Thursday, June 21, 2018

Creating a sense of place is essential for your memoir


In your memoir, you’ll introduce readers to significant places. Since readers were not there, you’ll need to develop those places well.

That’s why we’ve been looking at how to create a sense of place in your memoir, how to create a setting readers can visualize.

Effectively doing so can be a fun exercise for you, the writer, but it’s more than that. Creating a sense of place is essential if you want readers to experience your story with you.

Last week we considered descriptions of entrances and rooms. (If you missed that post, click on Must-know info about your memoir’s sense of place.) Have you enjoyed working on the settings in your memoir since then? I hope so.

While you continue working on your memoir’s places, include sensory details—what would your readers see, touch, taste, smell, and hear?

Think back: Was the room dusty or polished, cluttered or tidy, warm or cold, old or new, welcoming or unfriendly?

Did the place smell like a florist shop, or overripe cantaloupe, or something worse?—maybe stale cigarette smoke, trash, or chemicals?

What unique sounds resided in that place? Could you hear foghorns signaling to ferry boats and cruise ships and supertankers on foggy days? Did you hear construction noises, or students practicing the flute, or people in prayer? Could you hear wind in the trees? (If so, name those trees—Aspen? Palm? Cedar?)

Spend time recollecting the other sensory details of your place—sights, textures (or feels), and tastes.

For your inspiration, study how Marilynne Robinson created a sense of place in her book, Lila. It’s fiction, but the art of describing a place is the same, whether fiction or nonfiction (memoir is nonfiction—it’s always true). Note how she included dialogue to create that sense of place.

“When they were children they used to be glad when they stayed in a workers’ camp, shabby as they all were, little rows of cabins with battered tables and chairs and moldy cots inside, and maybe some dishes and spoons. They were dank and they smelled of mice…. Somebody sometime had nailed a horseshoe above the door of a cabin they had for a week and they felt this must be important….

“They were given crates of fruit that was too ripe or bruised, and the children ate it till they were … sick of the souring smell of it and the shiny little black bugs that began to cover it, and then they would start throwing it at each other and get themselves covered with rotten pear and apricot. Flies everywhere. They’d be in trouble for getting their clothes dirtier than they were before. Doane hated those camps. He’d say, ‘Folks sposed to live like that?’…”

Your task, then, is to recreate your memoir’s rooms
buildings, and entrances to them. 

And be sure to come back next time 
because we’ll continue with this important writing skill.

Happy writing!




Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Make our memoir come alive through a sense of place


Today we continue creating a sense of place within your memoir, a setting for key scenes. (If you missed Thursday’s post, click on Must-know info about your memoir’s sense of place.)

Why is a sense of place important? Because it helps draw your readers in—it gives them a sense of being there with you.


“And then there are other manuscripts in which setting is occasionally mentioned in passing, but almost as an afterthought…. [H]e throws out a few token lines that objectively name the place or sketch a vague description and moves on.

And that’s a shame, because a writer like that is missing out on a great opportunity to bring his [story] to life. The more real a place is to readers, the easier they can be transported there to experience the story.” 

Your goal: Make those settings tangible for your readers.

Look for spots in your manuscript that leave yourself, your memoir’s characters, or readers floating in space. Make revisions to anchor each key setting

And remember to use sensory details (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste).  


There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.

Come back Thursday for more on 
how to create top-notch settings for your memoir.



Thursday, June 14, 2018

Must-know info about your memoir’s sense of place


Have you ever read a book that left you on the outside, not welcomed in? Maybe the story felt a little cold. Unsatisfying. The problem might have been the story’s sense of place—or, rather, lack of it.

In writing your memoir, you need to establish a setting, a sense of place, because that helps draw your readers in—it gives them a sense of being there with you.

Think of all the settings within your story—
  • a significant room or home or office,
  • or a geographical location with its features and weather,
  • or a culture with its unique smells and sounds and sights,
  • or a group setting with various personalities and voices and appearances.

We’ll look at all of those in coming days, but today, let’s concentrate on creating a sense of place within a room or home or office.

Good writing is good writing, whether fiction or nonfiction (memoir is nonfiction), so let’s look at how New York Times bestselling author Rosamunde Pilcher created a sense of place in her novel, The Empty House.

