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Wednesday, May 26, 2010
I'll start writing another novel soon, but the characters will be new acquaintances to shape and form. Will they be quirky? Sweet? Intollerant? Murderers? All of the above? Yes. That's my style. You writers out there, how do you handle end of the book grief? Please advise.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
WRITING MEMOIR by Caliboat,et.al.
“I never thought of you as being rebellious,” Dee said. She was half way through reading a part of the writing I had been working on recently. We were sitting in a neighborhood café called “The Family Restaurant”. Not much creativity in that name! I had chosen a table in a far corner where it was as quiet as possible. We wanted to talk and I wanted to give her a chance to read a part of my memoir.
Four young construction workers on their lunch hour in a booth nearby were having a fine time talking too loudly and laughing and joking together. The television sounded off above the counter. The waitress greeted a customer with,
“Hi! Bill! How are you today? As usual, our specials are on the chalkboard over there…….The baked ham sure looks good.”
Through the noise and clatter of very informal “dining” Dee and I tried to visit. Then, while she read, I looked around the room. I tried to appear nonchalant about Dee’s reading. I didn’t want to rush her. I wanted her to be able to get the full import of what I was trying to say on paper. It seemed she was really surprised about what she was reading.
“I just can’t believe that you were ever rebellious”, she reported about the teenager I was revealing to her. She stopped every once in a while to comment on things like, “You really felt that way?” and “Is this really true? About you?” After a bit more reading she questioned, “But when I knew your mother she was such a beautiful lady, so gracious and kind. I never thought she could have been like that”.
“She was very loving then too, but as she was raising us, she was really still affected by her earlier attitudes as a flapper in the ‘20’s and her responsibilities as "Mother". Our relationship changed through the years since then, and we did too”.
Dee stopped reading every once in a while to tell me something she was reminded of about her childhood. Although I was impatient for her to get on with the reading, I realized that I was accomplishing my purpose. I was tapping into my reader’s bank of experiences and she was finding common ground with me although we had very, very different backgrounds and personalities. Since I was sitting there with her, she could share these thoughts with me. If she had been alone while she read, those thoughts would have come to her but remained silent. She would not have paused in her reading, I hoped! I mentally noted where she seemed to pause to reread something. I intended to go back and check out those places to see if I could reword them to make them clearer. She finally finished reading and said that she enjoyed it very much.
We ate our lunches. Dee had her fish and chips and I had my sandwich of freshly baked ham and lettuce and tomato. As usual, we both asked for white styrofoam boxes. We put the remaining halves of our lunches in them as “carry outs”. Dee was a widow and lived alone and her carryout was for her supper that night. I always took mine home for breakfast the next morning. I never liked traditional breakfast food, except for bacon and eggs. There was nothing special about the food but the place was convenient and on the way to the supermarket.
Later in the car on the way to shop, Dee made a pensive remark, “You know, I think I like you better since reading that you weren’t perfect when you were young.”
I thought, “Whoopee! I’ve hit the jackpot!”
Dee always said that she considered me her closest and best friend. We had known each other for almost thirty years. We knew each other’s joys and sorrows. We confided to each other on many of the events in our lives. I knew I had told her about my teen years, but this time she “heard” something that hadn’t registered with her before. I had managed to break through the mystique that she always seemed to attach to me, her “teacher” friend.
. . .
“Why would I want to expose my faults and imperfections to my readers?” That was the question my husband asked me after reading another even more revealing part of my writing.
“Because it’s “Me”. I’m striving for absolute honesty.”
I was still fumbling for a more complete answer. There’s no sense in writing if I don’t give people some meat to chew on, something that causes them to dip into their own being, to grow, to change, or to understand me better.
I wrote about my life ever since I started keeping a diary in grade school. The diary is long gone but as an adult I threw the sheets of longhand into one of several cardboard boxes out under my worktable in my craft room. I don’t know but what the silverfish have gotten into the boxes by now and reduced my literary jewels to flakes of well shredded paper! I frequently used journaling as therapy to help get me through some very difficult times.
