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How to Read The Memoir Writer's Blog

Twice a week or so, I create a new Memoir Writer’s Blog post. I write about a variety of topics and most of them are not in sequence with what I have written previously.

I write in the Memoir Writer’s Blog as fancy takes me. Most readers do not prefer to learn in a structured manner.  What I write today may very well be the very topic s/he needs to keep going even if the memoir writer had not known that before reading the post on The Memoir Writer’s Blog.

Is there a best way to read The Memoir Writer’s Blog?

Read The Memoir Writer’s Blog as a way to create a context for you to delve into your memoir on a given day—today perhaps. Any one of the many posts can serve you as an entry point into the day’s creation.

Perhaps it is early in the morning (or at least it is time for you to write so you are early in your writing for the day). You turn your computer on, sip your coffee or tea, wonder about your day and about what you might write. You know you are going to write a portion of your memoir—or perhaps it is a memoir you are writing of one of your parents or of your spouse. Soon your RSS feed informs you there is a new post from The Memoir Writer’s Blog. You are not quite ready to start writing so you dawdle a bit and read the post. It is about technique—perhaps on beginning a section or perhaps about creating vivid character. Well, it makes sense and you decide to implement the suggestion. Or…

Perhaps you are feeling overwhelmed. You have been at this writing so long! Is it really worth continuing? You begin reading today’s post and it is a piece of memoir, the piece about when my mother’s aunt left to go back to Canada and suddenly you realize how much you want to tell the story of your aunt who died when you were twelve and how you loved her and you begin to write that. It is out of sequence but you know you can connect it later to the rest of the story. Or perhaps, before you set in to write, you turn to more of the stories of my mother—and are pleased to find so many excerpts from her memoir.  You want to see how I have handled her story or perhaps simply to live for a while in another era before you begin to write about your aunt. Or…

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Perhaps you have been questioning whether you have enough skill in presenting action effectively and you turn to the categories of the blog and, sure enough, you find there a category labeled “action” under technique and you click on it. You discover several articles on how to create more effective action. In fact, you are reminded that action is not synonymous with “interesting” but that action like character and setting has to be better crafted. Or…

Perhaps it is not motivation or craft that is stopping you but the process itself. You have been having trouble with the pre-writing function and you check the blog categories and find several excellent articles on pre-writing and, before you do anything today, you read (or re-read) these articles on The Memoir Writer’s Blog. They ground you, and you move on to the writing you wish to accomplish today.

It is now clear to you that this blog, The Memoir Writer’s Blog, is an effective tool for you to learn to be a much better memoir writer. You turn to your spouse or perhaps your friend and say, “I’m getting a writing education from The Memoir Network’s blog. That’s why I turn to it whenever I commence to write.”

Then you forward a link to The Memoir Writer’s Blog to someone you know who is writing. You know the post you are alerting your friend to it will have the same effect on him/her it had on you.

So that’s how I hope you read The Memoir Writer’s Blog.

What’s in the reading for you?

1. Regular, even daily, inspiration and motivation to write.

2. Education in both craft and process that will permit you to write the best memoir you are capable of.

I hope you won’t do this.

You can, of course, read The Memoir Writer’s Blog for entertainment, as a way of making a diversion for yourself so you don’t have to do the work that is the focus of The Memoir Writer’s Blog, but I hope you won’t do this.

We publish two—sometimes three—posts per week on a variety of topics in The Memoir Writer’s Blog. Keep coming and keep checking the categories and tags for topics that will help you to succeed. Subscribe via the FOLLOW at the bottom right of the page where you find this entry. You will receive a notice of every new entry.

Keep writing. Let this be the year you write and publish your memoir.

memories of my grandfther

Memories of My Grandfather

My grandfather William Ledoux would be 133 years old were he alive today. I would like to take a moment to honor his life by sharing some memories of my grandfather.

His early years

He was born in Lachine, Québec, on February 17, 1889, the oldest of what would be a family of six children. His mother was 20 and his father 19 at the time of his birth. The family moved from Lachine, then a small town, to Montréal when he was quite young. He grew up in Montréal in an apartment on Papineau Street. Papineau is a major artery today, but in those horse-and-buggy days, it must have been quieter. Two brothers and three sisters followed him in the next 11 years.

My great-grandfather Georges was a blacksmith in those days when there was a big need for blacksmiths. He was however in the last decades of this work as soon the automobile would be coming to replace the horse.

