Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On Memory and Writing

I first heard the phrase “let me see can I call ‘em down” years ago when I met the famed Mrs. Ruby Forsythe of Pawleys Island, SC. Miss Ruby was the widow of an Episcopal Bishop who also was a priest-in-charge of Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church and its one-room school there. Named an “Unsung Hero” by Newsweek Magazine, she taught for over sixty years, mostly in that school. She was in her 80s. She also lived above the school.

I needed to know the names of all the Episcopal priests who had presided over that Episcopal district for an article I was writing. The current priest did not know. "Let me see can I call em down," Miss Ruby said. She named each priest-in-charge (there were many) in order of presiding, and threw in an anecdote about each one. Long memory.
Though I have a hard time even remembering the plots to my own books, the process of memory, or “calling it down,” is central to our writing endeavors.

The elements of memory include:
“Recollection” -- the reconstruction of events or facts through prompts, or reminders;
“Recall” -- the active, unaided pulling up, or “calling down” of something from the past;
“Recognition” -- identifying previously encountered stimuli as familiar; and
“Relearning” -- showing, in most cases, evidence of the effects of memory.

For us writers the evidence is our work.

We writers “call down” our memories (learned, researched, first-hand, etc.), then act on them by creating manuscripts that resonate with readers so compellingly it’s as if -- as writer Jacqueline Woodson once said -- we poked through their closets and ate biscuits with them at their kitchen tables.

Let me see can you call 'em down.
Eleanora E. Tate, Feb. 15, 2012


  1. Just what I needed to day, Eleanora. Thanks you.

  2. I could ust hear Miss Ruby say it, too. I wish you had a picture to post. She sounds so full of wisdom.