Me? Write a Memoir? But…!

by Gail Kittleson

Decades ago, some friends invited us to go rafting on a local stream. I thought our son, three years old at the time, would be excited, but he said,

          “I’m scared of those rabbits, Mommy.”

          “Rabbits?”

          “Yeah. Evelyn said we’re going to come to some rabbits…”

Those rapids would’ve scared me, too, if I thought they might hop into our raft. After a bit of explanation about the mild rapids, our son loved rafting.

**

Misunderstandings often ground our fears, and this proves true with writing. Being afraid to express our anxieties in black and white originates in false assumptions:

  1. What we write may be used against us.
  2. There’s a ‘right’ way to write, and we haven’t learned how.
  3. Once we write something down, we’re bound to the perspective we embraced at the time.
  4. Once written, our words will be “golden,” and therefore, we can’t destroy them.

          First of all, what we write may be used against us. But this is no reason to forego all the benefits of the process. Writing in a safe place that no one ever sees has done wonders for many people experiencing trials.

The feeling that we have no control over who might see what we write can keep us bound by the tide of emotions swirling inside us. Launching out to safely journal our thoughts, tied irrevocably to those emotions, may seem beyond our power.

          In order to take this tentative step, we must unlearn the second misconception, that there’s a ‘right’ way to write. Nothing could be farther from the truth. No perfect method for expressing what we feel exists.

In fact, the ‘perfect way’ will be the way our words come out. Each person’s story contains unique content, since it comes from our one-of-a-kind inner being. Each of us perceives even the identical situation with variations.

A family outsider, my sister, or my brother will see what I remember differently than I do. But my first feeble step—even if that amounts to writing one short paragraph about what’s transpiring inside me—unleashes immense healing power.

          Now to the third misnomer: we are not bound by our viewpoint at any given time. A glance around us reveals that everything changes constantly. The only constant is change, as they say.

If I still looked at what I experienced fifteen years ago with the same eyes, I would be in big trouble. But the thing is, I would never have arrived at my present perspective if I hadn’t started writing down my thoughts and feelings.

          At the time, my journal pages seemed somehow sacred, and they were. But as the years have passed, I’ve grown, and at certain points, I let go of certain writings from the pasts. Burned them, because they no longer seemed ‘golden.’ Some of them, I kept and edited. And re-edited, and re-re-edited into a memoir. That’s not the route for everyone, but proved to be an important part of my journey.

The point is, your writings are your writings. You have the right to choose what to do with them, including chucking them down a sinkhole never to be seen again.

And the broader point is that in the darkness of an emotional avalanche, we cannot even know what we think. By allowing words to flow from us, we invite clarity, and through this process, discover truths we would never have imagined.

Words equal an enormous gift—penned quietly in secret places, they blossom like hidden desert plants that bloom in darkness, where no one observes. But their flowers bear perfume, attracting the necessary insects for pollination. It may be that we will rework and launch our writings into a published memoir, but either way, this practice can become a powerful experience.

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than You.” 
Dr. Seuss

 

Gail Kittleson 2

When Gail’s not steeped in World War II historical research, writing, or editing, you’ll find her reading for fun, gardening, or enjoying her grandchildren in Northern Iowa. She delights in interacting with readers who fall in love with her characters.

Gail Kittleson taught college expository writing and ESL before writing women’s historical fiction. From northern Iowa, she facilitates writing workshops and women’s retreats, and enjoys the Arizona Ponderosa forest in winter.

catching up

Catching Up With Daylight; a Journey to Wholeness, is Gail’s own memoir. She and her husband began renovating an old house after he returned from a deployment in Iraq.  The book is “a gorgeous tapestry of non-fictional thoughts. This very gifted author knows how to weave her thoughts, memories, and the history of the old house she is refurbishing into a journey of emotional and spiritual wholeness.”

 

Women of the Heartland, Gail’s World War II series, highlights women of The Greatest Generation: In Times Like These, April 2016, With Each New Dawn, February, 2017 A True Purpose (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, and Word Crafts Press, December, 2017.)

 

  Cover_APuroseTrue    With Each New Dawn    In-times-like-these
Visit her at the following social media sites:

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NOTE: This article was posted for Gail Kittleson by The Writers In Residence member, Jackie Houchin

Writing with a Partner

 

Where Ideas for Novel Begin

by Janet Elizabeth Lynn

5 ideasMy husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylar Drake Mysteries, a hardboiled detective series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, GAME TOWN, is set in Hollywood and exposes a scandal that rocks the toy companies in Los Angeles.

While doing in-depth research into 1950s Hollywood, we came across news that amazed us! Because of the glitz and riches of old Hollywood we wanted to provide the feel of it. The only way to do that was to go to Hollywood and find what we needed.

