Tag Archives: 1960s

Using Fiction Tools to Write Memoir (continued)

Only Child in Grade 12

In our last memoir writing session this week, we covered the topic of using fiction techniques when writing your memoir. Today, we discuss setting. There are similarities with using setting  in memoir and in writing fiction, with a few differences.

Always, you need to remember, memoir is not fiction, so you can’t make stuff up. True, settings in fiction often are real settings – at least countries, cities and the like. But sometimes the city or town is fictional, as are the residences and businesses and of course the streets.

Setting in memoir can give the writer an advantage, though. For example, you can write about the place you grew up in – as it was then (and a lot of that is how you remember it. Look at those old photos) and you can go back and see how it is today. Is the house you grew up in still standing? Or is it now a huge ugly condo or a paved parking lot?

But the narrative of setting in both fiction and memoir is stronger and more interesting if you skip writing it like a travel piece and put your character (you, in the memoir) right there. Show yourself going into that high school for the first time – how did you feel? Who did you meet? And blend in what you saw? For example, when my friend Nancy and I switched high schools for grade 12, (in the mid-1960s),  we had a heck of a time finding the most important classroom – the study hall. I don’t know how many times we walked around the whole top floor of the high school (it was walking in a square – that’s what it felt like and the actual shape of it). Finally another classmate with a study period helped us find the room.

So, you can see how that could generate the setting of just this school floor as Nancy and I wandered around lost. And the emotions, some dialogue and the actual study room when we finally found it and entered it.

Here’s one of the exercises I had my class do for setting. If you have time, you could try it.

  1. Exercise: Take a scene from your past and write about it with you in it. This could be the backyard of the house you grew up in, your bedroom, the kitchen, the street where you live. Note: if your memoir is about a particular time in your life use a scene from that as opposed to a scene in your past that won’t have anything to do with your memoir. The purpose is to create the atmosphere as you remember it in one location important to your life and learn how to show it to the reader from your unique POV. For example, if you were terrified of thunderstorms and hid under the covers when one came, and your brother liked to run outside in thunderstorms, the two of you would definitely have differing points of view. (copyright 2017 Sharon Crawford)

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

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Filed under 1960s, classmates, Friends, Memoir content, Memoir writing, Only child memoir, School days

Only Child looks back at going back to school

Only Child, age 14 in high school uniform

Only Child, age 14, in high school uniform

Back in the gray ages, each September was different when I returned to school. I felt different, depending on the circumstances. Looking back, the excitement and more positive outlook was definitely before I turned teen. I remember the excitement of buying new pencils and exercise books (I did say “gray ages” so before computers) and anticipated learning new things. The smell of the pencils and paper, new books, reading, even Math, and especially playing baseball with the other girls – my age and older, made me feel good.

Of course, it wasn’t all good. I was bullied in school – first by my so-called best friend and also a nun  in grade 2 and grade 8.

When I started high school, the first day of school and the “anticipation” hit high on the dread and scary scale.

High school grade 9 actually started a few weeks before as Mom and I visited the school (a Catholic one in Toronto) to buy my uniform. This outfit was enough to send you screaming in the street with its dark blue pleated tunic, long-sleeved white blouses, black oxford shoes and (wait for it) a choice of seemed nylon stockings or black leotards – old lady shoes and stockings we called them. However, I didn’t run screaming anywhere because I was just getting over a summer of being sick with the croup.

Great way to start high school? The next high school years’ start weren’t much better. On the first day of any high school year at the Catholic School we were herded into the auditorium to find out our home room and our schedules. For grade 10, some of us found out we couldn’t take the typing class we signed up for but had to take another year of sewing and cooking – both of which I could learn from my mom, thank you very much. It didn’t help that the new school addition wasn’t finished and I got stuck in a portable for the first time. In winter the ink froze in the ink wells (gray ages, remember?) and we had to put our boots, hats, coats back on and trail back to the main school and patrol through the halls looking for an empty classroom – usually the cafeteria for religion class. Was there some connection between food and religion?

As kids and teens traipse back to school today, many are filled with anxiety. Life is more complex now with all the technology, cyber bullying and the peer and other pressure to grow up way too fast – just to list a few things. But the interesting thing that psychologists haves found is that some people long out of school still experience the first day anxiety as adults and some don’t even know this is it. Psychologists equate it with the end of the summer holidays and coming back from vacation and getting back to school or work. The days are getting shorter and the weather cooler with winter now closer and that can affect some too, like a prelude to the winter’s seasonal affective disorder (SAD.)

