I have been doing so much better these past four or five years. I’d say my greatest strength is understanding my race and having Insight into my (mental) illness. Even though I have Schizophrenia I always check my race/ethnicity on college/grad school/job applications. I often say “Yes I am African American or Black” when asked. I am very proud of my accomplishments and my race. I don’t apologize for being Black. I always remember this older Italian man named Lou who would call me Black Beauty. I loved being called Black Beauty! It describes me so nicely. Thank God my schizophrenia did not take my racial consciousness and pride in my ethnicity away from me.
I wrote two memoirs in my last two semesters of college that are a part of what I like to call my Schizophrenia autobiography. My teacher was Edi Giunta. I took her Memoir Workshop and Advanced Memoir in the Fall of 2014 and the Spring of 2015. Once when I went to discuss some trouble I was having with the memoir I was working in her office Edi told me about a former student of hers that had published a memoir piece in a Memoir anthology called “Cracked” about her past crack addiction. I remember thinking now that is cool. Here I was writing about my experience with mental illness and my three half sisters who did not want me in their lives and the onset of my mental illness and my parents and family and this woman had written something just as personal as I did: her experience with crack addiction.
I started writing memoirs in Edi Giunta’s Memoir Workshop class at NJCU. I took Memoir for 2 semesters. First I took Memoir Workshop and then I took Advanced Memoir with Edi Giunta. She chose to promote my memoir out of all the students in her class both semesters. I was one of few African American students in the class and Edi Giunta “endorsed” my memoir. I wrote more in her class than I’ve ever written in my life. I wrote a ten to fifteen page memoir in Memoir Workshop and an almost twenty page memoir in Advanced Memoir. I became a memoir writer and when I think of African American woman writers I have Memories of Me.
I am starting to fill my second process journal. I used two marble composition notebooks as my process journals for my memoir (my schizophrenia autobiography) Memories of Me. Once the second process journal is filled I plan to write out my whole memoir, then type my memoir. I began with my 3,000 word memoir piece I wrote in Memoir Workshop and my 4,000 word second memoir piece I wrote for Advanced Memoir. These memoirs are the bones of my book length memoir Memories of Me. I still have not figured out what the structure of my memoir will be. Will I have five chapters like Lucy by Jamacia Kincaid? Or will I have fourteen autobiographical essays like Boys of my Youth by Jo Ann Beard? I like the structure of Lucy but I don’t know!
I applied to Cave Canem again for one of their winter/spring poetry workshops coming up in February to April. I only worry about traveling in the snow and ice conditions. I know I will take the train and be okay though one week at a time.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Phillis Wheatley for starting the Black or African American tradition and for being the first important Black writer/Poet in the United States to publish a book of poems and a memoir. I have written memoirs too as well as poetry for adults and children. I created a book of children’s poems as a class final project with Lori M. for Poetry Workshop with Handal. I’m working on a poem I wrote for children I hope to turn into a children’s book. Black or African American Poets owe Phillis Wheatley a debt of gratitude this includes the new and emerging Poets at Cave Canem like me.
I’ve already written in a black and white marble composition book and filled it with journal entries for what will be my book length novella or memoir Memories of Me. I just got a blue marble composition notebook that I started to fill with one to a few page journal entries. I plan to fill it and not leave a blank page. I don’t know if I’ll end up with a seventy something page novella or a two hundred page memoir. Writing my novella or my memoir will take me a few years but I’m motivated to write it. Memoirfest is coming up at Dr. Edi Giunta and Dr. Josh Fausty’s home in Teaneck, NJ. Both Edi and her husband Josh Fausty were receptive to my memoir. I went to Memoirfest this past May 2015. December 2014 was my first time sharing at Memoirfest. I was taking Memoir Workshop with Edi at the time. I am really looking forward to going to Memoirfest in December. I will share a two page journal entry from my process journal.