Monthly Archives: September 2011

Only Child on preparing a memoir writing course

Only Child with some of the books for her Crafting a Memoir Writing Course

I decided to expand my mini-workshop on Crafting a Personal Memoir. I’ve been teaching this one (and still am) for a year at branches of the Toronto Public Library. Many participants wanted something more and longer, so I’m doing it on my own, through my East End Writers’ Group (a writing critique group which also runs workshops) as an experiment. So for those who have signed up – I guess you are “guinea pigs.” So am I.

I’m running it from my home. I’ve done this before for day-long workshops and used my large rec room for the location. However, with six sessions, two in the evenings and in October, there is the temperature of the rec room to consider. True, I have a radiator and a heater down there and have used them before. And the lighting is fine. But I’m playing it by ear. We will probably be at my kitchen table for the two evening sessions but I’m hoping to put the two double sessions on two Saturdays in the rec room. For the Saturday sessions I ask participants to bring a lunch (they can put it in my fridge, use my micro wave) or they can go up the street to the local chicken take-out or Pizza Pizza. Heck for the last Saturday, I might be generous and order in a pizza (if we all eat pizza and it will have to be gluten-free thanks to my allergy).

The advantages: cheaper to run so I don’t have to bump up the fee. I’m also offering a fee reduction for those who sign up by Sept. 28 and so far it is working.

And I didn’t put all sessions on three consecutive Saturdays because I figured who would be able to make all three? Turns out I might be the only one who can’t because of a high school reunion on the middle Saturday. A few participants have to miss evening sessions or part of evening sessions so they get their session outline and handouts ahead of time. And in the last session we do a review as well as having extra writing time, so some catch-up can be done then.

I’ve had to do the prep work for the actual course – in between all my editing work (I’m a freelance book editor) plus all the house stuff (see my previous posts). Here’s how I did it.

I expanded the content from the mini-library workshops – basically what I taught there made up parts of Session One and Two. Then I did a brief summary of what I wanted to cover in each session, considering lecture, discussion, exercises, writing time and handouts – an outline and extra-related material. Most are available electronically but all will be in hard copy. From the outline I expanded what to cover. And I use published memoirs as well as my memoir You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons which is now in the “pitch to literary agents” stage (more on that in future blogs). We can all learn from what others have already done as well as our own mistakes/wrong turns (one of mine deals with family flak, another blog posting from last year).

So, I’m looking forward to doing this. And anyone in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area, who is interested can post a comment and I’ll send you the course outline – it is less than a page but here’s the shorter blurb I post online.

The East End Writers’ Group presents…

Like Your Family Before You – Crafting a Personal Memoir – the course.

Always wanted to write your story – how you overcame an addiction, growing up in a large (or small) family, your mom and dad’s life story, a unique travel experience, sailing solo around the word? Whatever your life experience, if you want to write a memoir about it, writing instructor and Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch Writer in Residence  Sharon Crawford will show you how. This six-session course is expanded from Sharon’s introductory Crafting a Personal Memoir workshop taught at several Toronto Public Library branches and will include: getting started on your memoir; doing research and how to use it in your memoir; writing a killer beginning to hook your readers; writing your story so it reads like fiction but remains your truth (characters and dialogue, point of view, creating scenes and character); naming names and dealing with family flak. Each session will consist of instruction, discussions, and some hands-on writing including exercises connected to each session’s topic as well as in-class time to work on your memoir. Some critique of participants’ memoir excerpts will be given. E-mail contact with course-related questions is welcome between sessions.

It starts this Saturday, Oct. 1, with evening sessions Tuesday, Oct. 4, Wednesday, Oct. 19 and then the final two sessions, Saturday Oct. 22.

Who knows? Maybe next year I’ll expand to Webinars.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

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Filed under East End Writers' Group, Memoir writing, Memoir writing course, Only child, Only child memoir, Research memoir writing, Sharon Crawford, Writing courses Toronto, Writing groups, Writing workshops

Only child disatisfied with being alone

Only child "holding up the house" alone.

This being alone, the only person, in your daily life sucks sometimes. I’m fed up with having to do and organize everything myself. Then there’s the financial aspect – think what you want about women making big bucks on their own; some of us scrape by. Time is also a problem.

Just take this week’s list – get/organize house/property repairs (more keep popping up and there is the weather factor for outside repairs. Don’t get me started again on the picnic table scenario), client work and preparation for a course and workshop I’m doing, some writing promo and volunteering – all this within the next two weeks and of course everything and everyone isn’t co-operating. I know, we all have a life, or should. And don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for my house, garden, and the work I do, which I love. But, I am also ungrateful for an overload of problems.

When Dad was still alive, he and Mom had each other. After he died, Mom fell apart and her health went from good to bad to …well, she died too young (63) form a brain aneurysm.

