Archive | September, 2012

OVERCOMING FUNK AND STARTING YOUR MEMOIR

20 Sep

Emmett’s vest — done!

IN A FUNK

It’s been more than two weeks since I last wrote.  What’s going on?

Too busy finishing the little baby vest?  As you can see, it DID get done.

Have I been too busy with “stuff” for my daughter’s wedding?  Too busy camping on the Metolius River and listening to great folk music in Sisters?  I did add a page to this blog about my illness.  That was writing, but I kept putting off writing this post.

I know myself after all these writing years, and I see a pattern:  After a major rejection, it takes me a while to regroup.  When I pull out my writing spirit and look at it, I see it’s squashed flat.  And like those Chinese papers that you drop into a glass of water, it needs to slowly unfurl and plump itself back into shape.

My book.  My time, my energy were all in that book that was rejected.  Besides that, the story says something important to kids.  About families.  Privacy.  Sorrow.  Hope.  Courage.   All of it — good stuff — rejected.

Self-publishing it is still an option, but right now, I need to find myself, my writing self, again.

How do I do that?

GO EASY

  • I’ve been trying to treat myself — smell the roses that are on my coffee table.
  • Acknowledge that I’m grieving.  Whine a little. (or a lot.)
  • Diddle around on the computer.  Okay, that means playing quite a few games of Mahjong solitaire, but before I leave my desk, I try to write a few stupid sentences in my journal.  Gently now.  I’ve left the Wordperfect file open so I can get to it easily.  I even left the cursor set on the next sentence.  I’ll write a little something.  Maybe I’ll call it “practicing typing skills.”
  • In the meantime, I should probably tidy up my office.  Who can possibly work in here anyway, in this mess?
  • While I’m at it, maybe tackle the utility room?
  • Time heals.
  • The most important thing:  I must keep writing.  Anything at all.

MEMOIR:  PLEASE WRITE IT ABOUT YOURSELF

Writers in my classes, and most recently, a friend last week in Sisters, have told me they want to write a memoir — about a parent.  About a daughter.  About a grandmother.  Their eyes glow with excitement.  What a life that person had, they tell me.  It will make a great book.

I beg to differ.

Please consider writing about YOU!  YOUR life.

It’s the story only YOU can tell.

Let’s turn this idea around and imagine that YOUR son or daughter has decided to write your story.  “Gee, Mom, your life is inspiring.  I want to write it.”   A compliment.  But at the same time, an affront.  How can they possibly know the things you know– the deep-inside things, like the smell of the hollyhock dolls you made, the touch of your grandma’s hand on your forehead, the softness of the bunnies that were in the backyard pen, the agony of wearing a homemade dress to the prom.

WRITE YOUR OWN STORY!  Don’t put it off for your children or anyone else to botch up.

As you write your own story, chances are your own parents, your grandparents will be part of it.  In that way their lives will be captured, but through an honest, more valid viewpoint.

Yours.

How to get started?

WRITING PROMPTS FOR STARTING MEMOIR

THE MAP EXERCISE

Taken from Bill Roorbach’s book, Writing Life Stories, a book I highly recommend.

Make a map of the earliest neighborhood you can remember.  Add the streets, the neighbors, the hiding place, the scary neighbor.  Name these; be specific.  Or make a map of your house — your bedroom, the kitchen, any part of the house where important things happened.

If you’re like me, your map will be a sketchy thing.  The main thing is that you’re opening a memory drawer and rummaging around in it.  One memory after another is bound to pop up.  Start writing about these with as many specific and sensory details as possible.  Go back and add more smells, tastes, sounds to these.  Capture the emotion of the event, if possible, by giving us a bit about the light, the darkness, the weather, the way your stomach felt.

Remember, if you’re writing about an event, you can begin with the action of it.  We usually don’t need all the background and all the intro.  Just begin with something happening.  Get to it.

YOUR LIFE — EVERY FIVE YEARS

On the left side of a paper, list the years of your life in five-year periods.  0-5, 6-10, etc.  Try to recall a major event in your life for each five-years.  For example, at age 9, I got my first bike.  Independence!  How sweet it was!

