Writing the Memoir


Outtakes 185

Writing the Memoir

by Cait Collins

What is the best way to prepare to write a memoir? Like any other genre, there are numerous approaches to researching and writing a personal story. The following are a few suggestions for getting started.

Write from memory. I began writing Tables and First Love Forever Love by drafting chapters based on my memories of events, places, and people. After completing the draft, I’d read and edit the piece, making notes of facts I needed to check. I’d research the missing information, make the necessary changes, and polish the chapter before presenting it to my critique group. I find getting the basics on paper and then filling in details works best for me.

Go through family photo albums to get inspiration. Sometimes there is a glimmer of an idea for a scene, but the memories just don’t click. A picture can jog the memory and spark your imagination. With the photograph nearby, the writing flows and soon you have a draft of the chapter.

Look for letters, journals, school memorabilia, and yearbooks that might lend insight into your project. My father’s military papers and his notes and writings have been as valuable as I write Tables.

Music is a good trigger. Download some of the songs from your youth and listen to them while you work. If you are describing how you met your spouse, sit back and enjoy “your song” or the music played at your prom.

If you think you would like to write a memoir for your children and grandchildren, try journaling. I’m not suggesting you write about putting carrots in the crock pot on a daily basis; however, keeping notes about vacations, holidays, and special events will help you when you begin to write your story.

Getting started may be the hard part, but once you determine your theme and the events you want to record, the project will move along quickly. The memories will flow and you’ll find yourself laughing and crying as you write. That’s good because those emotions will translate to the writing. Just remember to focus on the reason you are working on the memoir, and let that be your guide.

Advertisements

How Did You Do It?


css-inspiration-for-writers-2How Did You Do It? 

By Rory C. Keel

This is the number one question I’m asked when others learn that my story, The Challenge, was published in the recent edition of Chicken Soup for the Soul:Inspiration for Writers. 

There is no magic button

In trying to answer this question, I realized there is no one specific thing that will get a story published. There is no switch to flip or button to push that makes it happen, nor did I have an acquaintance or inside contact at Chicken Soup.

However, hard work along with a few of the following things can improve your chance of success.

Journal

To keep me from getting writer’s block, I have made it a practice to write in a journal everyday. I jot down simple things like a quote, a thought or a remembrance of something in the past. Many times I express an emotion and try to explain in words how I feel. The words in a journal don’t have to be profound, hilarious or novel worthy, but write something, anything.

Over time your journal becomes a vault of story materials.

Study the publication

I believe a crucial step in getting published in any market, is to know the market. If you desire to be published in Chicken Soup, read it, study the stories and notice how they are written.

Submit, Submit, Submit

Watch for story call outs. Many publications announce the type of stories they are seeking to publish. This is where the journal comes in handy. You may have story material already waiting to be expanded, worked or polished.

Early in my writing at a writer’s conference, I remember a publisher who said, “Ninety-five percent of those who want to be published begin writing, but only five percent finish and submit.”

Remember

Finally, sometimes it’s a matter of having good work at the right place at the right time.

