Monthly Archives: January 2014

Only Child back to memoir writing

Only Child and her parents  in another time and world

Only Child and her parents outside her godmother’s farmhouse.

Yesterday I returned to my memoir to give it a face-lift. With my pre-quel novel rewrite off to the publisher for yet another looksee, it is time to get back to the other book manuscript-in-the-works.

I’m taking a new angle to it and have already rewritten the Prelude beginning and the start of Chapter 1. It is more edgy and suspenseful to begin with, although I will keep the poignancy, etc. throughout the memoir. However, nothing is sacrosanct as far as rewriting it is concerned.

Sometimes you have to take your writing by its horns and turn it around. With memoirs that happens often for various reasons: you want to focus in another area, family flak, or you just want to rev up the writing and interest.

My other motivation is I’m preparing to teach a one-day Memoir Writing Workshop in Toronto, Saturday, February 22. Previously (I sound like a TV show here), I’ve taught hour and a half Memoir Writing Workshops at Toronto Public Library branches or  six half day session Memoir Writing Courses through my East End Writers’ Group.

This one will combine the two. The blurb goes like this:

Getting your Memoir off the Ground:

Presented by the East End Writers’ Group

Always wanted to write your family’s story or your story but need some motivation and guidance? Sharon A. Crawford, who conducts Memoir Writing workshops for the Toronto Public Library, will teach this one-day expanded workshop on Memoir Writing. After a brief review of kick-starting your memoir using the senses, this hands-on workshop takes the writer into the nitty-gritty of writing the memoir. You will learn how to organize your memoir’s content, do research and work it into your memoir, deal with family flak, and not only start writing your memoir, but write an actual chapter and have it critiqued.  Handouts provided. Bring photos and other memorabilia, pen and paper or the electronic equivalent.

What does that tell the memoir writer? Besides, it is not a piece-of-cake one- time shot. Nor is it all creativity.

You have to be organized

You can’t just sit down and write or you will be all over the place. You need to decide just what exactly you want to focus your memoir on and write that down, then do a chapter/subject outline, then…

You have to do research

Our memories aren’t 100 per cent. Although you are telling your story, you won’t remember everything going on for each segment of your life back then. And if back then covers your childhood, you certainly have a different perspective then from now. As a child you probably didn’t know much about the issues surrounding what went on in your life. For example, if you are writing about when your parents were divorced, what were the divorce laws then? You will even have do some digging for some of your family background. Family trees, relatives, particularly of the senior variety, and old family photos can be most helpful here. These conjure up all sorts of necessary research, which can be interesting in itself.

And of course, with your research, you also need to be organized. You don’t want to suffer from researchitis (over research with tons of paper and electronic files in your possession).

So, you can see that writing your memoir requires using both the left side of your brain (logical, analytical) and right side (creative).

We’ll cover a little bit of the creative side in the next post. Meantime, if you are in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area and are interested in my workshop, you can check out the full details on my website at


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Family, Memoir writing, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Organizing Memoir, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child on mother’s dresser drawer and inheriting personal characteristics

Only Child with her parents in saner times at her grandfather's farm

Only Child age 11 with her parents at her grandfather’s farm

Do we inherit our personal characteristics from our parents? Or is it all environment or a little of both? The experts seem to be undecided, some research even pooh-poohing the genetic aspect. See the excellent Psychology Today article online at

Lately I seem to be subconsciously following in both my parents’ genetic footsteps as I try to sort through the aftermath of a difficult 2013 and move forward. Until the last few days when I had sort of an extended “aha moment.”

I realized I was using my mother’s logical and practical modus operandi to budget my finances, to organize my days (both for work and other) and stay on track. What put the light bulb in my head about this was remembering Mom’s simple basic files in a dresser drawer in her bedroom. Nothing fancy but it kept her on track with her finances. She also seemed to have a plan in her head about what she did – whether sewing clothes for me, knitting, gardening or cooking and baking. Even after Dad died and her health went downhill she still retained some of this organization practical skill to keep her going. Until we actually were moving out of the house I grew up in – but that’s another story.

Mom came from a mixed bag of right brain and left brain ancestors. As the name suggests, the Strauss side members were artistic – music, painting, crafts – and not too practical. The Schefter side members were very practical and business-like. I think Mom inherited mainly that side – particularly from her father, my Grandfather Charlie – although Mom’s sewing, knitting, gardening, and even cooking bordered on the creative side.

I can’t knit to save my life but I spent a number of years quilting by hand and sewed all my maternity clothes back in 1977. Now to get me to mend anything is a big deal. Then there is my writing and gardening. The latter is definitely inherited from Mom, but the gardening environment I grew up in plays a big role too.

Besides the Strauss influence I need to go to my Dad’s side of the family – the Langevins. There is a Langevin, a novelist who lives or lived in Quebec province. No idea at this point if I’m related to him. To my knowledge my Dad didn’t get involved in artistic endeavours, although I have a vague memory that he once did some painting (the artistic kind). I do know he was a terrific house painter and he did spotless and creative painting jobs inside and outside our house. That wasn’t his profession, though. He was a time-keeper for Canadian National the railway company and became obsessive about being on time.