Pilcher writes of Virginia approaching a solicitors’ office in England:

“Smart, Chirgwin and Williams … were the names on the brass plate by the door, a plate which had been polished so long and so hard that the letters had lost their sharpness and were quite difficult to read. There was a brass knocker on the door, too, and a brass door knob, as smooth and shining as the plate, and when Virginia … stepped into a narrow hall of polished brown linoleum and shining cream paint … it occurred to her that some hard-working woman was using up an awful lot of elbow grease.”

Pilcher has you standing beside Virginia, doesn’t she? And you conclude the brass plate, knocker, and doorknob were old, and the place’s owners had enough money to hire cleaning help, probably a woman, and that she took pride in her work.

What kind of people do you envision Virginia will encounter after she turns that brass doorknob, steps inside, and makes her way down the hall?

I expect that Smart, Chirgwin, and Williams wore black suits, starched white dress shirts, and gray-striped silk ties. And the men drank their morning tea in gold-rimmed china cups. And they spoke precise, proper English.


Contrast their setting with that of a tough ex-convict, Socrates Fortlow, in an abandoned building in Watts:

“He boiled potatoes and eggs in a saucepan on his single hotplate and then cut them together in the pot with two knives, adding mustard and sweet pickle relish. After the meal he had two shots of whiskey and one Camel cigarette.” (from Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned by New York Times bestselling author Walter Mosley).

You don’t see any of Joanna Gaines’ touches in Socrates’ smoky room. Do you picture him eating out of the pan? And wiping his sleeve across his mouth when he finished eating?


Let’s go back to Pilcher’s story with Virginia in a later scene in a different place:

“She went down the steps and along the dank pathway that led along the side of the house towards the front door. This had once been painted dark red and was scarred with splitting sun blisters. Virginia took out the key and … the door instantly, silently, swung inwards. She saw … a worn rug on bare boards. A fly droned, blundering against the window-pane.”

Stop and think. You’re walking beside Virginia, aren’t you? You’re seeing the splitting blisters on the red door, and a worn rug, and bare wooden floors. You’re hearing that irritating buzz of the fly tapping against the window glass.

There beside Virginia, you notice a stained kitchen sink and “the sitting-room cluttered with ill-matching chairs,” and “looming pieces of furniture.”

Pilcher has succeeded in creating a sense of place for youyou’re discovering this room alongside Virginia.


Here’s another example, this one from Kim Edwards’ The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

“They were on the east side of Pittsburg, in an old factory building that had been converted into a progressive preschool. Light fell through the long windows and splashed in motes and patterns onto the plank floor; it caught the auburn highlights in Phoebe’s thin braids as she stood before a big wooden bin, scooping lentils, letting them cascade into jars.”

Edwards created a vivid picture: tall old factory-style windows (which I envision need a good cleaning), sunbeams shining on dust motes, the wooden floor, and auburn braids. And you probably heard those lentils spilling into glass jars, didn’t you?


What about the settings, the places in your memoir? 

Scrutinize your rough draft, asking yourself, “How can I enhance a sense of place—a setting within a room or home or office in my memoir?”

Ask yourself how the above examples generate ideas you might use in your memoir.

Look through good literature on your bookshelves or the library’s shelves and study how other writers create a sense of place for their stories.

All of these steps can make you a better storyteller. So, make revisions in your memoir using sensory details (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste) to make your places tangible for your readers. Your goal is to help them experience what you experienced.

If readers enter the places in your memoir, they can:
  • feel a connection with you and your experience,
  • feel grounded in your story,
  • discover the mood, atmosphere, and emotions of the event in that place,
  • and, in the end, take away from your memoir important lessons and inspiration for their own lives.



Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Do you want to become a better storyteller?


If you want to grow in storytelling skills, start with dear William Zinsser's advice: 




Come back Thursday when we'll take an in-depth look at a memoir's setting, its sense of place.

There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Are the words in your memoir just ... b-o-r-i-n-g?


Priscilla Long, author of the delightful The Writer’s Portable Mentor, writes of those who approach “language passively … using only words that come to mind, or words he grew up with, or words she stumbles upon while reading The New York Times… He strives for expression with rather general, conventional diction [word choice] that has little to offer in the way of echo, color, or texture.”

