On Wednesday I did a presentation at the Centre for Research on Personhood in Dementia at UBC. It was called Memoir and Dementia, and included a reading from Tangles, my graphic memoir. Over the years I’ve gotten way calmer about readings, but this one just totally stressed me out for about a month before. It was the first time I’d be talking at such length about my writing about Mom (at least in public!), and the first time reading from Tangles. Not to mention it was my first PowerPoint!
On a more serious note, November 29 was the fifth anniversary of my mother’s death, so it was quite hard to sort through my photos and writing and stuff, and pull myself out of my grief enough to focus on presenting something for other people.
This is me before the reading, faking a relaxed demeanor:
And then we got started…
I showed some slides of my mother, one from my childhood and a few from during her illness. One of the main things I said about memoir and dementia was how important I think it is to remember the person as they were when they were sick, all the specific ways in which they speak and behave, the ways they have changed, the small moments of sweetness or horror that you don’t want to forget. I talked about my mother’s hands. And here they are…
I talked about memoir and dementia– my ideas about it, the process of writing my book– for about 40 minutes, and then read for about 20. I relaxed pretty quickly once I got started– it was a small but attentive group of about 20 people, including the wonderful staff at the CRPD. I love talking about the book and I love hearing people’s stories– there were some wonderful shared laughter and tears after the question period wrapped up and some folks came and told me about their own family members who have dementia.
I have some work to do on developing a good technique for reading from the book. I ended up just showing a page at a time on the PowerPoint and reading from the printed version. It was fine, but I’d like to do something that shows the images better– hoping to get some help from my more techie friends with that stuff.
This was a fabulous experience; I’m super excited for September 2010 and more talks and readings!
All photos by Terra Poirier