Jon Lurie is a Minneapolis native who received his MFA from the University of Minnesota in 2006. His memoir, Canoeing with Jose, the story of a 1000-mile canoe trip from Minnesota to the sea, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions. Lurie serves as director of the Mother of Waters Project, a youth outreach program that combines experiential learning with arts education focused on the health of Minnesota’s fresh water resources. He also teaches creative writing and experiential learning at Macalester College and the U of MN.
Lurie joined the COMPAS roster of artists in 2008 following a two-decades stint as a print and radio journalist in Native American communities from Texas to Alaska. He also served as editor of The Anchorage Press and Rake Magazine. Lurie has received two Gold Awards for his long form journalism by the Minnesota Newspapers Association and the Minnesota Magazine and Publishers Association, and his children’s books have been recognized by the American Librarians Association.
By the end of the residency, students should come away with a better understanding of themselves, a deeper appreciation for their own rich histories, and a vision of how their personal narratives can be conveyed through writing.
As a child growing up in Minneapolis I would spend hours in that urban forest climbing trees, playing in the rocky creek, and digging my hands into the damp soil hoping to discover clues that would tie me to this ground, this place. Looking back I realize that as a first generation American I was disoriented. Many children in Minnesota are also struggling with the challenges of disorientation caused by migration, as well as technology, poverty, drug abuse, and broken family structures.
When I come into a classroom to teach memoir and creative nonfiction it is my goal to help students develop a context for their lives. I use a lesson that has students interviewing classmates, school staff and family members. Students use notes and electronic recorders during these sessions. They cross-reference their notes and memories to help them understand how to become better listeners and more critical thinkers.
Reconnect With Your Treasured Memories
By returning to their most cherished places and memories, participants are able to reconnect with important life events. When teaching memoir, I challenge my students to revisit the landscapes of their lives. With age, however, often comes the difficulty to move as freely about the world as one would like. Many writers are unable to return to all of the places that have served as the backdrop of their prized memories: honeymoon travels to faraway lands; cities and farms where babies were born; fishing cabins up north; places they served in the military; roads driven taking children to college.
Luckily for the modern memoirist, it is now possible to travel virtually to every corner of the globe. Through the magic of online resources such as Google Earth, Mapquest, Wikipedia, Yahoo Images, and Armchair Travel, participants in my classes zip around the world a with speed and ease that would make Superman blush.
The stories that result from these sessions are often richly told with amazing recall and stunning detail. I encourage writers to invite a close friend or family member to join them at the table. These people become the keepers of treasured memories, and can assist in the sometimes difficult process of recording them.
Note: Materials and mileage costs may also apply.
When I come into a classroom to teach memoir and creative nonfiction it is my goal to help students develop a context for their lives. We use the same tools and approach as in a full residency, but scale down the activity to suit the time available. As I say in the residency description above, looking back I realize that as a first generation American I was disoriented. Many children in Minnesota are also struggling with the challenges of disorientation caused by migration, as well as technology, poverty, drug abuse, and broken family structures.