On the other hand, “... writers of deep and beautiful works spend real time gathering words…. They savor not only the meanings, but also the musicality of words. They are hunting neither big words nor pompous words nor Latinate words but mainly words they like…. They are not trying to be fancy or decorative.”

At Gather “crackly” words for your memoir, you’ll discover tips on using words to delight your readers, words that keep them involved in your story, words that make your places, characters, and experiences come to life.

And you’ll have loads of fun gathering and using just the right words!

 There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

“What have you got to lose, except all that your family could gain?”


Have you ever asked yourself who will be poorer for not knowing your stories?

Your stories are important. They can offer wisdom and hope and character and faith to your readers—stuff they need to know!

Today Cavin Harper challenges us to take our roles seriously and be intentional about writing our stories for the benefit of our kids, grandkids, and great-grands. He asks us, “Have you written it down?”


Have You Written It Down? 
by Cavin Harper, 
Founder and President of Christian Grandparenting Network

Let this be written for a future generation, 
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord.  
Psalm 102:18

Why am I who I am today? What forces have shaped my life and the way I see the world?

These questions are not only important to me, but to those who follow me. My stories are my family’s stories, but, even more than that, they are part of God’s story and the legacy that will be left for future generations. Our stories tell those who come after something about why they are the way they are and reveal the tapestry of God’s sovereign hand woven in our stories. So, why do we not take storytelling more seriously?


Who am I?

Obviously, as a Christian—a follower of Christ—the Gospel has profoundly shaped who I am and how I view the world. Still, things like why I love cornbread and beans smothered in ketchup, for example, can be explained only by my story as a member of the Harper family. The stories each of us have experienced from birth shape us and form the bigger story that comprises the legacy we leave to the generations that follow … if they know the stories.

The Psalmist has made it very clear that we are to tell the stories of God’s praiseworthiness and faithfulness, His power and the wonders He has done (Psalm 78:4). But it is our personal stories that bring context to God’s bigger story as it is played out through our family tree. And part of telling those stories involves writing them down.


Our Stories are Treasures

The importance of writing our stories to preserve our legacy is the subject of Lana Rockwell’s book, Passing On a Written Legacy. Lana believes the stories of our lives written for others to read help our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gain some valuable perspective about who we are as members of our family. They also help us tell the story of God’s faithfulness and ongoing work in our lives, both the good times and the bad. In her opinion, these stories are “treasures from God, a special gift from God for another generation.”


So, what keeps us from writing these stories down? Lana believes there are any number of reasons, all the result of misinformation or faulty thinking. We don’t think we can write well enough, or we don’t think we can remember anything worth telling. First of all, we’re not writing to get on the New York Best Seller list. Just start writing something and see what happens. Stop making excuses. This is about telling what you know so another generation may benefit from it.

Secondly, ask yourself who loses if you don’t tell your stories. How many of you feel you lost something important because your grandparents or parents never preserved some of their stories that tell who they were and maybe something about ourselves? Don’t make the same mistake for the generations following you.

Thirdly, order a copy of Lana’s book, Passing On a Written Legacy, and make the decision to give it a try. And in case you’re not sure if it would be worth your while, listen to my podcast with Lana on Family Impact. I think she may convince you to take the plunge. What have you got to lose, except all that your family could gain?



Thanks, Cavin, for sharing your post with us. I haven’t bought Lana’s book yet, but plan to do so soon. It looks like a valuable resource for all the memoirists here at SM 101.

Originally published as Have You Written It Down? Reprinted here by permission.





Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: Will your readers get bored?


Let’s be realistic. We can’t force people to read our memoirs.

Our lives have many distractions. Perhaps the worst nowadays is the cell phone. Just think: The memoirs you and I write compete with cell phones. That’s daunting. And our books compete with Netflix and the most popular TV shows and sports events. The list goes on and on.

Your memoir must be more intriguing than—or at least as intriguing as—those and other pastimes and distractions. People will invest in only what promises to be worth their time and effort.

Click on Will your memoir be intriguing enough? and follow links that will help you spiff up the emotional depth in your memoir and add details, including sufficient sensory details.

Like dear Cecil Murphey says, “We have to persuade people to read us and assure them that the time they spend with us will be rewarding.”

