Check out my guest blog at BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog:
Check out my guest blog at BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog:
In the third grade, I read The Little House in the Big Woods series of books. You could write about your own life—what a revelation! I wanted to do that. But also, a disappointment—my life wasn’t as interesting as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s. Mine was a normal life. Two parents and two sisters, a house on a cul-de-sac, school a half-mile walk away.
In the fifth grade, I started keeping a journal. My first entry read “January 8, 1976: My promises are I will not pick and bite my nails.” The thing with journals is that they are private—words are scribbled down to vent your feelings whether happy or sad or angry. Words that document your days, the things you do, the things you leave undone. These words usually don’t form a narrative arc. At least not in a way that would hold a reader’s attention.
Enter the memoir. The crafting of memories and journal entries into scenes, chapters, blogs—a whole book even.
This September is Bellingham’s third annual Whatcom Memoir Writing Month, or WhaMemWriMo, a month-long odyssey to write 50,000 words of memoir. During the first one, in September 2015, I wrote 40,000 words, starting with my first memory: Riding a tricycle on a sidewalk in a suburban neighborhood when the surroundings became unfamiliar and I felt hollow inside and stopped pedaling. In my memory, I am utterly alone, though I’m sure that I wasn’t.
Almost thirty days later, I finished with a write-up from a workshop the night before: Tame Your Inner Critic taught by the amazing writer-mentor Cami Ostman. I volunteered to sit in front of the medium-sized crowd and let Cami interview my inner critic. I answered as my inner critic, referring to myself in the third person, letting my critic tell all present why Laura was not a real writer, why she shouldn’t write. This was an emotional experience and recalling it was almost more difficult than recalling that surreal tricycle ride forty-nine or so years ago. The take-away for me that night: the voice in my head no longer spoke the truth and the way to silence it was to keep writing, no matter what.
I started September 2015 with this opinion on writing memoir: “All these years of work to let the past go, to live in the moment, to not drive myself crazy with woulda, coulda, shoulda, and now I’m expected, encouraged, and must dredge up the past, again?! My emotional side cringes while my logical side lectures: I’m dredging up the past with a different view in mind, a productive purpose. My fingers refuse—it is mutiny as they type out the memoirs of some fictional characters instead.”
As the month progressed, I realized that writing about the past “leads me closer to things I don’t say, things I don’t write about, and as I write this memoir I see how healing, how freeing it has been, dredging up old baggage and seeing it from the vantage point of now, filtered and enlightened with everything that happened between then and now. Which leads me to believe that writing about the things I don’t want to would be helpful but the resistance is strong.”
In October 2015, I launched my website, and this blog, to proclaim I Am A Writer and to craft blogs—mini memoir pieces. These blogs are supposed to be monthly. Apparently that is not a realistic expectation for me.
A whole year passed before I committed to writing a book-length memoir in the fall of 2016, and it was January of 2017 when I embarked on that journey. A journey I plan to be on for however long it takes. I am a slow, distracted writer but I’m heartened by Ray Bradbury’s adage: “You fail only if you stop writing.” I shall not fail.
In my Red Wheelbarrow Writers guest blog, Resist: Ignorance, I discussed reading books to help deepen my understanding of and empathy for other people. Still working on that list, still glad I’m doing so. But reading a book is not the same as speaking with a person. Along came The Bellingham Herald’s “Outside the Bubble Dinner” sponsored by Whatcom Community Foundation’s Project Neighborly. The idea was to get matched up with a person outside your bubble and share a meal and some conversation. In order to apply for one of the five dinners, I first had to take a Bubble Test (You can too!) so organizers would know where my bubble fell on the spectrum. Then I filled out a short questionnaire.
Check out my guest blog:
Upon returning home, from a road trip, in the middle of November, I saw a hummingbird dart out of the large rhody in the backyard to the nearby feeder, a little sugar-water still in it, hover and drink, and then dart back into the rhody. A hummingbird in November—a novelty to me. This one had bright red over its head and neck, a male Anna’s hummingbird. I immediately boiled water and poured a cup over a quarter cup of sugar, stirred until the sugar dissolved and then let it cool.
The worst part of my day, on the days I run errands, is in the morning when I’m standing in the grocery store watching the clerk ring up my purchases and she asks, “What are you going to do today?” A part of me finds that question an invasion of my privacy, while at the same time I realize she is making small talk. Another part of me is curious—what am I going to do today? My mind scrambles about for my own benefit as well as a polite answer.
I exercise every day. Every day some form of stretching and strengthening, and a hike or a walk must be done. Why such dedication? Because I’m in training, not for a marathon but for a sit-a-thon. And as we are all learning these days, sitting is not for wimps.
For over ten years, I had a Nokia cell phone, a standard one piece, no flip, no slide, no touchscreen—a basic cell phone. I used it to make calls, and to receive calls. This phone fulfilled its purpose. When my children entered high school, I was pleased that my basic phone could also send and receive texts, as this is the preferred mode of parental communication.
What sticks in a child’s mind and survives into adulthood? What joy? What fear? What anger?
Forty-five years ago, my mom’s extended family rented a large cabin in Big Bear for Christmas. There must have been at least twenty of us, pretty chaotic. It was the first Christmas in seventeen years that it didn’t snow there, a fact that has nothing to do with this story, but it is noteworthy, it is mentioned every time this story is told, it is part of the family folklore—the year it didn’t snow.
Every time I start to write a new piece—a story, a novel, a blog post—I get a sinking feeling in my gut, my chest constricts and a sigh slips through my lips. The glorious piece of writing floating in my mind sprawls on the page like a pig wallowing in the mud. A big smelly mess. What is worse than not writing? Writing poorly. If you don’t write, no one will know that you stink. Well, that your writing stinks. (It’s good to separate your self-worth from your work, though most writers will say that’s near impossible.)
People blog for many reasons: to inform, amuse, advise, pontificate (what a great word—sounds like what it means), but in general, people blog to share their life experiences. And that is what I intend to do here—share my writer’s journey, and, on occasion, the journey of my daily life, because writers, like all people, must live life daily and sometimes it will feel good to rant about that.
Authors are expected to have an online presence—when an editor or an agent types your name into a search engine, stuff has to come up. Not only do authors need a website, but they need a twitter account and a Facebook page. They need to be Linked-In and have a Pinterest. They must Blog and post photos on Instagram. And then there’s Google+, Tumblr and whatever else has sprouted up since I started writing this post. To sum it up in one word, an author is expected to have a platform.