roryckeel.com

Journaling


Journaling
 by Sharon Stevens
There are so many simple memories within our life and those of our families and friends…moments that are fleeting, but not gone forever. A single word, phrase or a picture helps to bring these memories back into focus and into our thoughts.
Take a second to restore these precious treasures to your heart and soul.
You don’t need a fancy journal. Any writing surface will do whether it is a diary, notebook, scrap of paper, school spiral or “Big Chief Tablet”. And don’t be afraid to record any insignificant thought. You never know when this just might be the memory that will touch you not just for today but in the years to come as well.
Below are just a few triggers to help you get started.
“Writing Other Days and Nights and Times of Your Life”
By Maria Altevers-excerpted from Personal Journaling June 2001
Birthdays-Keep the memories-good or bad- of how you celebrated all the birthdays of your life by storing them in this journal.
Sunday afternoons-Record the lazy Sundays that you lived through. Looking back you might find ways to make those afternoons more productive…or not.
Friendship-Keeping a journal with your friends or about your friendships will strengthen the bond that is already present. Plus by communicating in this journal when trouble strike, you may curb the turmoil at the start and avoid major damage to the relationships.
Baby/Child-Forge an even deeper bond between yourself and your children by keeping a journal for them while they are young. It will make a great gift once they are old enough to appreciate such a wonderful and love filled book. Pregnant? Write a journal as your baby grows in the womb.
Sister/brother-Try to avoid the pitfalls of sibling rivalry and strengthen your relationships by channeling your feelings into a journal. One day, the pages might serve up a good laugh.
Women’s (PMS, pregnancy, childbirth menopause)-Keep track of the positives and negatives of womanhood in a journal. It might help preserve the joyous memories of giving birth or help funnel and deal with more emotional times-when hormones are raging.
Work-Schedule those important meetings and luncheons or use this journal to help dissolve job stress. It will enable you to keep your work life separate from your personal life.
School-Not only can you write about all the wonderful-and not so wonderful- times at school, you will have a place to store all those mementos that you’re not quite ready to leave behind.
Pet-If a dog is man’s best friend, treat him that way. Dedicate a journal to your pet. Capture funny moments, paste in pictures and track appointments to the vet.
Exercise-Most people agree that exercise is hard work. Monitoring your fitness progress in a journal can help motivate you to keep it up.
Interactive-Communication is hard to achieve in any relationship. Create a nonverbal dialogue in this diary you share and take turns writing in with another person.
Meditation-Where does your mind wander during meditation? Keep a grasp on peaceful feelings by channeling those thoughts into a journal. It may be a source of comfort during times when meditation just isn’t enough.
Cooking/Food-Journaling about cooking or food and your eating habits just might lead to a healthier lifestyle. You may get tired of writing about the same old foods and, in turn, become inspired to prepare more interesting and healthier meals.
Vacation-Keep all your vacation memories in one place by herding them into this journal, or keep a separate book for each vacation. Both will become an easy reference when reminiscing with family and friends.
Restaurant-Don’t let the restaurants of your traveling experience be forgotten. After visiting new sites, dining can be that relaxing moment when you learn about cultural food and tastes and when you discuss the places you’ve seen. Not a big traveler? That doesn’t mean you can’t still record the fun dining experiences of your life.
HolidayThis will make a nice conversation starter during future holidays when you want to retell the unforgettable stories of celebrations past.
Devotional-This can be a journal of quotes from religious texts or personal thoughts on religious matters. It will allow you to focus on your spiritual side, even if you don’t necessarily practice a particular religion.
Inspirational-This can be classified as a wisdom-for-living journal. Keeping quotes from your favorite authors, philosophers, teachers, family members and more will help to motivate you when you’re dealing with life’s obstacles.
Poetry-Use this journal to store your own poetry, as well as favorites you hold in high esteem. You can also include snippets of thoughts, passing ideas or images…
Gardening-Writing about something you care about can add a whole new perspective on your hobby. This journal can keep track of the seasons of growing for you and your garden.
Photography-Keep a journal of your favorite photos-from your life or from magazines, newspapers, or the Internet. Pictures are still frames of life; they can trigger a memory or spark an idea that’ll keep you writing for days.
Music-Whether you play or just listen, keeping a music journal can help you categorize your favorites. Make lists of your own “Best Albums Ever” and “Best Love Songs” or just write down the words to moving songs. Who knows maybe someday you’ll write your own music.
Hiking/Biking-Have you ever hiked to the top of a hill to find beautiful scenery, then forgotten the path that you took? Record all your hiking experiences and use it as your own personal, self-made guide when you get the next itch to go hiking.
Good laughs-Recall those times when you just couldn’t stop laughing. Write down what made you laugh good and long-before you forget.
Grief-Channel your grief in a positive way by journaling about it. This can be an aid and a comfort to you in your time of need.
Golf-Not a golfer? Keep a similar journal for any sport. Learn to improve by indexing games. Keep track of clubs used when you did right and high and low scores.
Sharon Stevens

The Journal Jar


Outtakes #34

 The Journal Jar

I believe writers should write something every day. I do have an advantage as my job requires me to write. That does not mean it’s always easy to be creative in my commercial endeavors. Unfortunately, sitting at the computer forcing words on to the screen does not always provide useable material. That’s when I look for alternative inspiration.