Now statistics support that we women living on our own (and men, too) get a hard deal in life. Richard Niolin, PhD. reviews the book  The Case for Marriage Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better off Financially by Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher. The book  has some startling statistics (well, not to me. I’m living proof of many of those statistics). The authors state that white married women with no kids earn 4% more and black married women earn 10% more than single women (Waite, 1995). And if you think a kick in the pocketbook is the only downside of living single, life spans also don’t fair as well. Mortality rates of single women area 50% higher than those for married women (Ross et al., 1990). And a spouse can help lower your risk to die from cancer and even help keep you alive 10 years longer. Here’s another scary statistic. If you’re a single person in the hospital, prepare for a longer stay than your married peers. Add in surgery and a single person has a higher risk of dying afterwards (Goodwin et al., 1987). It gets worse. Factoring in life expectancies, only eight  of  10 single women reach age 65  (Cohen et al., 1997). My mother is dead proof.

Thank somebody or other I recently updated my will, although I’ve warned my beneficiary he’ll inherit debt.

You can check out Mr. Niolin’s excellent review at http://www.psychpage.com/family/library/brwaitgalligher.html. Although the book factors in only married people, even having a significant other in your life can make a big difference. If nothing else, you can get companionship, support (including financial) for the problems that arise. I’m not saying having a life partner means the life partner will do all the house/property repairs, but the partner can share in organizing getting all this stuff done.

Being alone definitely sucks. Maybe I’ll find some positive aspects of it. Not this week. I’m “hiding” in my book reading (mystery novels), the garden, walking, and watching the new TV season, but apparently not in sleep as I’m waking up a few times a night in fear and getting up in fear. As for my dreams – they certainly depict my situation and feelings about it as only dreams can. Maybe they’ll present some solutions – if I can remember them. Even my work helps. So, please excuse me; I have to get back to work now.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Aloneness, Anxiety, cancer, Death and Dying, finances, linda j waite, lower your risk, maggie gallagherl, Mother dying, Only child, Problems, Reading escapism, startling statistics

Only Child on simplifying life

Ms. Worrywart - Only Child - contemplates her worries

When I was 15, my mom bought me Dale Carnegie’s book  How to Stop Worrying and Start Living because she was worried about my burgeoning worry habit. I guess Mr. Carnegie didn’t help me because the habit grew  over the many years since. Now, worrying is wrapped around being in constant overwhelm over too much to do,  trying to simplify my life and get back to some basics. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about renewing ourselves in September. (https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/only-child-views-septembers-new-beginnings/). I posted some tips to try and I’ve done some of them.

I’ve  said “no,” to a couple of things, backed out of something (naughty, naughty) and organized a few things that needed doing  – and even got at some of them. That certainly made me feel better – for a bit.

I’ve also been reading self-help books on the subject and although I can’t agree with all the content (and I’m still reading it), I can recommend one book – Living in the Moment by Gary Null (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA, 2008). Mr. Null is an award-winning radio journalist, investigative reporter, health and science expert, documentary film maker, etc., and like me, a baby boomer.  He spares us boomers no slack in his book, blaming us for many of society’s ills and why many, if not most of us (here he includes the next generation down in age), are spiritually ( he differentiates between religious and spiritual) bare, bored, and in overwhelm. Even though I don’t agree 100 percent with him, he does make a lot of sense; however, I’m still waiting for more than a few lines on actually living in the moment. I’m in the Chapter on Embracing Our Bliss and I don’t agree with his definition on bliss.  He defines bliss as “about having the courage to release immature notions that make us toxic to ourselves and others.” That might be the first step for us to get to bliss, but that’s not all of it. I define bliss as being content and even happy with our life, filled with passion about something and maybe even at peace without ongoing worrying. Notice I said “worrying,” not “worries.” We all have worries, but most of us could use less of them.

For some of what Mr. Null (I love that last name – the paradox for what he writes) says I find I am already there and some of his advice I will consider trying. However, one thing he says  I can’t go along with, at least right up front and right away. He says we all need to reconnect with our community and be altruistic, be more like we boomers were in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s this altruism part that I’m questioning. Some of us got into our overwhelm partly by over-volunteering and hit burn-out there. I think, first you have to “be selfish” and sort yourself out, then if there is a cause you are passionate about, go for it.

Strangely, some of his ideas for straightening out yourself are good, including ones I’m doing.

Here are some tips, based on Mr. Null’s ideas and what I’m doing, to get out of overwhelm and live simply and in the moment.

1. Get rid of the clutter – physically. He goes on about the consumerism and possession-collecting of boomers. (Just watch those hoarder shows on TV to see it in extremes). Well, for the past few years I’ve been purging stuff in my place and I actually turn my nose up (down?) at accepting stuff from friends (excluding small Christmas gifts, which I also buy for them).

2. Get rid of the clutter in your head (my idea). Right now my mind swims with all the stuff I have to do, etc. and it drives me up a wall and down again. Being an “only person” here, responsible for doing and organizing everything doesn’t help. If you have a significant other, persuade him or her  to help you with the next point because that will help with this no. 2.

3. Downsize what you do in your life – I hit on this in that previous post, but you need to decide what you need and want to do, not what someone else thinks you should do. Whose life is it? Remember, delay, delegate and (my favourite) delete. Make “no” the biggest word in your vocabulary.