LOCATE THE TURNING POINTS

When did your life take its turns?  What events forced you to move out of your usual rhythms.  What set you back?  What helped you grow?  Write about these — and again, just give us the actions, the people who were there, what they were doing.  Imagine that you are capturing a pivotal moment in a snapshot on your camera.  Who else was there?  Where exactly did it happen?  Was there weather?  Furniture or props.  What were people wearing.  What did their faces look like?

Photos are limited, however, so you’ll need to enhance your imaginary photo with details of smells and tastes and sounds.  Write, write, write.

Don’t worry about polishing any of these.  They are great jumping off places, however, for what you may eventually want to write and polish.  Save them, get them out every now and then and see what other memories come to you.  Write those down.  Are you getting pages and pages of writing done?  Yes, you are.

And that’s how it all begins.

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TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL

3 Sep

Too soon to sit on

Is everyone’s life like mine?  Full of half-finished projects?  This chair was in my childhood home.  When the seat fell apart and had to be ripped out,  I ordered a kit of directions and new cane and started in.  That was July.  It’s slow going.  No sitting on that chair for a while!  

And then there’s the necklace I’m beading for my daughter’s October wedding.  After I make three more leaves, it will be pretty, won’t it?  Ah yes.  All good things take time. 

Also not done: Last Monday, I printed out submission guidelines for five literary journals that accept  memoir.  However, according to my critique readers, the essay about artichokes and getting to the heart of things isn’t ready to send.  Years of writing on that essay, and it’s getting close.  But it’s not quite done.

On Wednesday, my latest book, Second-Chance Summer, was rejected by Albert Whitman.  My very nice editor says she STRONGLY objects to this decision  (Thank you, Wendy, for saying that.) because this is the very book the editors asked me to revise for them in February and I mailed to them in April.  It was to have been the fourth in the Katie Jordan series.  No chance another publisher will be interested, so do I drop it into the drawer with other books in progress?  Wendy suggests I rewrite it with a different protagonist.  Do I want to do that?   Whatever I decide, the book is not yet done.

Well first, I need time to grieve about this.  I love that book.  Kids have asked for more Katie books, and this one, in my opinion, is the best of the four.  Deeper, more developed, more important! than the first three.  I’m biased, heh, heh, but I’m right!

On the other hand, I no longer believe what I learned in Girl Scouts –  that we must always finish what we begin.   I’m now capable of starting to read a book and slamming it closed after fifty pages because it doesn’t hold my interest.   I’ve begun quilting or stitching embroidery projects that for some reason I lost passion for and then gave away — unfinished.  Living with cancer, knowing that my life may not go on forever (true for everyone, but ominously true for those of us who have cancer), I’ve lost patience with that old rule of finishing everything I begin.  “Off with their heads,” the Red Queen shouted when something annoyed her.  Forgive me.  I seem to be turning into a red queen.  

Do I decapitate Second-Chance Summer?

I grieved for my novel through the week, but now that it’s Monday, a new plan is creeping into my brain.   THIS book is surely the perfect candidate for self-publishing.   I don’t yet know how to do that – to create an e-book or one that is Print-on-Demand.  It’s time to learn.  Linda and Liz recommend Amazon’s Create Space, and the Kindle e-book.  The cover will be important, so I’ll contact the illustrator who drew the sweet covers for the three paperbacks.  Will she say yes?  Can I afford her?  Hope so.  

So I’ve decided.  Second-Chance Summer gets its own second chance.  And once it’s published, I’m hoping the other three books will carry the news of it to readers.  

The chair seat, however, may be in danger.  My arthritic fingers are finding that those canes resist more as they tighten and as I move to the later stages of weaving them.   Besides, unlike the essay and the novel, I didn’t build the chair from scratch; it didn’t grow from the tiniest idea into thousands of words, thousands of ideas that needed to be crushed and blended, molded and shaped into coherence.  

Still unwearable

September is the deadline for another unfinished project – this little vest that needs seams and ribbed edges with buttons and buttonholes before the child can wear it.  October 6 is the deadline for the wedding necklace.  As I bead and knit, I’ll puzzle over how to take my essay and my book to the next levels.

Any words of wisdom about self-publishing? 

Are you out there?  I’m listening.