to her Times Past prompt.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      As Charli says – anything goes at the ranch. It is a great place to practice the different genres. Sometimes it comes as a bit of a surprise to find that you enjoy areas that you had written off as not up your alley, or too difficult or some other reason. Without trying them you never know and it is an honour to present something about memoir and creative non-fiction here.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Thank you Charli. I had to laugh because although I have a masters in this area I consider myself far from having mastered it. It will be fun though to share knowledge that I have gained over the coming months.

      • julespaige

        I hope this continues past the 9 month trial period… I hadn’t read about that part – I skimmed a tad.

        We had one day of nice weather up to 62 F yesterday… I saw some folks in shorts. Compared to zero we had a heat wave. But it was back down to 29 this morning! Brrr!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        We are in a heat wave at the moment but it will soon be winter for us. The seasons don’t seem to last too long these days.
        Charli may have plans for looking at another genre then. Perhaps poetry…. We’ll see how we go.

      • Charli Mills

        You have knowledge about the genre that gives a deeper understanding of others. And it is good for all of us to try different styles because it can give us a new perspective on our own.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Danke. Much appreciated. Would love to have some German input and perhaps Bavaria differs from the rest of Germany. Thanks again.

  2. floatinggoldold

    A throwback kind of series. Interesting.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I find it fascinating learning about others experiences. Through knowledge and understanding I believe we can have a future which is more accepting of each other than we currently have. I also think it is interesting to see how things have changed between generations and between countries. And we all have stories and that is what binds us together.

    • Charli Mills

      I really enjoy the comparative elements to this prompt, too.

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:
    This 9 months series is sure to bear some very interesting discussion and story telling. Another reason to read and write at the Ranch.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, D.! We have such a diversity of writers, it’s also good to try other writing prompt.

  4. julespaige

    I’m a tad busy today, Irene – I did look at some of your photo. But I would like to read your post. I did a 99 word version for now –

    Evolution of Teens

    Evolution of Teens
    High School graduation in the United States is full of Pomp
    and Circumstance – I believe it’s more a show for the
    parents than for the students. Especially if you aren’t one
    of the students to receive honors or awards.
    All lined up in a borrowed cap and gown – because then, you
    didn’t keep them. You only got a blank folder and didn’t get
    your actual diploma until ‘they’ were returned.
    My class was large, we had to have our ceremony in a
    local theater hall – our own school auditorium wasn’t big
    enough. Time dragged on in that awkward transition.
    (Tail end of Baby Boomers, Then, suburbia of New Jersey, USA)

    (Note: The periods are space keepers… that’s the only way I can keep my line spaces tight when I copy and paste.)

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Thanks Jules for your experiences. Your 99 has added a dimension to the ceremony in the USA that I hadn’t thought of, that it was more for parents and those high achievers.

    • Charli Mills

      Jules, you are a clever one for mashing prompts and I like that you responded in 99 words. I also appreciated the points you made, Great last line!

  5. Norah

    Great post, Irene. I agree with you that from our past we create the future. Our memories certainly help form who we are. As I age, I realise how precious they are and how I don’t want to lose them. I don’t remember a high school graduation ceremony. There may have been one but if there was it made no lasting impact. I do remember my graduation from teachers’ college though. I was dressed in white, as were all the girls, and the ceremony took place at City Hall. That was pretty special.
    This is a big project you’re taking on with a 9-month memoir challenge. Best wishes with it.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Thanks Norah. Your high school was similar to mine. I don’t think, in our time at least, we did high school graduation. I did find your teachers graduation fascinating though in that you wore all white which is quite different to the black gowns we see now for university graduations. Having recently graduated myself I found that the graduation was special, as you said, I think because it gives closure to a period of time that was a hard slog and such an achievement to have reached the end.
      I hope I’m up to it – the 9 months that is – but I could easily do a day a month for years on the subject. I find there are so many aspects of interest – whether they will be of interest to anyone else – I hope so. Thanks for your wishes. I will put them to good use.

      • Charli Mills

        That must have been a buoyant feeling to graduate from teachers school decked in white. At my college graduation, we had black gowns but I got to wear honors cords of gold. Like you and Irene, I felt it was good closure to what felt like an accomplishment.

      • Norah

        I’m sure there is much learning to be gained from your wisdom and experience, Irene. It is wonderful that you are sharing it.

