Tuesday, April 13, 2021

An opportunity for you: Free online memoir workshop

They still have a few openings for this workshop. Join us! 



On Saturday, April 17, I’ll offer a free online memoir-writing workshop. Here’s the press release:


Writers of Warrensburg to host online workshop


Writers of Warrensburg is hosting “Making Memoirs: Even YOU Can Write One!” an online workshop April 17 featuring Linda Thomas, local author, speaker and memoirist.


With this workshop suited to beginners through authors with a manuscript seeking to publish, all will learn the steps and pitfalls of crafting a memorable memoir.


Whether the subject of a memoir has led an ordinary or extraordinary life, Thomas has the knowledge to help writers better share their stories.


Thomas, her husband and their youngsters lived in Colombia, South America, for three years working with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Her memoir, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir, captures both the joys and challenges of living in a remote locale targeted by Marxist guerrillas.


Later, she and her husband, as empty-nesters, took an eight-year assignment in Africa. Her memoir, Grandma’s Letters from Africa, covers her first four years working as a missionary journalist.


Thomas’ work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and blog posts. Learn more at her blog, Spiritual Memoirs 101. 


This free event is a two-hour session with Thomas and access to materials is provided. A computer capable of video and audio connection is required for the session.


Questions and enrollment may be made to Administrator G.A. Edwards at gaedwards1@earthlink.net or 660-362-0014.


Writers of Warrensburg is a local group dedicated to furthering the skills of authors by providing information on writing craft, publication practices and effective marketing strategy. All are welcome at free online meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.


More information about Writers of Warrensburg and writing resources is available at writersofwsbg.weebly.com.


Contributed by Writers of Warrensburg.


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

An opportunity for you: Free online memoir workshop

 

On Saturday, April 17, I’ll offer a free online memoir-writing workshop. Here’s the press release:

 

Writers of Warrensburg to host online workshop

 

Writers of Warrensburg is hosting “Making Memoirs: Even YOU Can Write One!” an online workshop April 17 featuring Linda Thomas, local author, speaker and memoirist.

 

With this workshop suited to beginners through authors with a manuscript seeking to publish, all will learn the steps and pitfalls of crafting a memorable memoir.

 

Whether the subject of a memoir has led an ordinary or extraordinary life, Thomas has the knowledge to help writers better share their stories.

 

Thomas, her husband and their youngsters lived in Colombia, South America, for three years working with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Her memoir, Please, God, Don’t Make Me Go: A Foot-Dragger’s Memoir, captures both the joys and challenges of living in a remote locale targeted by Marxist guerrillas.

 

Later, she and her husband, as empty-nesters, took an eight-year assignment in Africa. Her memoir, Grandma’s Letters from Africa, covers her first four years working as a missionary journalist.

 

Thomas’ work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, newsletters and blog posts. Learn more at her blog, Spiritual Memoirs 101.

 

This free event is a two-hour session with Thomas and access to materials is provided. A computer capable of video and audio connection is required for the session.

 

Questions and enrollment may be made to Administrator G.A. Edwards at gaedwards1@earthlink.net or 660-362-0014.

 

Writers of Warrensburg is a local group dedicated to furthering the skills of authors by providing information on writing craft, publication practices and effective marketing strategy. All are welcome at free online meetings on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.

More information about Writers of Warrensburg and writing resources is available at writersofwsbg.weebly.com.

Contributed by Writers of Warrensburg.

 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

What can your memoir teach about looking fear in the face?


“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face,” said Eleanor Roosevelt. “You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”

 

Think back. When did you look fear in the face? What can your memoir teach your kids, grandkids, and other readers about doing that thing you thought you could not do?

 

Read the quotes below, slowly, and pause as long as it takes to rediscover personal stories they bring to mind, incidents you might have forgotten long ago.

 

 

The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be…

Because of all I may become

I will

Close my eyes

And leap!

By Mary Anne Radmacher

 

“And the day came 

when the risk to remain tight in a bud 

was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 

Anaïs Nin

 

“You can’t test courage cautiously.” 

Annie Dillard

 

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela

 

“Courage is contagious. When a brave young man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” Billy Graham

 

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anaïs Nin

 

 

What stories do these quotes bring to mind?

 

What courageous thing have you done? Perhaps when you triumphed over fear, others watched. Or maybe you looked fear in the face and took action even though no one else ever knew about your bravery. Was Anaïs Nin right? Did your life expand in proportion to your courage?