Healing a child

An interesting story about my grandfather’s family was how, in those days, women from the Kahnawake Iroquois reservation on the south shore of the St Lawrence would come to Montréal where they would seek temporary jobs with the women who lived in the apartments. My great-grandmother, a housewife supported by a blacksmith husband, was by no means a wealthy woman. The Indians were even less so. They would come looking for jobs like doing laundry, washing the floor, cleaning out a room.
One day, my great-grandmother Aurélie, had a sick baby on her hands when somebody knocked at the door. My grandmother went to the door to see who it could be. It was an Indian woman seeking employment. My grandmother said, “Oh, I just can’t talk to you now. I have a sick baby. He has just had a convulsion.”

The Iroquois woman asked, “Does madame have any onions?”

My great-grandmother said, “Yes, I do.”

The stranger replied, “Madame, I know what to do for your baby.” The woman entered the apartment and she and my grandmother took some onions and cut them into little pieces and they lay them on the mattress of the bed where they then placed a sheet. They put the child on the sheet. The story has it that the child got better and never had convulsions again.

My own healing

Later on, when I was a baby myself in 1947-1948, I had convulsions. My grandmother who had the story many times from her husband said to my mother, “You have got to place Denis on a bed of onions.”

My mother, being more modern than my grandmother, resisted but, after yet another convulsion, she felt rather desperate to have some remedy to my situation so she said, “Okay let’s do that.”
She and my grandmother sat down and prepared a bag of onions. They lay me on that bag of onions and that was the last time I had convulsions.

Coming Down to the US

In time, my great-grandparents decided that they could not continue their life in Montréal. My great-grandfather had an uncle who lived in New Bedford or Fall River, Massachusetts. This man told my great-grandfather Georges that if he and his family come down to the United States, he would help him to get settled with his family. My great-grandfather decided to take his uncle up on this kind offer and he made his way down to Fall River around 1900.

In Fall River, there were many Canadian immigrants. My great-grandfather spent a decade as a blacksmith but, as time went on, blacksmithing became less and less of a viable occupation. decided to become a mechanic. As a blacksmith, my great-grandfather Georges had many hands-on skills and he decided to become an automobile mechanic. (Many blacksmiths became mechanics.) He had a garage which a cousin of my father told me was the last building on the old road to New Bedford. I have never seen this building but one day I will go down and check it out. My father’s cousin said it was no longer a garage, but when you look at it, you could tell that it had once been a garage.

That is how my grandfather came down to live in the US. My grandparents met on a blind date and were married in 1912. They had five children. I have more memories of my grandfather (and grandmother) elsewhere on this site

My grandfather died on December 23rd 1972. He was a wonderful grandfather and I feel very fortunate to have known him. I have written these memories of my grandfather for family and for you, dear reader. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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flash memoir

Hot Flash Memoir: Family Photo Album

This is how I learned about hot flash memoir.

As I was cleaning out my parent’s house I made all kinds of discoveries. Like most kids (I’m referring to myself here), I never once thought of my parents as people. They were Mom and Dad. What they did before me really never entered my mind. Their life consisted of station wagons, split two-level houses in subdivisions named Spanish Trace, North Village, or Highmill Estates. They were first of all parents, then perhaps golfers or members of the country club, or the ad men on Madison Ave.

The notion that they had sex, addictions, or a secret past was the stuff of TV dramas and not particularly anything to do with our family. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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ancestors in New Frnce

Meeting My Ancestors in New France

DL: This is an excerpt from Here to Stay an account of the lives of my seventeenth-century ancestors in New France. Everything in the book is factual or a reasonable surmise (and referenced as such).

___

This book is not a history of New France. It is about some of my ancestors who came here to stay. I have provided the story of New France only for the light it casts on my people, and so I have left out large portions of that history.

This book about my ancestors in New France could have begun in 1604 with Louis Hébert, my very first ancestor in North America, but I chose to begin with my ancestors in New France who bore names that I have known all my life—my father’s and my mother’s patronyms. It begins therefore in 1662—eleven rather than thirteen generations ago—when Barthélémy Verreault arrives. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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listening to grief

Listening to Grief: The Boys Laugh Again

The following story is written by Edwina Carr-Jangarathis a memoir professional who has done considerable writing. We had the pleasure of publishing her book In Their Own Words. We hope you benefit from reading Listening to Grief: The Boys Laugh Again.