      • Norah

        I have no doubt that you will. 🙂

  6. robbiesinspiration

    This is a super idea, Irene. I write memoirs too I see from your definition.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I certainly believe that everyone tells memoir. Anecdotes are a small form of memoir. I’m sure as a writer you have written memoirs Robbie.

      • robbiesinspiration

        Yes, I thought if you added an element of fiction in the telling it changed the nature. You have taught me something new. Thank you.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Yes if you make up bits then it is no longer memoir. Elizabeth Gilbert put it nicely that if you want to find out about her as a person read her fiction Signature of Small Things (I think it is called). She said there is more of her and her life in that than there is in either of her memoirs. This is because she polished her memoirs (true stories) until a lot of her was missing because she didn’t want so and so to know this or other reasons. In her fiction she didn’t edit with this thought in mind (it was fiction after all) and she was shocked (and a little horrified) when she read the published novel to see herself standing in the raw (so to speak.)

      • Charli Mills

        I’ve learned from Irene, Sherrie, and others that memoir has a lot more depth than telling one’s “true story” about a time or event. And I agree that the fiction writer inadvertently exposes much of herself in her made up stories.

  7. susansleggs

    Great idea Irene. I belong to a Veteran’s Writing Group in Rochester, NY and we all write memoir from provided prompts. This is right up my alley. My blog is also memoir for the most part.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I hope you’ll join in Susan. A veteran’s writing group sounds like a good idea. Is it primarily aimed at healing or just for the fun of writing. I’ve popped across to visit and will see you there again soon.

      • susansleggs

        Thank you for visiting Irene. Originally the group was begun as a place for Veterans to hone their writing skills. I find it to be a safe place to share and heal with people who “get” the military experience.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        It is nice to be among like-minded people. That is why so many of us enjoy the Ranch.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, that’s fantastic that you belong to a Veteran Writer’s Group! I’ve recently provided flash fiction prompts to the combat veterans group here, but it’s not a writing group.

  8. Pete

    Loved your piece here, Irene, and I enjoyed taking part. Here’s my 99 word version with a link to the full. MTV Gen X’er all the way!

    Graduation came and went. On the following Monday, I pulled into the school parking lot and bounded the steps with youthful invincibility. I strolled into the lobby, soles slapping as I passed empty classrooms, a few teachers here and there, whistling show tunes as they boxed up their things.

    At the admin office, I stated my name to the receptionist. She returned with a leatherette folder. I checked that the cardstock paper had the correct name. Then I slapped it shut, spun off, and breezed through the doors to my car, where I promptly pitched it in the backseat.

    Full Version here:


  9. Sharon Bonin-Pratt

    Irene, I’m really looking forward to this excursion into the Carrot Ranch Times Past. You write memoir so well, we’ll be mentored by an expert. Thank you for being willing to teach so much. And thanks to Charli and C. Jai for getting all the ponies in a row.

  10. Sherri Matthews

    Hi Irene, it seems way too long since I took part in your Times Past prompts, which I so much enjoy. Great to see you launching your new memoir series at the Ranch. I’m way out of the loop, so I am trying to wind my way back in small steps while hitting my memoir revisions hard (and everything else going by the wayside in the process, as it does…) Just to double check, I used to post my Time’s Past posts on my blog and link to yours from there. Can I still do that? I thought it would help me get back on track over at the Summerhouse. I’m really struggling at the moment across the board and taking things day by day but so much want to find a way back. Also, do I have this until the end of the month to qualify for the Graduation prompt? I very much look forward to reading your memoir series <3

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Hi Sherri. Lovely to see you resurfacing. We’ve missed you but you’ve had such a lot on you could write your second memoir on this period of your life alone.
      Yes write you post on your site. Don’t forget to say where you were living at the time of the memoir, and whether a rural or city area and what generation you belong to. Link to my post . Looking forward to reading your memories which like mine will not include parties and dances. (I’m assuming). You have til the end of the month but even if you join in later – I don’t mind. It’ll just be nice to see you back.

  11. Sherri Matthews

    PS Running out of time, but will head over and comment on your Time’s Past post later on…


  1. a small town USA baby buster reminisces – Word Florilegium - […] the Carrot Ranch today, I find Irene Waters talking about different generations and musing about their different […]
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