I get the weather one. Near the end of August and particularly Labour Day, I am saddened that there isn’t much more of summer left. Sure, we still get warm days in September (heat wave right now in Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and officially by the calendar summer doesn’t end until Sept. 21. And I do like the early part of fall. But once the cold arrives – once November arrives and we go back to standard time – it is all downhill from there until sometime in April. I hate winter with a passion – especially after the horrid last two winters – in particular the ice storm and the resulting power outage in December 2013 right before Christmas.

When September rolls around I keep wishing we could go back to July 1 and the Canada Day celebrations. So much summer promise of fun, hot weather, gardening, beaches, holidays, and somewhat taking it easy.  So, I hang onto what is left and garden as long as I can, bringing potted plants inside. Of course they won’t last all winter because the sun doesn’t appear that often or that long in winter.

Read the story “No more pencils, no more books? Fall blahs still hit adults” athttp://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20150906/281505044989606/TextView

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Anxiety, Back to School, Only child, School, School days, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Sharon A. Crawford, Toronto

Only Child dissects uncertainty

 

 

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Only Child and her late dad on the veranda of 139 in happier times

Lately I have been living with too much uncertainty. I’ve had lots of practice to live this way since I was 12 and my dad had cancer of the brain. This was his first bout in his head and Mom and I didn’t know if he would make it. He kept vomiting and had a constant sharp headache. The doctors at St. Michael’s Hospital didn’t think surgery would help so they tried the other prong of the then (early 1960s) two-prong cancer treatment – burn. They blasted him with radiation regularly while back at home, Mom and I, joined by her eccentric older sister, “Gretchen,” waited and tried to cope with the uncertainty.

I have never learned to cope with all the uncertainties in life. Don’t know if it goes back to dealing with Dad’s cancer or is a sign of getting old(er) but the number of uncertainties seems to be larger now than 30 or so years ago. Back then I suffered from depression. The depression has long gone way past over the rainbow. Now I get angry and worry a lot as I have blogged previously. And I seem to live in constant anxiety.

I wonder if uncertainty about the outcome of all the worries and problems has a lot to do with it. I wonder if I knew for sure exactly what the outcome would be if the worry, would be a little less… or at least more focused on a definite result and how I will deal with it. Instead of various scenarios galloping throughout my head with a nebulous ending in sight – or more likely also chasing around in my mind.

So I have tried various ways to deal with uncertainty. The journalist in me immediately goes into research mode to collect all the info I can about the problem. That includes Internet research, talking to experts, or in the case of utility billing or service problems, talking to the utility company. As some of you may know I am not the most polite and patient person if I believe the “other guy” (utility company for one) has messed up and I’m the one getting the result of what is often their stupidity. But I am persistent and I push until I get what I want, i.e. the mess-up corrected to my satisfaction.

I also like comparing situations with my friends. Misery loves company, but I might learn something from their experience.

And I have even tried praying – but results from that also are in the uncertain field. Like with the weather and whether heavy rainfall will cause water to get into my basement.

Back to Dad and his brain cancer. In my memoir I write:

Gretchen’s answer is to pray. I still hold onto religion then, so our impromptu female trinity prays rosaries, as if strumming the circle of beads and muttering praises and pleas will make my father whole and keep him alive.  

St. Michael’s Hospital radiates a friendlier air than Western, maybe because the chief guardian angel resides there. And St. Mike must have listened to our prayers, because one day when mother and I walk into his room, Dad smiles at us.

“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says.

  (Excerpted from You Can Go Home – deconstructing the demons, copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

Apparently prayer worked then…for a time. Three and a half years later the cancer returned to another part of Dad’s brain and it killed him.

Maybe that ending has a lot to do with why I have so much difficulty living with uncertainty. I can hear some people asking “Don’t you want to be surprised?” Well, of course, but pleasant surprises, even surprises that challenge me to do better or to go through another learning curve.

But I want them to be positive experiences. Otherwise it might be nice to know what the actual outcome will be for the nasty things that pop up in life. If I or someone close to me gets ill, will we pull through? All this uncertainty tends to detract from dealing with the outcome because we are dealing with the issue – and the issue can have many more prongs than the old slice or burn cancer treatment.