Recently, I began to do some serious writing that I hoped will be interesting to my descendants, if someone values it enough to save it! It is my intent to tell them what life was like in the late 1900’s and the new twenty first century. I recognized my writing as journaling. I became bored with “Just the facts, Ma'am” as Joe Friday, the detective used to say on “Dragnet”, a popular weekly TV serial program in the 1970’s. I began including reflections and attempts at reasoning in my journaling.”
When someone asked me what I was writing, I’d reply almost apologetically reply, “Oh, just stuff about my life.”
Then another good friend, Lynne, told me of a class offered for seniors ("the elderly") at nearby California State University San Marcos. The title of the course was “Writing Memoir”. We enrolled in it and that professor turned on the proverbial light bulb. Here was just what I had been leaning toward all along. I learned that memoir is much more than just a factual reporting of events that took place in one’s life. It is the product of processing the facts, ruminating on them, and coming up with concepts of cause and effect, or growth, or progress toward changed behavior. It involves analysis rather than just recording.
Maureen Murdock in her book, “The Unreliable Truth” states,
“The memoirist…both recounts an event and muses on it. “What meaning, what value do I attach to how my life has unfolded? How did this happen? How did that happen?” Finding out the truth of what happened could certainly challenge one’s sense of self.”(P.12)
“A memoir is a slice of life about which a writer muses, struggling to achieve some understanding of a particular life experience. A successful memoir demonstrates a writer’s slow coming in awareness, some reckoning with herself over time, some understanding of how her unconscious is at work. Because of this reckoning, the writing of memoir is not without pain. A memoir that successfully taps the reservoir of universal human feeling resonates strongly with its readers.” (P.24)
“Each memoirist has a different purpose in undertaking the writing of memoir, but each attempts the risky task of excavating specific events in order to understand the truth of her life.”(p.54)
“Lauren Slater challenges the reader to examine the nature of truth as she constructs her memory in her book, “Lying”. She asks the reader to confront the veracity of the masks we each wear, the stories we tell about ourselves, our families, our lovers, what we do for attention, affection, and acceptance: and how we make our way in the world.” (P.55)
Because of what I learned in that class I became able to answer the question, “What are you writing?” with “I’m writing memoir. It means that I have to try to be absolutely honest in telling a part of my life story. It contains social commentaries and spiritual insights that come to me as I remember and write about it. It‘s kinda like saying, ‘and the moral to the story is…”
If more explanation seems necessary I say, “Memoir is different from autobiography and journaling. It’s a very personal slice of life, not one’s whole life. I want to share with my reader some commentary and insight. In my case I hope to show changes in my character, both good and bad, as related to my position before God. It was not always constant and it wavered dramatically according to my obedience or defiance of God’s will, His Word the Bible, and His commandments. I hope my writing will explain how I became the person I really am today”.
These events in my life are absolutely true, to the best of my recollection. However, to engage and hold the reader’s attention, some of the material is presented as stories rather than as exposition or narration. This necessitates the construction of conversations from long ago, that cannot possibly be quotations. The dialogue is designed only as a vehicle to illustrate relationships and situations between actual characters in my past.
With this as an introduction, I humbly offer my readers the following memoir entitled “Impaled…………”
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
These two-legs take everything of mine. Their huge dens surround me. My mate is gone. Our pups died by the legs of a big-squasher, and dirt-thrower, sat on by a two-leg. It is better to be on top of the big-squasher.
I prowl night and day, mostly for big-ear hoppers. What will happen when they are gone? I cannot eat these prickly plants or stick-me bushes. I cannot eat the sand. If I get by the two-leg dens, there will be more dens and they will put a hole in me, like the one I licked on my mate before she died.