I’ve inherited that time-obsessiveness. I also seem to have inherited some of my parents’ temperaments. Both Mom and Dad worried a lot so I have that one big time. Dad had a short fuse and so do I. Mom thought things out a lot and so do I.

Where does that leave me? Yo-yoing in my approach to life?

Maybe that’s a good thing – combine both sides of the fence to get you through life. Whether it’s hereditary or environment or both, plus what you can bring to your life yourself from all experiences – good and bad can help you in living. From the bad (among other things) you can learn what to kick out of your life. From the good, you can learn what works and how to apply it in future. I know – good and bad are relative to each individual.

And the reference to the Langevin side of my family? One of my goals this year is to dig up (not literally) all my dad’s ancestors. Dad was born in Montreal, Quebec. I have the book Finding Your French-Canadian Ancestors to get me started and the Internet searches it suggests. Maybe even a trip to Quebec City and Montreal, Quebec later this year.

I’m saving my money for that one – using this unique weekly plan posted the end of 2013. Check out  There is a link to a chart for those of us mathematically challenged so we know how much to put in the “kitty” each week.

What do you think about where we get our personal characteristics?


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Genealogy, Hereditary, Uncategorized

Only Child hit with another 2013 run off – leaky basement

Only Child gearing up to tackle government depts and companies that screw up her life

Only Child gearing up to tackle government depts, companies and individuals that screw up her life

The snow melt itself over the weekend was okay. But as soon as the rain and wind started coming from the east, water got in my basement. In my usual cynical, non-trusting nature, I had towels and mats down in strategic places and they caught it. This time the water came in on the rec room floor – on the far side of the house – yet another place where it was coming in before Nigel supposedly fixed it with the big excavation in April 2011.

This isn’t the first time since then that some water has gotten in the basement. Because nothing got in through the walls between April 2011 and the end of February 2013, what Nigel did worked – for those wall cracks.

But he didn’t dig down far enough. Afterwards, from talking to others, I found out he should have dug down right to the weeping tiles, but he only went four feet down. I remember him telling me that he would be going down four feet. (Yes, I have written documentation of his job and he was supposed to go down to the weeping tiles; but all these events traumatize me so I can’t think straight especially if I don’t know what I’m supposed to think). Last year after the February leak there were four others and nothing after July 8.

Until Saturday, January 11, 2014.

Of course, last year I called Nigel in and he said something about maybe a minute crack in the weeping tile or maybe it was the drains and to get the city and a private plumber/contractor to check my drain – he doesn’t do that. A fellow from the City of Toronto Water Works Dept. (bless him) came and did the full check from my house end of the drain out to the city’s on the street.


Nigel is talking through his thick skull.

My take on this is because Nigel didn’t do his job right, the part he.did do is okay, but the part he didn’t screen etc. is where it’s coming from.

Even with help from my ex-husband paying half (he says he will) I cannot afford another excavation. I have other emergency-like things with the house to get done this spring – like a few new windows because one leaks (but this wasn’t the cause of Saturday’s problem) and another one or two or three get the condensation freezing up in cold weather.

Right now I have to look into the leaky basement situation more – get information and quotes from other professionals in this line of work; find some people in the Toronto area who have had the same type of basement leaks fixed and that it has worked for at least four years – and get their contractor’s contact info; decide if I want to leave the situation and do a wait and see; or get Nigel back and see what he says.

I may do all of the above.

All the consumer advocacy I got thrown into the latter part of 2013 has taught me a few things.

No longer do I let big business, government, contractors, etc. etc. get away with screwing up my life. It’s bad enough dealing with your own mistakes. But when it’s others’ mistakes and they encroach on you and cause you grief, anxiety, money and time, that’s when to put your foot down. And when the screw-ups caused by others are higher in number than your own mistakes, something is wrong out there.

Has anybody noticed this ratio of the number of others’ screw-ups to your own mistakes? This is a new phenomenon for me. Sure, I’ve had patches of four things going wrong at a time in the past, but I would solve them and that was that until the next patch. And they didn’t outnumber my own mistakes.

One thing is certain – this is the year I declare war on Nigel for causing me grief for not doing his job right in the first place in 2011.

And in case you are wondering, he was recommended, but by someone he knows, not by someone he did work for. He also did other jobs for me – did a beautiful job of recreating/fixing my front veranda, as well as fixing the chimney bricks. And he does this waterproofing business for other clients.

“Life” has to turn around quite a bit for me to get rid of my almost continual crankiness. That means a lot of the “outside stuff” has to be gone/fixed. Right now the good is at 25 per cent and where I am in my life based on my wants and needs is at 40 per cent and that’s pushing it. For a senior that is not a good rate.

Excuse me now while I get ready to do something in that 40 per cent –promote my mystery short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, Oct. 2012). I’m scheduled to guest on a TV interview show today up in Richmond Hill

All right it’s cable TV but it’s up in York Region – where some of my stories take place and where I and four other Crime Writers of Canada authors will be reading March 14 at the Aurora Public Library.

You gotta grab the few good moments in life when you can.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumer action, Faulty Contractors, Uncategorized