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Life, Writing

I Remember

Before I remembered anything

Before I remembered anything

Following the excitement of the York Festival of Writing, I am spending every possible moment polishing my manuscript but I don’t want to neglect the Literary Sofa. So for this week’s blogpost, I decided to cheat and use a fantastic writing exercise from the York mini-course led by editor Andrew Wille on the Four Elements of Creativity. Well-chosen exercises can be very inspiring, often leading to new pieces, and I particularly enjoyed this one which is based on the collage of memories I Remember by American poet and artist Joe Brainard (1970).

Today’s version includes some of the memories I came up with at York (Angel Delight really did leave a lasting impression) but many ‘new’ ones. Evidently I remember different things on different days. I found myself thinking a lot of my father, as I always do in autumn. Two years ago, I poured many of my memories of him into one of the first pieces for this blog.  It was incredibly painful to do, but ultimately very therapeutic.

Andrew’s own I Remember York  blogpost is, appropriately, one of my favourite reminders of the weekend, and his website is a great and generous source of useful material for writers.

Here goes:

I remember Butterscotch Angel Delight

I remember jumping waves on Breton beaches and more flavours of ice-cream than I’d ever seen

I remember my mother’s unhappiness and how it coloured everything

I remember Saturday nights in the pub garden drinking R White’s lemonade and nibbling each salt and vinegar crisp to make the bag last

I remember him saying, afterwards, that most of the girls he’d slept with were much prettier than me

I remember my sister and I thinking the French fizzy orange drink ‘Pschitt!’ was hilarious

I remember the eighties

I remember golden afternoons in the Jardin de Luxembourg, the four of us talking for hours by the pond with the toy sailing boats

I remember when I started writing and realising I’d only ever used half my capacity to see, to listen and to feel

I remember the moment I saw my brother in hospital after the accident, just before I fainted

I remember new year’s eve in the porch of the Lord Nelson when you told me ‘You’re The One’ – I was nineteen

I remember the smell of incense and the feeling of guilt

I ‘remember’ hiring a dress, getting trashed on Vodka-Martinis, missing the dinner and scratching the face of the rugby player who carried me to my room

I remember a lot of things I’d prefer to forget, and forget a lot of things I ought to remember

I remember our bike ride to Blenheim Palace, that evening in the Eastgate, and Your Song

I remember the machines falling silent the afternoon he died

I remember when my sons were born – emotions I’d never guessed at, and far more happiness

I remember the first time I went to Brooklyn

I remember going to a party dressed as a slutty goth and loving it – it wasn’t that long ago

I remember, and will never stop, wondering how it might be to be someone else

Anyone can have a go at this – you certainly don’t have to be a writer. If you try it, maybe like me you’ll be surprised at what comes up and how intense it can be.  I was both moved and entertained by others’ I Remember snippets in the workshop. 

What do you remember?

Many thanks to Andrew Wille, and to the extra guest authors who’ll be occupying the Literary Sofa for the next few weeks.

About Isabel Costello

Writer (novels: Paris Mon Amour 2017; Scent 2021).Host of the Literary Sofa blog. Co-founder of Resilience for Writers with Voula Tsoflias. Perfume lover and Francophile.


9 thoughts on “I Remember

  1. Such evocative results – a great writing exercise.

    Posted by Rebecca | September 23, 2013, 11:18
  2. Yes – this is a lovely, effective, ‘unblocking’ exercise. We did it at the Arvon course in Shropshire two years ago. Happy memories of that, too.
    I enjoy your blogs very much, Isabel. We have a bit in common – I read Modern Languages at Cambridge and your book club and writers group sound like mine. And I’ve just (or nearly?) completed a first novel which I want to call ‘Timed Out’. But I’m an awful lot older than you!

    Posted by barbarahudson2012 | September 23, 2013, 11:33
  3. Lovely post – will try it someday when I get stuck.

    Posted by Peter Domican | September 29, 2013, 11:38
  4. This is a wonderful post! And Pschitt is (still) totally hilarious.

    Posted by Claire King (@ckingwriter) | September 29, 2013, 13:01


  1. Pingback: Unusual Book Gift #1 – The Accidental Memoir by Eve Makis and Anthony Cropper | The Literary Sofa - November 28, 2018

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