 

On the other hand, perhaps these quotes reminded you of a time you refused to do the courageous thing, when you remained tight in a bud and chose not to blossom. Was Anaïs Nin right? Did your life shrink in proportion to your lack of courage?

 

When did you experience, as Billy Graham observed, that courage is contagious? When did you find courage to take action because you watched someone else take a stand?

 

Looking back now, whether you chose the courageous route or not:

 

  • What did you learn from your choice?
  • How did your experience change you?
  • Did you do things differently in the future?
  • How did God help you? As a result, in what ways did your relationship with Him change?
  • What Bible verses pertain to your story?
  • What valuable lessons can you pass on to others?

 

Write your stories.

Why?

Because your children, grandchildren, and other readers

will face situations in which their courage and faith are wobbly.

Your story could make all the difference in their outcomes.



 

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but . . . .”

 

One of your most important duties in writing a memoir is to re-live and re-examine and reconsider experiences—and that includes oh-so-important conversations.

 

Clear communication is difficult.

 

You’ve heard me say this many times: Examine your assumptions and conclusions: Perhaps what you think someone said to you is not what he or she meant.

 

I’ve heard that eighty percent of what we communicate is misunderstood. Eighty percent! The first time I read that, I was stunned.

 

Just imagine the potential ripple effects—it’s a staggering thought.

 

And then there’s this quote:

 

“I know that you believe you understand

what you think I said,

but I’m not sure you realize

that what you heard

is not what I meant.”

(Attributed to Robert McCloskey, State Department spokesman)

 


When I first ran across that information, it shook me up. I began wondering how many times other people had misinterpreted my words, and how many times I had misunderstood others.

 

I remember a couple of times when I experienced the McCloskey quote, above.

 

When I was maybe ten or twelve years old, I was hanging out with my mom in the kitchen while she mixed up cookie dough.

 

While she and I were visiting, I picked up an orange and began to peel it. Back in those days, it was not unusual to see the following stamped on oranges: “Coloring added.”

 

I had always wondered what that meant so, standing there beside my mom at the kitchen counter, I asked, “What does this mean, ‘Coloring added’?”

 

“They add color to make it seem more appetizing,” she said.

 

“It used to be,” she continued, “that we had to add coloring ourselves. But now they do it for us.”

 

That baffled me. “What? How could people add the coloring themselves?”

 

“We dropped a little pill-like tablet into a bowl and used the back of a spoon to mash it into little powdery bits. And then we stirred everything together to make it yellow.”

 

“You stirred it in?!” I asked. “How could you stir powdery coloring into an orange?”

 

She stopped stirring her batter and looked me in the eye. “What are you talking about?” she asked.

 

“I’m talking about an orange. . . . What are you talking about?” I asked.

 

Mom laughed her funny-bone-tickled laugh until tears ran down her cheeks. “I thought you were talking about margarine! I was stirring margarine into the sugar when you asked the question. We used to have to stir coloring into margarine to make it yellow!”

 

Ah, finally the conundrum was solved!

 

That was a harmless miscommunication.

 

But sometimes—too often—miscommunication has potential to cause harm.

 

For example, one morning I stood beside my sweet sister-in-law, Sandra, as she made breakfast. I watched as she dropped eggs into a non-stick frypan and began to stir.

 

“You didn’t put in any oil?” I asked.

 

“No,” she said as she stirred.

 

“Hmmmm” I muttered.

 

This is what I was thinking: Non-stick frypans are great, but I’ve never seen anything like this. No oil!

 

I watched the eggs for a few more seconds and, mostly babbling to myself, I said, “I’ve always added oil first.”

 

Sweet Sandra picked up on my mumbling and quickly offered, “I can add oil if you’d like.”

 

At that moment I realized I’d miscommunicated. She sensed I was criticizing her for not using oil.

 

“Oh, no, that’s not what I meant,” I hurried to explain. “I was just thinking of all the oil—and calories—I’ve eaten over the years when I didn’t need to!

 

And the two of us had a good laugh.

 

I’m so glad we figured that out because I wouldn’t want her to think I was criticizing her.

 

But—and this is important—here’s my point: How many conversations did you have in the past that were, in reality, miscommunications?

 

Maybe your memoir includes stories about conversations

with parents, siblings, children, in-laws,

friends, bosses, teachers, coaches, or spouses

that resulted in strained relationships,

broken hearts, or ended relationships.