There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Tell Me What He Did: A Memoir


My heart broke over the message Heather Marsten sent telling about enduring years of sexual assault and abuse. “Every morning without fail, after one of my father’s visits, my mom would say, ‘I heard him in your room last night. Tell me what he did.’ She wrote down the details, filling two notebooks….”

The title of Heather’s memoir, Tell Me What He Did, refers to two aspects of her abuse—that question her mother asked, and what He—God—did to rescue Heather from her abusive home.

Her healing was a long, meandering process. It included therapy, paganism, New Age practices, witchcraft, voodoo, Macumba, tarot and, she says, “ultimately real healing through Jesus.” Heather now says, “It was only when I discovered God that I was able to put the pieces of my life back together and walk forward in a joyous life.”

Writing this book has been an adventure,” she says, “because God has been showing me where He was in the midst of all the chaos of my life. Some of the ways surprised me.” 

For example, Heather now sees that God was in the nots—those bad things that could have happened but did not. She says, “I did not get pregnant by my father, did not go insane, and did not get a communicable disease. At the time I saw God as a do-nothing, but in reality, He had put a hedge of protection around me.”

She sent us the following excerpt, giving a glimpse into her mother’s backstory. Heather was in third or fourth grade in this scene.


     Clotheslines crisscross our backyard. Mommy stretches and rubs her back. “Damn hot. Sheets should dry in no time. I’d sell my soul for an automatic washer and dryer.” 
      I hand Mommy a clothespin. “I like our wringer washer. We make a great team. You send the clothes through the wringer. I catch ’em.” 
      “Bet ya Hazel has one. Bastard takes better care of her than he does us.” 
      Shut up about Hazel. 
      After the sheets dry we make my bed. I point to a photograph hanging on my wall—a short-haired Indian princess wearing a fancy dress and a sparkly headband with a feather. “Who’s that?” 
      “Me in my favorite dress. Don’t I look good? Let’s get a drink to cool off. I’ll tell ya about it.” 
      I sip cherry Kool-Aid at the kitchen table. “Why does the dress have those hangy things?” 
      “Fringe. That fringe moved like wild when I danced. Maggie, a hoity-toity maid who worked down the block from me, wanted that dress too. I bought it. You shoulda seen her face when I wore it on my day off.” Mommy smiles and sips her orange juice. “Had this picture taken right after I got my Flapper haircut. Was all the rage. My parents said I was trashy to have my hair so short.” 
      “Flapper?” 
      “We called ourselves Flappers in the twenties. I was so good at dancing the Charleston. Here, let me show you.” She puts her cigarette in the ashtray and stands. She wiggles her hips as she walks forward and backwards, puts her hands on her knees and quickly moves her hands back and forth across her knees while her knees move in and out. “My fringe flied.” 
      “I saw someone dance like that in a movie.” 
      She sits. “Saved five months for that dress. Back in those days you only earned a few bucks a week. That’s the first new dress I ever had.” 
      “Your parents didn’t buy you new clothes?” 
      “There was twelve of us. Daddy was a coal miner. We were dirt poor. We used to run and meet him after the whistle blew. He saved crusts of bread from his sandwiches to give us kids as a treat. Couldn’t afford new clothes. All my dresses were passed down from my three older sisters.” 
      “Didn’t the kids in your class make fun of you?” 
      “No, we were all poor. ’Sides, I only went to school ’til eighth grade. My baby sister, Anna, was the only one to get new clothes and graduate high school.” 
      “You didn’t go to twelfth?” 
      “Nope. My parents needed money so they farmed me out as live-in housekeeper to a rich family in Chicago. Most of my money went home. With the little I could keep, I bought the dress.” 
      “That’s not fair.” 
      “Anna got everything. I got shit.” She sighs and sips her orange juice. “Still, I had fun. On my day off, my friend Betty and I went dancing. Those were some good times. Go play.” 
      I can’t imagine Mommy dancing and having fun. She never smiles.


Wow!

After you catch your breath, notice Heather’s writing—how she develops her mother’s personality and her own, sets the tone, includes details, writes tight (avoids wordiness), and creates curiosity for readers. Especially note how Heather writes dialogue. We don’t find even one “she said,” yet we all understand who is speaking. That’s impressive! Good job, Heather!

She is writing her memoir to encourage those who have endured abuse. In fact, even before publication, her story has brought help to others. God has lovely and powerful ways—even miraculous ways—of using our stories. I know He will continue to use Heather’s memoir to bring His healing to countless others.



