Doing the Joey in a Community of Believers

When I do writing workshops I structure my responses to other writers this way. First, respond from life. Next, say what works. Then, and only then, comment on what doesn’t work. “Respond from life” means expressing a memory evoked by the writing. There’s no need to fake or embellish this memory. It’s the authenticity that counts. What a writer needs to hear to keep on going is how her/his work touches a reader’s life. All that other critique of craft is just writing workshop babble.

Updated 082708: My “response from life” to Major Jackson’s poem “Some Kind of Crazy” turned into a memoir of a kid named Joey who lived on the street where I grew up. A memoir doesn’t always fix memory in time. This one has become a work-in-progress. Read the most recent version:

Doing the Joey in a Community of Believers

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3 Responses to Doing the Joey in a Community of Believers

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  2. tomrobertstennessee says:

    Reading “Doing the Joey…” conjured memories of Bobby Brunswick, a third grade classmate in 1964 at West Amwell Elementary School in Lambertville, New Jersey. The first time we spoke on the playground during recess, I was curious about his shoes. On his left foot was a shoe having a sole about four inches thick. On his right leg he wore a brace under his brown cordoroy pants. The brace extended about four inches past the sole of his shoe, and was spring-loaded. I asked him a question he’d probably heard a thousand times, “Why do you wear those shoes?” I don’t remember him giving me an answer. He climbed onto a jungle gym, and hand-over-hand, went from one end to the other, and then let himself drop hard onto the ground. I asked him about his shoe and his brace a few more times that school year; he never answered me, and I eventually stopped noticing and stopped asking. We became good friends. I used to bicycle over to his house. He had a bike too, and we would ride on a dirt path that encircled his house. His mother wouldn’t allow him to ride beyond their property.
    My family moved to Tennessee in 1965, and Bobby and I exchanged a few letters that year. I remember receiving one in which he wrote that his brace had been removed, and now, he “….could run really fast.” I remember being taken aback because it was the first time he’d ever mentioned the brace to me.

  3. Mark Willis says:

    Interesting memory, Tom. Your friend knew something about self-disclosure that it took me years to learn, that what matters most is choosing when and how to do it rather than following the prompts of others. I appreciate your “responding from life” on this one.

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