TIMKYLEEyes squeezed tightly shut, I listen for the laughter of my two grandsons as I drift on my rubber raft. I’m certain if I’m silent and try hard enough I’ll hear the laughter of the boys again. Glimpses of summer days when we laughed together flash through my mind. One day, we linked our three rafts so they bumped over the small ocean waves one after the other. Not as content as I was to sit and ride, Kyle dove down under the blue surface that seemed so deep to me, fearful as I am. Where is he? I began to worry. Then, I felt something tugging at my feet and I saw him reappeared near the edge of my rubber raft. It shook fearfully and threatened to tip. Tim came to help him “torture” me. Seeing my reaction, they laughed and pulled all the more at my raft. Splashing them in self-defense, I laughed and shouted “You can’t treat your grandmother this way.” They splashed back, giggling and kicking their feet behind them. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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develop the setting

Develop the Setting: the Somewhere of Your Story

Writers seem to grasp that every memoir needs well-developed characters and actions, but the same is always not true when they are asked to develop the setting of their memoir.

Develop the Setting

The term “setting” is generally understood to refer to the physical “where” in which your memoir takes place. This can be a city or a rural neighborhood, a state or province, a country. This sense of setting includes a house and a room and a street. If your pen were a movie camera, the setting would be what your camera would eventually project onto the screen.

In this first sense, setting is a physical and tangible element. Even when the physical setting no longer exists, your obligation as a memoirist is to reproduce it in your pages as if it were still there. The reader feels as if s/he were in the midst of the world that once was.

The memoir setting includes both where and when your story occurs.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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self-publish a memoir

9 Tips for Self-Publishing a Memoir

Can you master these 9 for self-publishing a memoir? If so, you are on your way to succeeding.

1) Do you want to reach a larger audience than family and friends when self-publishing a memoir? If so, a “real book” will be necessary. For some books that are destined to reach a handful of relatives and friends, a simple binding such as a three-ring binder or other store-bought binding will be adequate. But, for a more widely distributed book, a professional binding is absolutely required. The prices are very affordable via print-on-demand printers. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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mining memoir depths

Mining Memoir Depths: Spelunking of the Mind

I enjoy many forms of physical exercise, from climbing mountains, to backpacking along trails, to bicycling, and even swimming. But mostly nowadays I just go hiking, sometimes with my grandchildren and partner, but often alone. Working the muscles of my body is good for me and helps keep my joints working. I feel better after a long walk. Can the same be said of mining memoir depths?

Well, my mental muscles do feel better after a good writing workout. I’ve been writing diaries since I was very young, and I keep boxes of them wherever I’m living at the moment. I draw on them a great deal in my memoir writing. They offer a panoramic view of my life.

I’ve been scribbling “Morning Pages” ever since Julia Cameron’s Sound of Paper came out. Every day along with my morning writing I include entries in my gratitude journal as well as ideas for my recovery blog. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Down to Basics: Vignettes, Scenes, and Dialogues

Down to Basics: Vignettes, Scenes, and Dialogs

Basic units of memoir writing

Vignettes, scenes, and dialogs are at the core of any memoir. Here are some ideas for writing them more quickly and elegantly.

1. Don’t worry about order.

Don’t stop to figure out how these snippets—vignettes, scenes, and dialogs—may eventually fit together into a story.

These bits and pieces will accumulate as you recall more and more and continue to write them down. Giving yourself permission to write in small, separate segments (vignettes, scenes, and dialogs, etc.) is a great way to start writing. Because there will always be your memory list of things to write about, you will never experience “writer’s block!” Fitting these pieces together to craft a polished story will come later, in the rewriting stage. Right now, it’s important to get text—any text—down on paper. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Writing the Story of My Life

Holding the Pen—Writing the Story of My Life

When writing the story of my life, I didn’t let anyone else hold the pen For the past eight months, I have been writing my lifestory. As a professional personal historian, I believe in practicing what I preach to those in my lifestory writing workshops. I have even gone as far as hiring an editor to help me. There is nothing quite like being accountable to another person. I firmly believe that everyone has a story worth telling. I’d like to share with you my motivation and exactly why I decided to get busy preserving my own story.

A valuable resource to remember the past more accurately when writing the story of my life

I possess 523 personal and heartfelt letters that were written over a span of thirty-nine years – precious letters written between my grandmother and myself. My dear grandmother was more like my mother and our relationship was a very close one. As I thought more about writing my lifestory, I wondered “how can I use these insightful letters to help me tell my story.” It seemed to me as if each one of these 523 letters were calling out to me. (Writing the story of my life, I found these proved invaluable.) A great many of the letters were written during the time I lived overseas with my husband, an Information Officer working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Together, we lived in six foreign countries from 1976 through 1992 making eighteen moves during that time. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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