A Secret Sister gave me the best gift for a writer—a Journal Jar. The jar is full of slips of paper with writing assignments. Subjects include music, art, family, friends, school days, holidays, and dreams. I have a special journal I keep with the jar. When I get stuck or don’t have hours to sit at my computer, I pull a slip out of the jar, paste it to the top of a blank page, and begin to work on the request.

There’s true liberation in this type of journaling. The writer is not confined to reciting historic events in a who, what, where, when, why format. Instead he is permitted, encouraged to relive an event. Recall the sights, scents, sounds of the occasion. What about creating your dream job? What would you do? How do you envision your day? What kind of education would you need? In a few minutes, a couple of pages are filled with creative details.

Not only does the Journal Jar provide a creative outlet for the writer, it is a record of the times. It may also give your children and grandchildren a chuckle when they read about your youthful exploits.

So where do you find Journal Jar strips? My Secret Sister found mine on-line. Fire up your favorite search engine and browse the web for journaling supplies. Don’t forget a book or notebook to record your assignments. Oh, yes, you’ll need a pen. I like gel pens in different colors. Open your journal and your mind. It’s fun.

Cait Collins

Journaling


Journaling 
by Sharon Stevens
There are so many simple memories within our life and those of our families and friends…moments that are fleeting, but not gone forever. A single word, phrase or a picture helps to bring these memories back into focus and into our thoughts.
Take a second to restore these precious treasures to your heart and soul.
You don’t need a fancy journal. Any writing surface will do whether it is a diary, notebook, scrap of paper, school spiral or “Big Chief Tablet”. And don’t be afraid to record any insignificant thought. You never know when this just might be the memory that will touch you not just for today but in the years to come as well.
Below are just a few triggers to help you get started.
“Writing Other Days and Nights and Times of Your Life”
By Maria Altevers-excerpted from Personal Journaling June 2001
Birthdays-Keep the memories-good or bad- of how you celebrated all the birthdays of your life by storing them in this journal.
Sunday afternoons-Record the lazy Sundays that you lived through. Looking back you might find ways to make those afternoons more productive…or not.
Friendship-Keeping a journal with your friends or about your friendships will strengthen the bond that is already present. Plus by communicating in this journal when trouble strike, you may curb the turmoil at the start and avoid major damage to the relationships.
Baby/Child-Forge an even deeper bond between yourself and your children by keeping a journal for them while they are young. It will make a great gift once they are old enough to appreciate such a wonderful and love filled book. Pregnant? Write a journal as your baby grows in the womb.
Sister/brother-Try to avoid the pitfalls of sibling rivalry and strengthen your relationships by channeling your feelings into a journal. One day, the pages might serve up a good laugh.
Women’s (PMS, pregnancy, childbirth menopause)-Keep track of the positives and negatives of womanhood in a journal. It might help preserve the joyous memories of giving birth or help funnel and deal with more emotional times-when hormones are raging.
Work-Schedule those important meetings and luncheons or use this journal to help dissolve job stress. It will enable you to keep your work life separate from your personal life.
School-Not only can you write about all the wonderful-and not so wonderful- times at school, you will have a place to store all those mementos that you’re not quite ready to leave behind.
Pet-If a dog is man’s best friend, treat him that way. Dedicate a journal to your pet. Capture funny moments, paste in pictures and track appointments to the vet.
Exercise-Most people agree that exercise is hard work. Monitoring your fitness progress in a journal can help motivate you to keep it up.
Interactive-Communication is hard to achieve in any relationship. Create a nonverbal dialogue in this diary you share and take turns writing in with another person.
Meditation-Where does your mind wander during meditation? Keep a grasp on peaceful feelings by channeling those thoughts into a journal. It may be a source of comfort during times when meditation just isn’t enough.
Cooking/Food-Journaling about cooking or food and your eating habits just might lead to a healthier lifestyle. You may get tired of writing about the same old foods and, in turn, become inspired to prepare more interesting and healthier meals.
Vacation-Keep all your vacation memories in one place by herding them into this journal, or keep a separate book for each vacation. Both will become an easy reference when reminiscing with family and friends.
Restaurant-Don’t let the restaurants of your traveling experience be forgotten. After visiting new sites, dining can be that relaxing moment when you learn about cultural food and tastes and when you discuss the places you’ve seen. Not a big traveler? That doesn’t mean you can’t still record the fun dining experiences of your life.
HolidayThis will make a nice conversation starter during future holidays when you want to retell the unforgettable stories of celebrations past.
Devotional-This can be a journal of quotes from religious texts or personal thoughts on religious matters. It will allow you to focus on your spiritual side, even if you don’t necessarily practice a particular religion.
Inspirational-This can be classified as a wisdom-for-living journal. Keeping quotes from your favorite authors, philosophers, teachers, family members and more will help to motivate you when you’re dealing with life’s obstacles.
Poetry-Use this journal to store your own poetry, as well as favorites you hold in high esteem. You can also include snippets of thoughts, passing ideas or images…
Gardening-Writing about something you care about can add a whole new perspective on your hobby. This journal can keep track of the seasons of growing for you and your garden.
Photography-Keep a journal of your favorite photos-from your life or from magazines, newspapers, or the Internet. Pictures are still frames of life; they can trigger a memory or spark an idea that’ll keep you writing for days.
Music-Whether you play or just listen, keeping a music journal can help you categorize your favorites. Make lists of your own “Best Albums Ever” and “Best Love Songs” or just write down the words to moving songs. Who knows maybe someday you’ll write your own music.
Hiking/Biking-Have you ever hiked to the top of a hill to find beautiful scenery, then forgotten the path that you took? Record all your hiking experiences and use it as your own personal, self-made guide when you get the next itch to go hiking.
Good laughs-Recall those times when you just couldn’t stop laughing. Write down what made you laugh good and long-before you forget.
Grief-Channel your grief in a positive way by journaling about it. This can be an aid and a comfort to you in your time of need.
Golf-Not a golfer? Keep a similar journal for any sport. Learn to improve by indexing games. Keep track of clubs used when you did right and high and low scores.
Sharon Stevens