 

Perhaps those conversations were defining moments,

when your life turned in another direction.

 

Maybe over the years

you’ve never gotten over the anger and offense.

Possibly you’re still holding a grudge.

Perhaps you’ve never been able to forgive.

 

And yet, maybe it was a matter of miscommunication!

 

Maybe what you heard the other person say

is not what the other person meant at all!

 

Give yourself ample time to re-live such conversations.

Re-think them. Re-evaluate them.
Then maybe get in touch with the other person and hash it out.

 

Perhaps, together with God, the two of you can

untangle past misunderstandings and hurt feelings

and restore your relationship.

 

And then you can write something altogether different

in your memoir than you had planned.



Tuesday, March 16, 2021

When you follow God’s breadcrumb trail and listen for “a deeper sound”

 

When we start writing, we have no idea where our memories and ponderings will take us. 

 

The process of crafting a memoir changes the way we hear.

 

It opens our eyes.

 

It helps us discover a higher, deeper, broader story.

 

And the process of writing changes our hearts.

 

“The written word

preserves what otherwise might be lost

among the impressions that inundate our lives.

Thoughts, insights, and perceptions

constantly threaten to leave us

before we have the opportunity

to grasp their meaning.

Writing can keep technology-driven, fast-paced,

quick-fix, ambiguity-intolerant modern life

from overpowering us—

and give us something palpable upon which to reflect.

 

Reflection slows matters down.

It analyzes what was previously unexamined,

and opens doors to different interpretations

of what was there all along.

Writing, by encouraging reflection,

intensifies life.”

 

(Editors Ben Jacobs and Helena Hjalmarsson,

The Quotable Book Lover)

 

Think back to a time when the unexpected happened, something scary or challenging or disappointing. Or maybe it was downright tragicheartbreaking, life-changing.

 

One time—only one time, I’m sad to say—when something devastating happened, almost immediately Romans 8:28 came to mind: “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans” (The Living Bible).

 

I told myself that ultimately I’d recognize the good God could bring from the tragedy. I told myself to watch God work. I couldn’t imagine what those blessings might be—those lessons, insights, and opportunities to mature, gain wisdom, and grow in faith—so I waited and watched. And sure enough, He did bring beauty from ashes.

 

I wish that every time hardship blindsided me, I’d have watched for the goodness He worked, but I admit I rarely have.

 

Maybe you’ve had the same experience.

 

Not all is lost at such times, though, if we think back and search for those good things God brought. They’re just waiting for us to recognize them.

 

But too often I’ve forgotten to go back and look for the gems He unearthed from my dirt. I feel bad about that.

 

Mike Metzger’s quote has come to mind frequently in the years since I ran across it:

 

“Many churches have forgotten the premium

that the historic Judeo-Christian tradition placed on

remembrance…and recalling the right things.

The ‘great sin’ of the Old Testament was forgetfulness

(at least it is the most recurrent offense).

Remember’ is the most frequent command

in the Old Testament.” 

(Clapham Memo, January 19, 2007,

“Back and Forth,” by Mike Metzger; emphasis mine)

 

Because of Mike’s quote, in recent years I’ve made an effort to remember what God has done for me and my family. Doing so requires me to make time to search my memories.

 

By definition, writing a memoir requires us to go back, to uncover—to excavate, unearth, dig, till the soil and sift through it—looking for diamonds and emeralds.

 

In the process, we might need to stand to the side and take a different look: We need to do a “Doggie Head Tilt,” another Mike Metzger quote. He says, “If your head never tilts, your mind never changes.”

 

So, we tilt our heads and

look at that difficulty from another angle.

We rethink what happened, we reevaluate,

and maybe arrive at a different conclusion

than we had come to before.

 

In Psalm 86:17, David prays, “Give me a sign of your goodness.”

That’s what we memoirists are looking for:

Signs of God’s goodness.

Souvenirs, if you will, for us to keep and cherish.

Symbols, proofs of His goodness.

Evidence. Confirmations.

When God comforts us with them, they become gems

for us to share with others.

 

So we find those treasures, those signs of goodness, and we piece them together, like stringing jewels to make a necklace. While we do so, we examine them, we ponder and reflect on them.

 

We ask ourselves:

  • What was God doing?
  • What lessons was He teaching me?
  • What new insights do I now have?
  • How did He change my heart?
  • How has my life changed as a result?
  • What message did He give me to share with others?

