Thursday, September 13th, 2012
September’s Member of the Month Melesha Johnny (mzejay) wasn’t expecting to become a part of a rich storytelling community when she purchased a case of Honest Tea at her local warehouse store in Northern California. She was just thirsty. But from the moment she opened a bottle of tea and discovered a Six-Word Memoir on the inside of the bottle cap, she was hooked.
“Who knew that turning over an Honest Tea cap would lead to a new hobby?” says Johnny. “I logged on to SMITH and started reading memoirs. I remember being impressed with the idea of concise storytelling.” Johnny wrote her first Six-Word Memoir at her kitchen table that very afternoon. Fellow SMITH member Banjodan responded with a comment. “I was just tickled,” says Johnny.
Not long after joining SMITH, Johnny entered SMITH and Mercer consulting’s Six-Words about Work contest. Her submission to the “lessons learned” category, “Press every button till printer works,” was one of the winners selected to win an iPad2. “Now,” Johnny says, “I always check bottle caps for treasures.”
Recently, Johnny took time out of her busy life as a librarian to answer six questions from SMITH.
How do you come up with your Six-Word Memoirs?
Some days, memoirs are falling over themselves in my head. Sometimes, getting just one memoir together is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
You recently attended SMITH Magazine’s Six-Words on the Jewish Life show in San Francisco this year. What was that like?
I was excited to learn that authors I have read would be participating. I enjoyed Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black and had checked out Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. I was also delighted to meet Larry Smith and to thank him for creating this forum. I even felt inspired to join in the Six-Word Slam and share one with the crowd. Mine was “I know what a mohel does,” which was inspired by the man who told the story of circumsising his son.
Would you tell us a little about your writing life?
In high school, my tenth grade English teacher encouraged me to participate in the school’s literary magazine. I spent many lunch periods writing, selecting and editing stories for the magazine. I discovered that I had a wicked sense of humor and was witty in a way that made me laugh and surprised my classmates. Nobody ever suspects that the quiet, shy girl has a sense of humor. When I entered college, writing took a backseat as I pursued a psychology degree and later a master’s degree in library science.
Six-Word Memoirs let me write a little something as it comes to me. I post and perhaps I’ll get a response. It’s so nice to be among so many who listen and share. I am delighted to have this forum for being creative. I hadn’t realized how much I missed putting my thoughts together.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love dance of all kinds. Just lately, ballroom dance has been my fascination, but I’ve done tap, Brazilian, Hawaiian and even got to perform African dance with my class.
I am a lover of community college, where I’ve taken lots of dance classes and exercise classes. Recently my husband and I have been taking ballroom dance classes. Dancing is like taking a deep breath; it makes me feel alive and renews my spirit.
I also enjoy parades of all kinds, and I aspire to be in a parade one day. My favorite parade is San Francisco’s yearly Carnaval parade in May. I have always wanted to dance in that parade.
Writing and dance both allow me to express myself. You take a step and connect with another person. Maybe it’s a slide, maybe it’s a spin, sometimes it’s a dip. Whatever the end product is, there is movement. Movement is what life is about.
How would you sum up your philosophy on life?
I walk out the door each day with the thought that I love everyone and everyone loves me. That thought makes for a sunny outlook on life. I have found that it’s not too often that I am proven wrong.
Finally, Melesha Johnny, what is your Six-Word Memoir right now?
Yes, the gray streak is natural!