Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Memory Collective

by Jenny Boully, Eric LeMay, Dinty W. Moore, Elena Passarello, Kristen Radtke, Jill Talbot, Dana Tommasino, & Ryan Van Meter

Jill Talbot & Eric LeMay: On "Memory Collective"

JT: One night, I sent Eric LeMay an email that began: "Memory. Memory Lapses. Recalls. Gaps." I had an idea. He and I share a fascination with digital work, particularly the ways in which text appears or disappears depending on external manipulations, like memory. I imagined text in a shifting interplay between the visible and the invisible, again, like memory. I wrote, "I can see readers choosing one, and it's not there or it is after so many attempts—or, what else?" We agreed to collaborate on a multi-author collective, and we each invited three writers to join us. From the onset, Eric and I preferred to discover the movement and concept of the project as we went along because we didn't want to influence or alter any writer's attempt or artistry.

EL: Jill's impromptu email was a happy surprise, and here I might as well mention that Jill and I have never met and that many of our fellow collaborators don't know one another outside of the virtual world. This was part of the interest: to see what would happen if we worked with wholly "alien" memories, not only memories that aren't our own, but also memories unbiased by physical proximity to, or personal knowledge of, the person who remembers. Once we had the memories, Jill and I assigned them more or less randomly, and we waited to see what would come of it all. When we received the responses, it was a matter of creating a forum in which readers could experience the original memory and its reinvention. As Jill had initially suspected, the digital medium worked best, allowing us to merge video, audio, image, and text.

JT: What we ended up with was as unexpected as a sudden remembering. Eric created sixteen black buttons, or panels. Each black panel a memory, and collectively, they defy order and cohesion and consistency. They reveal what we almost, but never will, know. Even if a reader were to click on them (the panels, the memories) in order, they wouldn't uncover any more than what the writer has to work with—which is only a detail or two—like a stuck moon, a man floating across a lake, blue shadows, boot laces, a painting of daisies, the icy desert air, a wedding photograph, or a TV screen showing a movie we know we're not allowed to watch.

Jenny Boully is the author of five books, most recently of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon: a book of failures (Coconut Books). Her other books include not merely because of the unknown that was stalking toward them (Tarpaulin Sky Press), The Books of Beginnings and Endings (Sarabande Books), [one love affair]* (Tarpaulin Sky Press), and The Body: An Essay (Essay Press).

Eric LeMay lives in Athens, Ohio and can be found online at www.ericlemay.org.

Dinty W. Moore is author of The Mindful Writer: Noble Truths of the Writing Life, as well as the memoir Between Panic & Desire, winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize in 2009. Moore has published essays and stories in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harpers, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Iron Horse, and TriQuarterly, among numerous other venues. He is currently perfecting his recipe for dandelion ice cream.

Elena Passarello is the author of Let Me Clear My Throat (Sarabande 2012). Her writing on music, performance, pop culture, and the natural world has appeared in Slate, Creative Nonfiction, The Normal School, Ninth Letter, the Iowa Review, and the 2012 music writing anthology Pop When the World Falls Apart (Duke University Press 2012).

Kristen Radtke has an MFA from the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program and is the Marketing and Publicity Director at Sarabande Books. She is currently at work on her first book, a collection of graphic essays about aftermath and abandoned places. She lives in Brooklyn.

Jill Talbot is the author of a memoir, Loaded, as well as the co-editor of The Art of Friction: Where (Non)-Fictions Come Together and editor of Metawritings: Toward a Theory of Nonfiction. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Brevity, The Paris Review Daily, The Pinch, and The Rumpus. She is the 2013–2015 Elma Stuckey Writer-in-Residence in Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago.

Dana Tommasino is the chef/owner of Woodward's Garden Restaurant in San Francisco, where she also curates and hosts readings. She has a master's degree in literature from Mills College. Her work has appeared in Narrative Magazine and Brevity. She lives in San Francisco with her family and her queer Norwich terrier, Chickpea.

Ryan Van Meter is the author of the essay collection, If You Knew Then What I Know Now (2011). His work has appeared in journals and has been selected for anthologies, including Best American Essays 2009 and Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work From 1970 to Present. He currently lives in California where he is an assistant professor at the University of San Francisco.