4. Go out into nature and reconnect. I can’t emphasize how much a nature walk or going out in my garden helps soothes the psyche – whether pulling weeds, mowing the lawn with my push-mower, or collecting raspberries or tomatoes or just sitting out in the garden and absorbing.

5. Exercise – now here Mr. Null and I disagree on the philosophy behind this. He says that boomers go out and exercise in ways they really don’t like but for me, that’s not true. I love walking and gardening. Now, if he is referring to snow shovelling, I agree with him.

6. He also has much the same attitude about people’s motivation with meditation and yoga – I only partly agree when someone’s meditation wanders all around their concerns. But meditation, yoga, NIA, Tai Chi – whatever works for you – are good ways to relax. So are listening to music and reading, and maybe even watching some TV (the latter is for me, but not reality shows – Mr. Null and I agree on those).

7. Experience the holiday, the festival, etc. instead of using it to pile up on more possessions, something I already experience them, thanks to limited funds.

To sum it up, I think you have to sort yourself out first before you step outside, so to speak. But I still recommend reading Gary Null’s book Living in the Moment. Lots of good wisdom and he gets you thinking. Check out his website http://www.garynull.com for more info on the man and his works; for the book, go to http://www.amazon.com

Comments please.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Anxiety, Baby boomers, Balance, Burnout, Clutter, Gardening, No, Only child, Overwhelm, Time management, Worrying

Only child considers the sleep factor

Only Child looking like she could use more sleep

“To sleep, perchance to dream,” William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. Forget the dreams; I’m having difficulty finding time to get ENOUGH sleep. But as some of my business gaffes last week show, I need more sleep because the lack of enough is affecting my cognitive abilities, my memory and making me anxious. I know I’ve hit on this topic before but it’s important enough to revisit.

The biggest gaffe (now corrected) is I mixed up dates for a one-day Blogging Your Memories workshop I’m teaching at the Riverdale Public Library branch in Toronto Oct. 5. I thought it was Oct. 3 and so put Oct. 5 as one of the dates for a Crafting Your Personal Memoir Writing course I’m running. Until I saw my library workshop posted on the library branch’s website. Oops.

Research shows I’m not alone in this Oops, not-enough-sleep factor.

A 2007 study conducted by Harris/Decima found that 90 percent of Canadian women don’t get sufficient shut-eye at night. Sixty percent of these sleep-deprived women live in Ontario, 59 percent in Quebec and the lowest number lacking enough sleep, at 50 percent, live in Maritime Canada. Why are we women not getting enough sleep? And the men are faring better. Stress (62 percent for women vs 53 percent for men), uncomfortable room temperature  (61 percent for women and 43 percent for men), and insomnia (35 percent for women and 25 percent for men).

And according to an earlier (2003) National Sleep Disorders Research plan, not spending enough time in the land of nod affects cognitive tasks, i.e.  the functional activity patterns between brain regions is altered. See http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/res_plan/section2/section2.htm.

And your memory – or maybe that should be MY memory – too little sleep affects our working memory, according to a Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_deprivation 

This article states that EEG studies show if you get less sleep then you have less reaction time, your focus and your alertness decrease, and your accuracy nose-dives. Amen to that.

I think it all started years ago when in high school I burned the midnight and later oils cramming for exams. It didn’t do me much good.  Since then I have had times when I did get sufficient sleep. When I was pregnant with my son, I had to go to bed soon after 7 p.m. or I yawned the rest of the evening. But it was also the time I could get up by 7 a.m. and be wide awake. Not anymore. If I have to get up early I’m often dragging myself around until I get a few shots of coffee inside me. Of course later in the day I want to nap, but I press on with work because I have a backlog of editing, writing, etc., not to mention house stuff, to do – despite prioritizing. But that’s another story.

Now, I’m still dragging myself around late late at night (you don’t want to know the time) finishing up  house chores or organizing my next-day’s work schedule.

Two nights ago, I declared war on not getting enough sleep. That workshop/course date mix-up did it. Now. I’m trying to get my 7 1/4 hours of nightly sleep. That seems to be the magic number for me. I think I have to do as I did a few years ago when I would “kill” for my sleep and if anyone or anything stopped me from getting to bed by 11 p.m., let’s just say I didn’t feel kindly towards them.

Maybe it’s also an age thing – hormones, or no hormones, who knows. That Harris/Decima study didn’t mention anything about the ages of the women who were sleep-deprived. Or maybe (more likely) we women and men, too, are just doing too much; it’s stressing us out, and depriving us of sleep.

I’ve said “no” on a few things the past few weeks, and am trying to focus on one thing at a time – not always succeeding. More walking and continuing with my constant gardening (when not working) would also help. When winter comes I can shovel snow for exercise. Yeck!

I think I’ll continue concentrating on getting more sleep…and maybe perchance to dream about some ideas to cut down on the overwhelm in my days.

Anyone else have any ideas?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Balance, Burnout, Cognitive disorders, Concentration, Life demands, Memory loss, Only child, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sleep deprivation, Stress