Heather is a happily married mother with three young adult children. She and her husband are proud to witness their kids grow into compassionate, loving people venturing into the world.

A scene from her memoir-in-progress, Tell Me What He Did, appeared in Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware, an anthology compiled by Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Please read this: GDPR and privacy (I'm just an old woman trying to keep things simple and legal.)


I am told that if I use an email list to sell a product (like books), a service, or a program online or through my blog, the GDPR requires me to let you know how I use your data. (GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation, an EU law, pertains to those located in, doing business with, or making contact in the EU; it protects against spam and unwanted data sharing and goes into effect May 25, 2018.)

For those who have signed up to receive my blog posts via email, please note: I do not use this email list to sell any product, service, or program online or through my blog. I do not use this email list to send you newsletters. (If you signed up to receive my blog posts by email, please note: Blog posts are not the same as newsletters.)

Just to be clear: If you signed up to receive my blog posts, Blogger uses your email addresses to send you my blog posts. If you wish to unsubscribe, click on “unsubscribe” at the bottom of the email.

I do not share email addresses with others. In fact, I don’t even know where to find your email addresses! (I’m just an old woman trying to keep things simple and legal.) Blogger automatically sends my posts to those who have signed up to receive them.

This notice has appeared on the inner workings of my blog for at least a couple of years, written by and posted there by Blogger:

European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent.

As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google’s use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies.

You are responsible for confirming this notice actually works for your blog, and that it displays.

FYI, I did confirm that this notice works and displays for my blog.


The following notice appeared March 22, 2018, on the Blogger Help Forum at this link: https://support.google.com/blogger/forum/AAAAY7oIW-wxgO0UefwfIE?hl=en

“…you can count on the fact that Google is committed to GDPR compliance across products, including Blogger. We are always working to stay compliant, which helps make compliance easier for your blog. We are also committed to providing robust privacy and security protections built into our services. We know security and privacy are important to you, and they are important to us, too. For Google, it’s a priority that your private information is safe. You can also find more information about privacy, data and security at privacy.google.com or by visiting Google’s Privacy Policy.”

Signed by Ricky – Community Specialist


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If you don't unsubscribe by May 24, 2018, I'll take that to mean you've chosen to continue receiving blog posts by email.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Mother Goes Gaga

You’ll get a kick out of Sharon Lippincott’s essay about her mother. Perhaps it will stir up your own memories of infatuation and heartthrob.

Sharon is a lady you should know. She describes herself as being “hooked on all forms of life writing,” which includes what we’re all about here at SM 101: memoir.

For years Sharon has taught life writing classes and workshops, in person and online, and authored The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, which I highly recommend—it’s one of my go-to books. And you will find oodles of help at her blog, The Heart and Craft of Life Writing.

So, settle in and take a minute or two to enjoy this fun read. Sharon sent it to us after our recent post, Send us your stories about mothers and motherhood. You'll be impressed with her delightful descriptions. We all can learn from her skills.


Mother Goes Gaga

“Let’s go down to Southcenter this morning,” Mother suggests at breakfast. I leap at the idea. I have come over from Richland with two of the kids to pick up our third, who has spent the past week with Mother and Daddy at their new house in Seattle. Trying to keep the kids occupied at her new house is no easy task. They don’t know where things are and don’t have anything to do. They are bored. When they’re bored, they fight. When they fight, Mother gets crazy, and I get a headache from it all. Tomorrow we’ll go home, but today we need to keep busy. A thirty-minute drive down to this major mall should at least kill the morning.

We don’t stay at Southcenter long. The kids each want to run off in a different direction, and shopping for things Mother and I would enjoy is just out of the question.

“Let’s go home,” she announces after about twenty minutes. This isn’t a suggestion or request. It’s an order. We head out to the car and climb in. While the kids squabble over who sits where this time, Mother digs in her purse for her keys. Suddenly she looks up and her head moves forward as she peers intently out the windshield. Her lips are parted. I follow her gaze and notice two men getting in the car parked diagonally in front of us, to the right. The driver is a nicely dressed young man, and an elegantly attractive older man with wavy, snow-white hair opens the door on the passenger side.

Noticing that their headlights are on, I roll my window down and call out to the younger man. “If your car won’t start, it’s because you left the lights on.”

