Real Life Stories

Real Life Stories ran from June 2018 and worked with Blackheath Writers, Oldbury Writers, Coachhouse Writers, Blakenhall Writers, and writers attending workshops at Haden Hill House, Wolverhampton Literature Festival, and those who responded to an online call for submissions. Writers also performed their stories at Wolverhampton Literature Festival on 2 February 2019.

When we write, we are reaching for truth.

Of course, the truth is impossible to attain because no writing can be truly objective, even nonfiction.

And in the case of life writing, or memoir, the process is complicated by the act of memory retrieval.

When we write from life we are creating, as Karl Ove Knausgaard put it, “a cave in time.”

We reach for truth, and we end up with snapshots: how things were on a particular day, how we felt when someone said this or did that, how a moment or incident became significant, how moments from years ago present themselves to us now.

Real Life Stories set out to capture some of those moments, to encourage writers to delve into their personal archives, to coax out memories using photographs, discussion, and story.

We visited several writers’ groups in the Black Country and engaged with many more people online. Writing came in from all parts of the diverse community in this distinct part of the West Midlands.

And gradually, tales were told. We worked to refine them, we performed them at Wolverhampton Literature Festival, we published them online.

The photos that accompanied some of the stories were stories in themselves. Moments capturing something simultaneously lost and recreated in the mind.

Collecting Real Life Stories in the wider context of the Living Memory archive project has been both fascinating and revealing. It has led to many personal and shared epiphanies along the way.

There is a wealth of memory in the Black Country, and local writers have been willing to explore often painful experiences to bear testament to the past.

In the following pages you will find stories of industry and endeavour, stories of lost identity, stories about world events, and stories about the everyday.

You will detect strong local themes running through these pages, but, equally, individual voices and perspectives are demanding to be heard.

There is great power in life writing, and that power is contained in the singular.

Each of us can experience, collectively, the same external pressures and events, but no two accounts will be the same.

And so, though no writing can be wholly truthful as we interpret and reinterpret both memory and self even as we write, what emerges is nevertheless thought-provoking and immediate.

We thank all the writers who attended one of our workshops, and everybody who submitted work. This collection of Real Life Stories is only a small representation of Black Country life.

The rest of it goes on around us day in, day out. And each day creates new memories, and new things to write about.

Louise Palfreyman,
Editor, Real Life Stories

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