One day I prowl by the dens and spot a big round two-leg with fur under his nose and his smaller sun-speckled faced two-leg pup watching me, both with big eyes. Strange, every chance I get I hide. Every chance they get they look for me. Leave me alone, I chase big-ear hoppers. They are fast, but easy, really. Just be ready to lope between them and their nests and then be where they want to go, before they get there. But these two-legs do not need my food. So they can stay away.
Fur-Nose, and Speckle-Face look, and once-in-a-while Fur-Nose’s mate looks. But what do they want? The Earth Mother favors me anyway. They will have to be good to me.
I am hungry today. The big ear hoppers are hiding. I am very hungry tonight. I had to eat a two-leg’s meow hunter. But, I did not eat Fur-Nose, Speckle-Face, and Mate’s big furry hunter.
Their hunter does not bark at me, does not bark at all. She just stays by Fur-Nose and Speckle-Face, and watches me. Hey, I am not that good looking. I hide but she must smell me, because I smell her. I am lonely, so I will not eat her. Maybe we can have pups. But, No-Bark will not leave her big den.
I stare. I promise, I will not eat you, but she just smiles back.
Every day and every night, she watches me. The two-legs try to see me. I stare back at No-Bark and then hide.
No-Bark has thick two-shade fur and a tail that says, follow me, play with me. She has a tail like my own, and ears like mine but smaller. I cannot get her. I will not climb over into the big den; Fur-Nose might kill me with his hole-maker.
At the end of another day, I fall into a hole a two-leg on a big-squasher made. Stupid of me, the earth falls down. My leg goes the wrong way. I cannot get out. It is too deep, and I am too broken.
I guess I will die here. I have no mate, no pups. I am dead already.
Speckle-Face and No-Bark look down at me with a piece of lightning fire. Just go away, you see me here, I am hungry, I will bite you, I am broken, and I will die. Then, they will eat me.
No-Bark cries and stays, while Speckle-Face goes and comes back with Fur-Nose. Fur-Nose has cow skins on his hands and many other animal skins all over him. He reaches down. I bite hard on the cow-hand, he makes a big noise, but tries again. Now, cow would be good food, but not Fur-Nose; he is too salty, and these two-legs are too scary.
Just let me die. I give up.
He pulls me up. He holds on to me, as if I am a two-leg baby or his Speckle-Face. Hey, I am not a pup anymore. Stop it. Their eyes never stop looking at me. No-Bark jumps and sniffs. Why? What is the use? I know, take me to your den, I will die and you all can eat fresh meat. He takes me to a two-leg who sticks me with a tiny piece of stick-me bush. I wake up and my leg is in chalky stone. I gnaw, but I cannot break the stone and it tastes terrible. So, I give up. I go to Fur-Nose’s den. The den has many little dens inside, with two-leg things everywhere. One day Fur-Nose takes me back to Stick-Me. He sticks me and I wake up with no stone on my leg.
My leg is good now.
Back in the den, I eat the strange food No-Bark eats. I hide from Fur-Nose, Speckle-Face, and Mate, but they just smile. Speckle-Face is always making happy noises when he sees me. I like him, but I still hide. Mate sounds like a bird. They all make great smells from the food place, sometimes for me. Oh, burnt cow is very good.
No-Bark howls every night. I yip and howl. Sometimes we howl together. What a strange den it is. It has trees that go sideways with many trunks. I often think I should mark these trunks, but No-Bark always gives me the no look. It is a den. I understand. So, we pee on the little plants, under the hot sun and the cold moon.
I could climb over the den and run, but I have no mate, I lost my pups. And, big-ear hoppers are hard to catch, these days.
One day, other two-legs come and they all make angry noise at each other. They take me back to Stick-Me. This time Stick-Me is sad, when he holds the tiny piece of stick-me bush. He is going to kill me. Held down by vines, I cannot move. I give up.
Fur-Nose and Speckle-Face come in with another two-leg who has a string of flat flowers down his chest and large white leaves in his hand, which he waves at Stick-Me. I go with Fur-Nose and Speckle-Face. Stick-Me smiles.
