Monday, July 4, 2011

Catherine Friend

Sixteen years ago I was not at all sheepish. I was bookish, library- ish, wine-and-appetizer-ish. Decidedly unsheepish. My only exposure to sheep was as a child visiting my grandmother's sheep ranch in southeastern Montana—lots of dust, lots of heat, and every now and then a little orphan lamb that I could help Grandma feed with a bottle. My grandmother left the ranch when I was a teenager, so sheep played no role in my life after that.

As an adult, I met Melissa through a personal ad, the pre- Internet method for dating. She and I were totally different, not two people who should build a life together, so we fell in love and did precisely that. We led fairly boring, urban lives for over ten years while I discovered writing and Melissa cultivated her love of land and animals and caring for both.

Then, out of the blue, Melissa asked me if I would help her start a farm.


  1. I used to think that memoir was only for famous people, but that’s totally changed over the last twenty years. Memoir can be written by anyone who’s had anything go wrong in their lives, since who wants to read about the perfect life? Not me. I wasn’t drawn to memoir, but sort of fell into it as therapy. When Melissa and I started the farm, lots of stuff went wrong. I just couldn’t believe how bizarre my life had become, so to deal with this, and sort out how I felt about it, I began writing things down. I brought a short piece to my writing group, and when they laughed, I was hooked. I wrote another, and another, and ended up with a memoir.

    Memoir is an odd duck because it’s not autobiography. It’s creative nonfiction, which means the writer must creatively shape a series of events into a pleasing and cohesive tale, without altering the truth. This doesn’t mean things are made up. Sadly, all the events in my memoirs are true. But are the events in the exact order as they occurred? Not necessarily. For example, the events in Hit by a Farm stretched out over six years. I initially wrote it that way, but upon a second reading, I decided that anyone who took that long to figure things out was an idiot. To avoid appearing so, I shortened the book’s time frame to around four years. Now I just come off as a semi-idiot. This is why I love creative nonfiction. Memoir is reality that has undergone a few nips and tucks, gentle cosmetic surgery to eliminate the boring parts.

  2. "Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep, and Enough Wool to Save the Planet" by Catherine Friend