I NEVER KNEW


I Never Knew

When we packed up Mom’s belongings, my sisters and I did not take time to read through all the papers in her cedar chest. We looked for the necessary documents and dumped the rest in a box. I started sorting the files one winter afternoon. Mom kept every transfer order, citation, and shipping inventory from Dad’s service career beginning in 1939 when he entered the Civilian Conservation Corps to his retirement from the Air Force in 1969. I learned things about my father.  He served in two branches of the military; the Army Air Corps in World War II and then was recalled to the newly formed Air Force during the Korean War. He was an expert marksman. His fitness reports indicated he was respected by his peers and his superiors.

I enjoyed these revelations. They brought me closer to my dad, but I treasure his green notebook. You see, I met my grandfather that day. Frank Brown died in 1941; six years before my parents married and ten years prior to my birth. But when I read Dad’s handwritten stories, I met a wise, simple man who loved his family. I also learned where Dad got some of his homespun declarations like, “You will finish high school even if I have to take you to class and bounce you on my knee.”  I’m thankful we have this notebook.

Journaling and maintaining family records might seem frivolous, but they have a purpose. For example, they validate history. Think back to your history classes. How many times was a journal or set of letters cited to verify the facts surrounding an event? Mrs. Dickinson’s writings detailed the battle of the Alamo. Letters from the American West to families back East told of the hardships involved in settling the frontier. Homemakers’ recipes spoke of canning vegetables and making jams and jellies to feed the family during the winter months. These personal glimpses of history are priceless as they involve the common man and not just the historically famous names.

While I don’t believe it necessary to record putting the carrots in the Crockpot, I do suggest recording special events for posterity. I wish I had listened when my parents and grandparents spoke of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl days. I further wish I had recorded the stories. My nieces and nephews will never hear about the events from the viewpoint of a family member. There is nothing to pass on to them so that they will know their great-grand parents and great, great-grandparents contributions to history. My father was wiser than I. After all, I got to meet my grandfather seventy years after he died.

Cait Collins