Memories to Memoirs

Cat Pleska
Cat Pleska

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

With summer officially upon us, this year’s annual summer festivities have commenced, and with them comes the second in a series of creative writing workshops hosted at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace. On Thursday, June 23, writers – from across the state and of all experiences levels – are invited to join West Virginia author Cat Pleska at the Sydenstricker Cabin as she delves into the art of turning memories into memoirs.

Following the “What’s In Your Blood?” theme of this year’s writing series, Pleska will lead writers through an exploration of their past in order to uncover the belief and understanding that hope and beauty still remains in each participants’ lives – regardless of the obstacles they have had to overcome.

“We all have fascinating stories to tell about our lives,” Pleska said in a press release, “and it all begins with our memories. I’ll show you how to dig deep from those memories to help you learn who you are, how you survived, and how you lived. Be prepared to explore your life stories to discover how intriguing and engaging they are.”

Pleska’s own memoir, Riding on Comets, is a good example of how she has been able to find expression in her experiences and memories. The memoir focuses on Pleska’s youth and explores a wild ride through industrial Appalachia, loss, and love. Pleska writes truthfully, and she is unafraid to tackle the difficulties and despair faced throughout her life.

She writes truthfully, but she does so with love and respect – juxtaposing the bad with the good. Her father struggled with alcoholism, and her mother faced trials of her own – but despite their struggles, Pleska’s parents was so much more than their faults.

The memoir reflects Pleska’s transference of memories to memoirs, and it is through her workshop that she hopes to give the participants the tools necessary in order to do the same.

During Thursday’s event, the group will learn what a memoir is; what the difference between an autobiography and a memoir is; and how to utilize different techniques to unlock the memories of early childhood, as well as how to determine the reliability of their early memories.

It was Pleska’s mother who first introduced her to the world of books, reading and writing, and Pleska recalls many-a-fond memory of her mother reading to her before bed. For as long as Pleska can remember, writing was her mother’s dream, and over time, it became Pleska’s dream, too.

She began writing as a teenager, and it was during her youth that she received her first recognition. Her teacher entered a piece of her work in a writing contest, and while Pleska did not win, earning recognition had a huge impact on her.

“Getting that recognition early on was important for me,” Pleska said, “and it’s important for all aspiring writers – no matter their level or age.”

Pleska’s workshop – the second in a series of three – will take place June 23, at the Sydenstricker Cabin in Hillsboro from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and writers of all levels are welcome to attend. Writers will need to bring their own materials, and light refreshments will be served.

The workshop costs $10 per person, and while advanced registrations are accepted, they are not required. For more information and/or to pre-register, call the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation at 304-653-4430, or email

The event, part of the 2016 Calvin W. Price Appalachian Enrichment Series, is sponsored by the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation and the Pocahontas County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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