All authors will give you a myriad of answers when you ask, “Where do you get your ideas?”  And we also give many ways in which we get ideas for our plots, sub plots, characters, and locations, which can be just about anywhere.

book cover As a co-author we agree on location first when we start a new novel, then comes the murders, victims and culprits. In GAME TOWN, we worked backward for some reason. We had the murder, victim and culprit, and lastly we decided where. Hollywood. But exactly where we weren’t sure.  We live about forty miles south of Hollywood and go quite often to events, affairs and for pleasure. So we are very familiar with the area, but exactly where…we didn’t know. FIELD TRIP shouted in our ears.

 

5 blue line We took the train to Hollywood, and began in the heart of it, Hollywood Blvd and Highland, right in front of the Chinese Theatre. We walked round among the street performers, gawking visitors and local business people. It was typical beautiful day in Hollywood, but nothing shouted out at us…until. We happened to come across the Egyptian Theatre with its beautiful Egyptian themed frescoes and statues. We noticed a red carpet had been set up for an event that evening… and it was heavily guarded.

5 Egyptian Theatre

As we walked around, both of us kept looking back at the red carpet setup. Will said, “There has to be something we can use here.”

5 Red Carpet 02 We both looked back at the red carpet, looked at each other and realized, Hollywood is known for its red carpet affairs, and various award shows.

We found a small park and began to research the 1957 Academy awards and Emmy awards. We discovered they were both held in March and only ten days apart.

“What a great way to begin a novel,” I said. Will agreed. But which one?

We continued walking through the streets of Hollywood looking at other restaurants, and famous sites to include in the book, but the idea of an award ceremony stayed in our head.

It was during the train ride back, I said in passing, “We should use both award ceremonies.”

Will said, “Let’s begin with the Emmys 3/17/57 and end the book with the Academy Award Ceremony 3/27/57. After all it is Hollywood.”

It was perfect.

So the moral of the story is: When you’re stuck for an idea, go for a walk, and visit locations that are similar or the actual location of your story to get great ideas and scenes.

book coverGAME TOWN is the fifth and final book in the series and yes… we are still married!

Website:  Janet Elizabeth Lynn     http://www.janetlynnauthor.com

Website:  Will Zeilinger                  http://www.willzeilingerauthor.com

 

 

 

Posted for our good friends, Janet and Will, by G.B. Pool. Good luck with the new book.

Writing Isn’t Necessarily For The Shy

by Linda O. Johnston       

Shy I was a shy kid. 

I stumbled when teachers called on me in classrooms from elementary school through high school, and seldom raised my hand to provide an answer.  I could, however, be someone else on stage and so I managed to do okay acting in a play.

When I was about to graduate from high school, one of my English teachers called me into her office and warned me I would never be successful, since I couldn’t talk in class.

Even so, I did okay in undergraduate school.  But when I went to law school and had to participate in moot court, I was advised to join Toastmasters. Microphones

That worked–or at least well enough so I had no problem passing even my litigation-oriented classes, even though I intended to become a transactional attorney.

And all this time, I had started my writing and kept on going.

MicrophoneFlash forward quite a few years.  I eventually started having novels published.  I loved it!  But I also learned that part of attempting to be successful was that you had to get out there and publicize your books.  And so, I started volunteering for panels first, then gave talks on my own.  Somehow, I managed to get through them.

And now?  Well, now I’m fine getting up in front of a group and talking, particularly about my writing and the genres I write in.  Which is fortunate.  Last weekend, I attended California Dreamin’, a local romance writers’ conference held every two years.  I had already registered and planned to attend.

But then, on Thursday, I received an email.  Could I please give a talk on my own on Saturday?  A person who’d planned to attend and provide a talk on cozy mysteries and romance novels was unfortunately ill, and they needed me to substitute for her.

Two days to prepare for a one-hour speech.  Could I get it prepared?  Could I actually present it in front of a group? 

Friendly MicYes!  In fact, I’d started doing talks and panels long enough ago now that I just had to do a search on my computer and find notes for a talk I’d given a few years ago that I updated.

I think my talk went over well.  I enjoyed giving it, and my audience seemed engaged and asked good, pertinent questions–which I could answer without referring to my notes the way I needed to when I started out.

So am I shy any more?  I don’t think so, at least not externally.  And I have learned my lesson.  If you’re going to be a writer, it definitely helps to deal with any shyness you have and, preferably, get over it.

How shy are you?Bow

START BY MAKING YOUR BED… by Rosemary Lord

06694-rosemaryatburbanklibraryjpgI have just returned from a long weekend in Vancouver – as you do. I went up there for the Left Coast Crime Writers’ Conference, A Whale of a Crime!