“Oh! Thanks. Could you wait a minute while I check?” he asks, lowering himself into his seat.

I look over at Mother. Her eyes are practically bulging out of their sockets. Her mouth hangs slack, and her knuckles are white from her death grip on the wheel. She gives a weak nod. Sure enough, their car won’t start. The older man lazily unfolds his trim body from the car and saunters in Mother’s direction. She fumbles with the crank in a frenzied attempt to roll the window down. He bends down, leaning his arm casually on the door.

“Do you happen to have any jumper cables we could use?” The words rumble forth, slow sweet, and mellow as well-aged sherry, giving ample exposure to a full set of perfect pearly whites in the process.

“Oh, yes! . . . I’m sure . . . we . . . always carry them!” Mother is stammering. What’s with her? I’ve never seen her in such a state. I get out when she does and walk around to the trunk. She has trouble getting the key in the lock. Again, I’m baffled by her behavior. She’s always had great hand-eye coordination. She finally gets the trunk open and rummages in the contents. She tosses a blanket aside, and moves a couple of small boxes and a mini-cooler. No jumper cables appear. She goes through them all again.

“I . . . I guess I don’t have them today,” she stammers in dismay. “I can’t imagine why they aren’t here. We always carry them.” She’s repeating herself. That’s not like her. Neither is the shrilly quavering voice. She’s acting like a moonstruck teenager, I think. Who is this man, and what has he done to my mother?

“No problem. Thank you so much for checking.” Mystery Man flashes another yard of smile directly at Mother and bows slightly toward her. I half expect him to kiss her hand, but he turns to leave. “Oh! No trouble at all. My pleasure,” she squeaks at his back.

“Try Mall Security. They should be able to help,” I suggest. I don’t want this stranger to think I’m as ditzy as my mother!

“Thank you. Thank you so much. We’ll do that.” He smiles and waves over the top of the door as he slides back into his seat. I watch for a blown kiss, but the moment passes.

Mother sits quietly for a minute, breathing deeply. She’s only a little shaky as she puts the key in the ignition, starts the car and backs out. At this point, I’m relieved that she can manage to drive at all!

“That was Caesar Romero!” she finally gasps as she reaches the end of the lane. “I’ll never wash my car door again!” Her voice has a distinctly misty tone. Now things make sense. I recognize the name of the classic movie star, but wouldn’t have been able to pick him out in a police line-up — unless the others were women. She said she knew he was in town, but of course she never expected to actually meet him.

“Wow, no kidding? He really is a hunk! Good thing I noticed the lights,” I observe with a grin. He hasn’t lost the magic that makes women swoon, I think, especially when they know who he is.

She just nods, lost in a euphoric daze as she heads up the ramp onto I-5. I’m a little awestruck myself. I wonder if I would have been quite so nonchalant if I’d known who he was sooner. I’d like to think so, but in my inner core of truth, I doubt it. I’m glad I didn’t. I decide that only in ignorance could I have given her this gift.

One morning a few months later, Mother is back in Richland for a visit. I’m busy fixing lunches, and she doesn’t say much as she sips coffee, staring out the sliding glass door.

“It really was him!” she announces out of the blue.

“Who? What are you talking about?” I’m lost.

“Him! Caesar Romero!”

“I thought you were sure back then.”

“I was. But he was in Seattle again at the Dinner Theater. We went and sat close to the stage. So now I’m really sure.”

“Wow, that’s great. Maybe someday I’ll run into Robert Redford or Sean Connery in a parking lot somewhere. I wonder if Susan will be with me?”

We both laugh at this happy thought. I turn to unload the dishwasher and she finishes her rice cake.

© 2014, Sharon Lippincott


Sharon has written more than 500 stories and several books including The Heart and Craft of Writing Compelling Description: Selected Blog Posts from The Heart and Craft of Life Writing, and two memoirs, Adventures of a Chilehead, and The Albuquerque Years: My Life as a Preschooler. She serves on the advisory board of National Association of Memoir Writers.





Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tuesday Tidbit: What did you discover along your hallways and highways?



Make time to remember. (You won’t want to miss The sacred importance of remembering.)

We are meant to look back to what God has done in the past,” writes Beth Moore, “so our faith is set aflame for what He can do in our future.”