Many two-legs come to see me in the den. They build Fur-Nose’s den higher on the outside under the hot sun and the cold moon. No-Bark sleeps with me now, and she will have our pups.
Fur-Nose and Speckle-Face sit and look at me. They push my fur. I do not know if I like it. I often hide, but they always find me, and then they look at me, and touch me again, and again, and again. I give up.
I will like this someday. No-Bark does.
One day I think I like it; I like Fur-Nose and Speckle-Face. I love them and No-Bark. Mate hides from me, but I prance. My eyes see her eyes. I am not that good looking, but she will like me. Then she will love me, and I, well, I already love her. Fur-Nose, Speckle-Face, Mate, No-Bark, and I do-not-know-my-name smell, hear, and watch the big-ear hoppers, but they are impossible to catch these days.
Fur-Nose, Speckles, and Mate call me Coyote. No-Bark does not call me anything. She licks me and so do our puppies.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Summer arrived, no more school, just a ton of summer reading, and my first true love, whoever she was. The moms and dads were talking about building a community pool. In the meantime, I was carted off to a pool down the road maybe 15 minutes by moms taking turns with station wagons. They hauled me and my noisy friends. I became quiet. I was more interested in another station wagon, which I couldn’t hitch a ride with, because I was a boy, still am. Hey at fifteen, I already had played spin-the-bottle and hung out for a while with a different girl every other week. I kissed a lot of the girls in the neighborhood, but somebody in that other station wagon made me curious, Margie, a fourteen year old beauty with the sweetest smile. Margie was untouchable because she was a good girl, a real good girl. A girl my mom would be so proud of. She had no experience with boys, but I’d change all that.
Down a dust clouded dirt road we rambled to a pool surrounded by hide-and-seek sand dunes and pine trees. There we would read, play tag, race. I was the fastest swimmer, but Margie wanted to catch me or beat me to a wall. I wouldn’t let her. She was so sweet, but her parents protected her with a ton of rules. They wouldn’t let her out of their sight, except for these innocent trips to this piece of heaven called a pool, where they left her with some of her girlfriends and other moms as chaperones.
One of her friends mentioned she thought Margie liked me, a nice surprise. She wouldn’t tell me how she knew, “Oh just a hunch.”
I talked about it with my guy friends, more to stop competition than get approval. This went on for two weeks. I really had to make some sort of move before one of my friends ruined it all for me by stealing her affection, but I feared rejection. I certainly couldn’t try the day Margie’s mom assumed hawk duty. If the right mom stood guard, maybe, just maybe, she'd look the other way, or better, just smile at young love, and keep a secret. I knew the right moms. I prayed. I also prayed for bravery. You never want to get rejected, your friends might start snickering, and worse Margie might not come to the pool anymore. I’d forever lose her.
I sat down on one of the three blankets with all the kids, picking a little bit of pine tree shade. She sprang out of the pool like a mermaid and plopped right next to me on the spot I maneuvered by stretching out then withdrawing my legs as soon as she came close. Her girlfriends giggled for some good reason I hoped. This had to be it. Mrs. Julien was on duty. She loved us, had an open mind. She’d keep a secret. Her laughing smile under dark black sunglasses meant to me, what are you waiting for.
“I’ve got some extra peanut butter and jelly to swap,” I said peeking at Margie’s locked gaze and holding out the wax paper with the sandwich for her inspection.
“How about a Tastycake for half a sandwich?” Margie asked, giving me that I can’t eat all-of-that look. Just maybe behind those sweet eyes, she was feeling the same crazy excitement I felt. I’d explode if I were a balloon. So how would I find out if she felt the same?
“Do you like to play cards? I asked.
“I’d love to.” She said. More giggling. My heart swelled. I could hardly look at her, but I had to, I was the guy. I had to lead her, but I wasn’t sure just where. Margie was still just a kid in a young lady’s perfect body, perfect for me. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I’d take a chance. I made my plan.
To be continued . . .