So far, I am leaning into my creative project from the Writer’s Retreat. It’s a fictional piece, informed by some on my own personal experiences, and colored by some of my fears about the future. I suppose, genre-wise, it’s a “speculative memoir,” so imagining what will happen in the future, rather than recalling what has happened in the past. The premise of the work is that the protagonist returns to her childhood home after the death of her father, a hoarder who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She moves throughout the physical spaces of the home, interacting with objects along the way, which serve to trigger memories, and paint a picture of her life, the characters in the story, etc. So far, I have three chapters done, and I have a decent roadmap of where I’d like the story to go in the future.
I want it to follow a classical “Hero’s Journey” model, in a way. I’d like my protagonist’s journey to begin with crossing a threshold into the unknown, and ultimately involving a “descent” of sorts (into the basement of the home, as it were) to emerge with a new understanding of who she is, who her father was, and what her past experiences give her, as far as strength, knowledge, and the power to love, heal, grieve, accept, and move on. Here’s an outline (from my notes) of where I would like the chapters to go (along with some rough ideas that probably won’t make sense to any of you!):
Outline: prologue-ish, kitchen Part I
3. Parlor (not “living room”, called basement “cellar,” Zenith tv set, duck pillows, pillow forts)
4. Front room (grandpa, plants, piano, deer, Christmas, Dutchess, plastic tree needles melting to the radiator)
5. Toy room (used to be her bedroom, clown balloon lamp, clowns, Elaine, jack in the box)
6. Upstairs (berber carpet, indian burns, later, sleeping on the pullout couch, for lack of a bed, found the night-night tape)
7. Her Bedroom (purple under purple, closet Girl Scout book, care bear suitcase, tragic futon)
8. Her Sister’s Bedroom (feeling like a stranger, don’t belong, sister’s furniture, had a boy, not a girl)
9. The Un-Bathroom (things left unfinished, boxes of apt. stuff)
10. Laundry Room (mismatched socks, doubled as mom’s hair salon, Chinese bamboo calendar from 1989)
11. Basement/Cellar (farm stove, jetpack)
12. Workshop (reference the sawdust on the floor, from the toilet seat vignette, idea that some things can’t be fixed.)
Epilogue- back up through kitchen, and outside, leaving door open behind her.
So, I think the roadmap of my actual work is pretty solid, but what I also really want to focus on this semester is the technical “thesis-y” stuff, such as my Literature Review and Proposal, which I have not even started. I think what I will wrestle with the most is not the pacing of my work (I want to get somewhere upstairs by semester’s end), but with how it will contribute to “new knowledge” in a meaningful way. It’s really important to me to do justice to the topics, such as hoarding (or OCD) as it relates to Alzheimer’s, and the suffering it can cause not only to the person who is sick, but to their families. I think there are deep phycological issues that I haven’t’ even scratched the surface of, and that, I think, is where the majority of my academic efforts will lie this semester. Thankfully, I have all of you to help me along the way…