 

The air was fresh with Spring promise and the weather mild – after much cold and rain, I am told. It was expensive. All the attendees were moaning about this – until some of us found a hidden MacDonald’s and the Canadian equivalent, Tim Horton’s. But the local people and hotel staff were very friendly and helpful as we rushed from lectures to book-signings at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Vancouver, just a few blocks from the waterfront.  What’s not to like?

 

It was great to discover so many authors – mostly Canadian – new to me.

Books

A Keynote speaker was British-born Maureen Jennings who emigrated to Canada as a teenager. She is now one of their most successful writers and author of the Detective Murdoch mystery series and, since 2007, a highly popular television series, Murdoch Mysteries.

 

Welsh-born Cathy Ace was Toastmaster. Now a Canadian resident, Cathy created the highly popular series of books about the WISE all-women detective agency solving cases in Wales – and eight books about criminal psychologist sleuth Cait Morgan.

 

Ghost of Honor was the late Canadian author, Laurali Rose Wright, winner of several awards for her mystery novels, who died in 2001. There was a special tribute to the late Sue Grafton, too. American Guest of Honor was cowboy author C.J. Box – who never took off  his cowboy hat .

 

signIt was a great time to meet up with old writer friends like Stephen Buehler, who’s short story is in the new collection Murder-a-Go-Go, novelist-sommelier Nadine Nettmann, now Arizona resident and ex-fellow blogger Kate Thornton, Travis Richardson, Craig Faustus Buck, award-winning Scottish Catriona McPherson, and award-winning Brit Rhys Bowen.

 

There were many readers and book-fans, as well as authors. And there was much talk about getting kids to read. Apparently, today around 65% of children leave school not being able to read properly. I was shocked, as my family devoured books almost as soon as we could totter over to the book shelves. In some homes today, they don’t even have books. So there were discussions about how to help and encourage today’s children to read.

 

Internet Friends WorldAnother thing that was pointed out was the lack of children’s and YA books written with boy heroes. Boys need heroes, too. There are plenty of books with princesses and other assorted girl heroines. Most writers have female protagonist and there is a decided lack of boy sleuths and boy role models in today’s books for children and young adults.

 

When I was a kid, we had Enid Blyton’s wonderful adventures of The Famous Five and The Secret Seven: boys and girls solving mysteries on their summer holidays, often at the seaside where there were caves in which to explore, or on a grandparent’s farm. Very wholesome adventures, where these boys and girls meet up each holiday and get caught up in another adventure. But it was girls and boys, with equal focus. Today’s writers seem to focus only on girls.

Okay, fellow writers, how about that? Anyone inspired to remedy this? There’s a whole untapped market out there that publishers and writers could fill.

Switch5

Another topic that came up during the children’s illiteracy discussions was how important it was to “get them while they’re young.” To guide and encourage children from a very early age to find their own individual path in life. To encourage children to think for themselves, to be curious about different subjects that will stand them in good stead as they grow older. How many of us writers knew from a very young age that this is what we wanted to do?  We just had to pursue other paths for ‘a real job’ to pay the bills – but we knew our ultimate goal, even if we wrote only in stolen hours.

 

Children need exposure to all sorts of different subjects in life – and not have their heads stuck in video games where they speak to no-one and lack person-to-person communication skills. Kids need to communicate with real people of all ages. This gives them confidence to deal with life’s challenges. And what better way to inspire this than through books they read.

 

Children need encouragement. People need encouragement. Some more than others.

I remember being taught to make my bed first thing in the morning. If you just do that each day, you have accomplished something. If you’re so down in the dumps that you think you have done nothing with your life, when you go to bed at night you see a freshly made bed – even if it’s not that neat. You did something that day. It is always the little, almost insignificant things that make the difference. Little things we can build on, little step by little step.

So, here I am surrounded by un-opened mail, half-unpacked luggage from my stolen literary weekend, tired from lack of sleep and jet-lag, with a mound of laundry waiting. I sleepily wonder what to do first? I promised so many new friends made at the Vancouver conference that I would contact them…. and yes, I would get new business cards made, finish my website… Most importantly, finish the second Lottie Topaz book. I have serious reports to write for the Woman’s Club with deadlines of today – for the sorry saga of saving this historic Hollywood landmark that is so close to great success.  I have to write the Writers In Residence Blog. I have a heap of bills to pay. I have nothing to eat in the fridge, so I need to go to Trader Joe’s. It is just getting too much. What was I thinking! I feel such a failure. Where do I start….?

I start by making my bed. There. I’ve accomplished something. Now I feel better. Now for a cup of tea….

 

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