by Diana Hume George
“Stacked for Firewood” appears in ROOTED: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction
David Carr’s Night of the Gun was a game-changer in best-practice standards for memoir. Writers examining personal memories are now challenged to treat their own recollections as responsible journalists do any other subject, fact-checking one’s memories against those of others, consulting outside records to verify facts, including details such as what season an event took place, or how old the writer was at any given time. For this essay, one with primarily personal significance in which I could have relied only on my own memory, I consulted science sources for locust lifespans and birth cycles, the memories of other people regarding childhood family events, an old newspaper article, local historical museum sources, release dates for movies, and USPS employees, as well as driving to the scene of an old friend’s address from over half a century ago.
Writing prompt: Turn an investigative eye on a memory of a pivot point, a significant event after which you were never the same. Now, interview others and do deeper research to either corroborate or debunk your own remembrances.
Diana Hume George is the author or editor of ten books of nonfiction, literary criticism, and poetry, including The Family Track, A Genesis, and Phantom Breast, as well as Oedipus Anne/ The Poetry of Anne Sexton, and the Pulitzer-nominated Blake and Freud. Former co-director of the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival, she is a contributing editor of Chautauqua journal. George is Professor Emerita of English and Women’s Studies at Penn State, and Professor of Practice in Goucher College’s MFA program in Nonfiction. A second edition of her book of essays, The Lonely Other: A Woman Watching America, was published in 2014.