Your memoir is a gift not only to readers,
but especially to yourself
In writing, you can look back,
follow the bread crumbs,
and realize
—maybe as never before—
that God has pointed you down hallowed hallways and highways,
sending you to destinations He planned especially for you
good places,
even if they didn’t look good at the time.

Perhaps you’ll find yourself in Henri Nouwen’s words: “In every critical event, there is an opportunity for God to act creatively and reveal a deeper truth than what we see on the surface of things. God can also turn around critical incidents and seemingly hopeless situations in our lives and reveal light in darkness.” (Discernment)

Invest in yourself—in your spiritual life, your relationship with God—by remembering what you’ve seen Him do. Rediscover what you’ve forgotten. Find significance in what you overlooked in the past.

Look again at Henri Nouwen’s words and ask yourself:

  • When did I look beneath the surface of life’s issues?
  • When I dug deep, what significant new truths did I discover?
  • In critical, seemingly hopeless moments, what light did God shine in my darkness?
  • And, in what specific ways did they fire up my faith for what God could do in my future? Take it to the next step: What, specifically, did He do in my future?


Write those stories!

Doing so could change your life now and for the future.


There you have it, your Tuesday Tidbit.


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Send us your stories about mothers and motherhood



Maybe your entire memoir is about that significant mother-figure, or possibly you include short vignettes about her here and there.

Or maybe you’ve written about your life as a new mother, empty-nest mother, stepmother, grandmother, or great-grandmother.

Sweet moments, 
     hilarious events, 
          personality quirks, 
               tragic loss, 
                    courageous decisions, 
                         integrity, 
                              tenacity, 
                                   or high adventure
                                        —all make for great reading.

Here’s an opportunity for you:

Send us one of your vignettes! I’ll share one or more here on SM 101.

For now, spiff up your rough draft. Strive for clarity, fix typos, and make your sentences sing.

Go deep. Go beyond mere memories. Reflect: Look under the surface. Search for overlooked significance. What was God doing at the time? Mine those gems!


“ … The author must impost a coherence
on events he chooses to include
that may not have been present as he lived them….
It’s that selectivity that transforms a memoir
from a report to a reflection
which gives meaning to the events
which might not have been evident to the author
as she lived them.”


Write about your delights as well as your doubts. Ask questions even if you have no answers. Include your thoughts—even your struggles—concerning your mother, yourself, and what was happening.

Explore. Untangle. What did you learn about yourself? About mothers? Motherhood? God?

“As memoir writers,” Dr. Linda Joy Myers writes, “we are trying to find a perspective, even forgiveness and compassion, for ourselves and others as we write our stories.”


Helpful Tips:

Click here to review the definition of memoir.


Character development

Each person is complex. Develop your character’s shortcomings, redeeming qualities, beliefs, prejudices, body language, tone of voice, attitudes, and quirks.

Was she sentimental or no-nonsense? Hilarious or dour? Consistent or inconsistent? Gentle or gruff? Did she stand tall or did she slouch? Was she optimistic or pessimistic? Did she stress the importance of table manners? What else was important to her?


Emotions

Incorporate emotions—about both happy, joyful events as well as scary things and grief—not all stories have happy endings.

Bring in adventure and humor where you can. Click on How to Add Humor to a Sad Memoir, Lisa Romeo’s post about how, why, and where to include humor in a sad memoir.

Our earlier post, Method Writing, is a must-read for writing about emotions.


Sensory details

If you want readers to enjoy your stories, you must include sensory details. Invite them to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell what you experienced so they can enter your experience with you.

Don’t miss our earlier post, Details: A must for your memoir. It’s packed with resources for you.


Your opening

A story’s beginning can make it or break it. It can invite readers in—or send them away. Most writers experiment with many openings before they get just the right one. Some don’t even try to write it until they’ve finished the main body of the story.

Helpful links:


Your ending

Pay attention to your story's or your vignette’s conclusion. A weak ending can make a story fall short of its potential impact, but a strong one makes a memoir shine.

Helpful links:


Ready, set, go!

Polish one of your vignettes (let’s say up to 1000 words in length) and send it to us. We’ll publish one or more soon. We’ll give you our email address if you leave a comment below, or on SM 101’s Facebook Page, or send a private message.

Happy writing!