National Writing Project

Personal Memory and Fictional Character

By: Kim Stafford
Publication: The Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 1
Date: Winter 1999

Summary: Stafford demonstrates how a random collection of thoughts and experiences from his life serves as fodder for his teaching and writing, and how the same sort of collection may serve his student writers.



It often happens that thirty minutes before a three-hour graduate writing seminar is to begin, I am standing at my desk looking at the clutter before me with a wild hunter's total concentration: what from my current mail, my recent reading or travel, or from the notebook in my pocket might form the basis for our time tonight? Almost always, I am overwhelmed with treasure. For I find I have been preparing nonstop since the last class, simply by attending to the richest things I stumble upon. A lecture I attend, a story I read, a conversation I overhear, a quirky juxtaposition I observe, even a dream or a line from my own writing may braid their way into a sequence of writing and discussion activities we will productively try together.

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