Wise words from Eudora Welty


Here’s a thought from a prolific writer, about one of the things that we might not have expected, but can get from life-writing.

I never in my wildest dreams thought I would write anything autobiographical.  Of course, many things in my life were used in the stories, but they were very much transformed.  I never expected to write about my mother, or anything like that.  The unhappy fact is that usually by the time you’re ready to think about your parents they’re gone, and can’t tell you anything.  That happened with both my parents.  But I’m awfully glad I did do this book [One Writer’s Beginnings], because it made me explicitly know what I owed things to.

From an interview with Hermione Lee published in Writing Lives: Conversations between Women Writers.  Virago 1988.

I’m a big fan of making a record of our lives.  Aside from this interesting personal outcome, have you thought about what you leave for the future?

Imagine the joy of some future family researcher, stumbling across an account of what your life was like?  Perhaps they can guess things from your electronic footprint, but how will they interpret that intriguing purchase you made in July 2014?  Was it really for you?  If not, who could you have bought such an item for?

We will always be too late to find some things out, and the longer we leave it…

So, if you’re looking for a deadline to get you started, I came across this interesting competition the other day, a memories competition that will benefit Alzheimer’s sufferers:


National Memory Day Creative Writing Competition Closing: 5pm Friday 20th January 2017

Theme: MEMORIES. You may enter as many times as you wish.

Each entry must consist of:

  • A completed Entry Form • A copy of your poem or short story on separate sheets for each entry • The entry fee.

All funds raised go towards placing Poets-in-Residence in Memory Cafes around the UK to work with people living with memory loss. This project is delivered in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society, Plymouth University and the Poetry Archive.

Word Limit:

  • Max 100 lines for a poem • Max 1500 words for your short story

Entry Fee: £3 per first entry and £2 for all subsequent entries which are entered at the same time.

All funds raised will be invested in the Memory Café Poetry project which places Poets-in-Residence with Memory Cafes provided by the Alzheimer’s Society. Poets will work with people living with memory loss to recite poetry to stimulate and share memories.


6 thoughts on “Wise words from Eudora Welty

  1. Totally agree with this Cath. It’s not until your parents have gone that you realise how little you know about them. So much is overlooked, dismissed or forgotten. Even reading back over my own spasmodic diaries, I’m often surprised by details I’d forgotten. We live life at such a pace and usually looking blinkeredly (is that a word?) forwards. Our stories have become a series of events on Facebook (mea culpa) instead of an introspective record of our thoughts and activities. I know, what am I waiting for? Physician heal myself!
    Are you listening to ‘The Invention of Angela Carter’, 9.45 weekday mornings? It’s biography but still interesting.


    • I’m trying to think of social media as an archive for the future…maybe I’m being optimistic, and falling for the sales pitch. But is that enough?
      Writing up some of our family histories, just for our consumption, I was surprised by how much interest the shared gems generated.
      I missed the Angela Carter, despite having the radio on. I’ll be catching up with it later, especially now you’ve commended it.


  2. I have boxes of photographs, some from early in the 20th century. A few have names and dates written on the back. Mum and I used to go through them and she’d tell me who was who, what they did, and little anecdotes – the brother and his sister who died of tuberculosis in 1916; the bedridden relative who was a spy during the war. Those names and stories are all a mish mash now and mum is no longer here. In her latter years, with dementia, we’d look through the photographs and she couldn’t remember. It was heartbreaking.
    I do hope the memory cafes have success. Thanks for posting.


    • We’ve got some of those anonymous pictures in our family album too, and like you I remember being told stories about them…by gran, but I was too young to realise the importance of keeping notes.
      I suppose we have to work with what we have, and let go of the gaps.


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