 

Yes, indeed, when we start composing a memoir, we have no idea where our memories and ponderings and writings will take us. 

 

The process of writing opens our eyes and changes our hearts. It helps us discover a higher, deeper, broader story.

 

Our job as memoirists

is to set aside time, as long as it takes,

to follow the breadcrumb trail

God has left for us to help us find our way.

 

And then we share our findings with others

who need help navigating their way.

 

In that way,

penning a memoir can be a sacred journey,

even an act of worship.

 

Discover the blessings God has handed you

in the midst of your hard times,

and then write your memoir,

knowing others need the hope

and wisdom and blessings you have to offer.




 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Your sobbing, wild-eyed, gasping leaps of faith

 

What leaps of faith have you taken?

 

I’m talking about a heart-stopping, bawling, howling plunge into the unfamiliar—with God.

 

A breath-taking, blubbering, dive into the untried, the unproven—with God.

 

I wince when I type the phrase “leap of faith” 

because its overuse has stolen its intensity, its radicalness.

 

Let's be clear: I’m talking about faith that calls you to hurdle yourself over the edge—blindfolded, shrieking—into the unknown, with God.

 

You have no guarantee things will work out—at least not in the way you hope. Or the way you plan.

 

You can only begin to imagine what surprises await you.

 

You wonder how you’ll hold up, or if you’ll even live through it.

 

You feel the last-minute doubts, the dread, the teeth-gritting, the labored breathing.

 

The heart-racing, stomach-knotting, head-spinning terror.

 

The throbbing, queasy feeling of being out of control.

 

You know only three things:

 

  1. God asked you to do something way beyond your abilities and comfort zones, something that scares you out of your wits and makes it hard to sleep at night.
  2. Everything within you cries out, “I must do this. I cannot not do this.”
  3. God, who is trustworthy, will be with you every moment.

 

What screaming, wild-eyed, gasping leaps of faith have you taken?

 

What did God teach you through it?

 

What did you learn about yourself?

 

What did you learn about God?

 

In what ways did the experience strengthen your faith?

 

I think your children and grandchildren 

need to hear your story, don’t you?

 

Get busy and write!

And have fun!



 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Your memoir’s suspense: Make it reader-friendly

 

We’ve been studying the importance of suspense, tension, and conflict in your memoir. They are must-haves: They draw readers into your story, make them care about you, and keep them reading. (Click on Make ‘em wait and Suspense—yes, but melodrama—no.)

 

While it’s important to include suspense in your memoir, make those passages reader-friendly. Readers don’t want to waste time with long, drawn-out moaning and groaning.

 

“Readers don’t buy books that ponder problems,” writes Chip MacGregor. “They buy books that offer great solutions to their problems. So offer solutions.” (Chip MacGregor, Memorable Words)

 

MacGregor says we should go ahead and “set the stage by revealing what the conflict or problem is” in a condensed way, and then we should get on with it.

 

But wait! We don’t want to downplay our suspense too much, according to K. S. Davis.

 

She teaches her students (both fiction and memoir writers) to beware of a “failure to sustain key moments.” Key moments: moments of tension and suspense and emotion.

 

In some of her students’ rough drafts, Davis discovered key moments “were just going by too quickly.” To remedy that, she advises, “. . . Writers, don’t be afraid to slow down and ‘linger.’

 

“Make sure you are devoting sufficient space to the ‘key moments’ in your manuscript so that they register with your readers. Your writing will resonate much more clearly and vividly if you do.”

 

Davis says we can achieve that by using dialogue, summarizing unspoken thoughts, and using nuance. (from K.S. Davis’s post, Lessons in Lingering.)

 

So, the combined message

from Chip MacGregor and K.S. Davis is this:

Find a healthy balance in writing passages

of suspense and drama and emotion.

 

You might be muttering, “Easier said than done.” I agree. Here’s what I’ve found helpful:

 

I draft a couple of versions of a vignette or chapter and play around with the suspense. I condense. Reorganize. (I’m so glad we live in the days of computers instead of typewriters! Back in the olden days, if we wanted to change just one word—or even one comma—we’d have to retype the entire page!)

 

After tweaking, I set aside the manuscript for a week or so. Later I’ll take a fresh look at it and by then I will have a better perspective on what works and what doesn’t.

 

Also, if you’re not part of a writers’ critique group, I highly recommend you join one—just be sure it’s a quality critique group. Not all of them are helpful, professional, and supportive.