You Can Write a No-Big-Deal Memoir
These blogs are a preliminary to my forthcoming memoir, Remembering Childhood: An Interactive Memoir. The title is intended to describe my intention to provide support for the reluctant memoirist to put one big toe in the wading pool.
Many of us intend to write a memoir, but don’t follow though. There are numerous reasons, not the least of which is inertia. By the time we actually reach the memoir writing stage of life, other things seem to take precedence and it’s easy to say, “Tomorrow.”
One deterrent might be that the project seems overwhelming. Where do I start? Is my life memoir-worthy? Who cares?
There are numerous ghostwriters who can write your memoir with or for you. I did this for clients over the past eight years, but I now prefer to enable you to write your own stories, simply yet artfully.
Ruminate about your past, and follow this series of blogs to help you get started with your project.
Preliminary Thoughts to Consider
Did your children or grandchildren ask you to write something about your life, or have you been thinking about some experiences that you would like to share with them and others? Do you have in mind publishing your writing for the public or for your family alone?
Your motivation for writing about your life and your projected audience will have an impact on the style and scope of your writing. For the purpose of these blogs I’ll focus on personal stories for family and friends. Should you wish to write a memoir for the public, there are resources available in bookstores and on the Internet.
Is it possible to recall every exact detail of an event, and is it even desirable to attempt to make your story one hundred percent true?
Let me tell you a secret about this memoir. Not every detail is true. Some are modified by the passage of time, and furthermore what may seem true to me, might be unrecognizable to my brothers who grew up several years later in a household marked by different circumstances. My parents were young, untried, and just starting out when I was their firstborn. By the time my brothers came along, life was singular for each of them by virtue of our parents’ acquired skill and level of comfort.
My vision is dimmed by the passage of years, and therefore the recollections are unique to me. In some cases I’ve deliberately chosen to add detail that may actually have happened, but which I was unable to recall precisely. When you read the section about the fire hydrant, you’ll notice that my mother followed after me with rubber slippers in hand. Did I actually wear those slippers on that particular day? I might have, because I remember her insisting on the rubber slippers when we went to the Jersey ‘shore’ or to a public swimming pool, but I added this detail to make my story more engaging. That’s why memoir is called ‘creative nonfiction.’
My intention in sharing this secret is to free you from several traps that prevent some people from letting their own voices ring out. Your stories will differ from others in your family, and you may even embellish them to tell a good story. The result is not a lie. It’s a reflection of your attitudes and experience and is as valid as anyone’s memory of the time.
You may feel that your past was ordinary and perhaps not worthy of recording.
“But I was just a wife and mother,” or
“I did my best. I supported my family.”
Not so. Your life is unique to your time, place, and the events that molded you, and it is worthy to share with your family and friends.
Oklahoma, OKAY By ME!
Our family had been planning to attend the marriage of my nephew Max to his fiancé Nikki at the end of May in Lawton, OK. My dear friend and publicist Barbara Grossman arranged a serendipitous stop for me to speak in Oklahoma City at Temple B’nai Israel and at Full Circle Books before the wedding. It was a truly wonderful experience to meet the book club congregants at B’nai Israel and to visit Full Circle Books.
Rabbi Harris was welcoming, and the organizers and hosts Mari Fagin and Marcy Price went out of their way to make my visit to OKC memorable. I had no idea what Big Sky meant until this first visit. Everywhere I looked, 360°, was open sky without obstructions. It’s beauty of a different kind for me.
Thanks to all. Mari had this to say:
“Your book presentations on Wednesday were both superb! Your program at Temple (B’nai Israel) was so well received, and that was the largest crowd for a book review program in memory. You really were a hit! Thank you so much for coming to our community and presenting two wonderful programs!!”
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The Back Stoop
Can you remember sizzling summers before the days of air conditioning? In Paterson we sat out the sweltering evenings on the back stoop.
conditioning? In Paterson we sat out the sweltering evenings on the back stoop.
The Back Stoop
Even after dark, the damp heat smothered us with its clammy breath. My dad stripped to his jockey shorts and sleeveless undershirt. Mom undid her top buttons, and I still wore my sweaty bathing suit bottoms. No one would be able to sleep.
Dad put on his slacks, and we went down three flights to the back porch to sit on the stoop. Often our first floor neighbors brought chairs out and sat on the pavement facing us. It was too hot to talk.
The strong spicy fragrance of deep pink Tallyho roses from our neighbor’s yard exuded its nippy sweetness in the heavy air. The lingering childhood memory is haunting and just out of reach, but like my mother’s particular scent, I think I could recognize it if I caught a whiff today.
Lightening bugs flashed, disappearing and blinking in a different spot. Too hot to chase and catch them.
The air resounded with the music of crickets, the droning repetition. The feeling of distance, yet closeness. The primordial evocation of jungle swamps, deep wet places.
A feral cat screaming like an infant. Perhaps a Screech Owl.
A neighbor might call in a dog, “Here, Benji. Come in.”
The women held ice cubes wrapped in washcloths to their foreheads. My mother gave me her cloth when the ice melted, and I sucked out the remaining cool water. At times they fanned themselves with accordion pleated newspaper, but the puny breeze did little good.
We sat on that wooden stoop under a starless sky praying that clouds would burst. There was no crack of thunder, only the sounds of deep inhalation and long sighs offered up in surrender to the night.
I was fortunate to exhibit and sign copies of my book, Beyond the Silk Mills at the American Library Association Annual Conference in June. I met some dedicated librarians from all over the country.
Near the end of summer, in preparation for a Fall release, I plan to complete the draft for Remembering Childhood: An Interactive Memoir. I owe so much to my Beta Readers for their diligent critiques of the manuscript.
In September, I’ll be starting a full calendar of presentations and book club visits.
Email me if you’d like to schedule a meeting time.
Thanks to all who support my efforts by reading, sharing, reviewing my book on Amazon and Goodreads, and by providing critical feedback to help me grow in my writing ability. I wish all of you restful, yet memorable summer.