How do you deal with uncertainty? Does it work?

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1960s, Anger, Anxiety, cancer, Cancer Treatment, Health, Mom and Dad, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncertainty

Only Child says 2014 is another 2013

Outside of Only Child's home in summer - a far cry from this winter and the mess coming from outside to inside.

Outside of Only Child’s home in summer – a far cry from this winter and the mess coming from outside to inside.

This year is not any better than 2014. Despite all my positive attitude and some hope with work and finances in January, I guess I read it wrong. I should remember that hope is a four-letter word.

The straw that broke my back was the quick winter thaw with all the rain. You guessed it. Water poured into my basement – in two areas of my rec room.

The “new” area is the corner and part of the adjacent walls where on the outside the downspout and rain barrel sit outside on my backyard patio. In  the fall, I took proper preventative measures – had the eavestroughs checked and cleaned out, drained the rain barrel, and closed that fork of the downspout entering the rain barrel so water wouldn’t get in and do the expand/contract with the weather nonsense. I left the bottom hose (which is used for watering plants in the summer) extended out – just in case. Put in place a few years ago was an extended downspout so water would drain away from the house and into the garden. I periodically checked this throughout this winter. Too many cold spells caused water in the eavestrough and downspouts to freeze – including big icicles hanging from the eavestrough and the downspout before the extended part, and a big wad of ice at least three inches deep on the pavement at the corner which defied any salt poured on it. I knocked off what ice I could.

Then old man winter (read God) struck. The slow thaw start caused some of this eavestrough ice to thaw – but not inside the downspout. You guessed it – the water sneaked through the rain barrel closing and started flowing in there. Oh well, the bottom hose would drain it. Right?

Wrong. The bottom hose was so hard from the extremely cold weather it broke. I grabbed a downspout extension not being used from the front and had my next door neighbour manoeuvre it into shape so now the rain barrel downspout extended away from the house.

Then the rain came – more thawing of all the ice mess with water landing in my basement. That one is on God.

Not the other sometimes re-occurring water leak on the far side of the house. Well, maybe God for letting it happen (and not just to my place – to many others in Toronto and I am well aware of the flooding mess in southern England). But this water intrusion is mainly on the back of Nigel Appelwaite, the excavation fellow who messed up in April 2011. He didn’t dig far enough down. Despite the written agreement and list of what he would do (which stated he would dig down to the weeping tiles), he dug only four feet. I remember him saying, as he started to dig, that was as far as he needed to go to take care of the current leaks. Unfortunately I wasn’t very knowledgeable in these things, and I trusted the guy, so…

Trust is the big word here. I need to continue learning not to trust – or to trust very few people and to trust myself first and foremost. I notice I am much more suspicious than I used to be – blame it on being a former journalist, age, and experience. It’s the last I must factor in more.

I have blogged about this leak and Nigel last year – as that’s when the first of the leaks after the big excavation occurred– when the rain and wind blows in hard from the east – water pours into the basement – either that corner of the laundry room (not last Thursday night into Friday) and/or the other corner side and under the window in the rec room. That’s where Nigel supposedly “fixed” it.

Of course I called him Friday – but he never showed up as he said he would.

Friday I spent in a panic, filled with anger and fear, literally mopping up and phoning around for friends to help. Elinor down the street took a look and suggested a twist mop and pail set like the school caretakers use and wrote down exactly what. Tanya drove me to Canadian Tire to get the mop set and a Shop-Vac on sale and then to Value Village to get more thick towels. My boarder helped me set up the Shop-Vac (I figured out the mop setup) and Paul down the street showed me how to use the Shop-Vac properly so it actually did the job. I alternated using the mop and Shop-Vac – some areas worked better with the mop and some with the Shop-Vac.

I am grateful for all their help.

So what does all the above tell me? Once you’ve had water in the basement you never get over it. It teaches you to live in fear.There are a few I can trust to help in a panic situation. But those trustworthy people are not God or Nigel.

Now I will have to get another excavation done by someone who can do a proper job. I am canvassing friends who have had basement waterproofing done to their satisfaction. But the price is high. Even with my ex-husband paying half (which he say he will), it will probably clean me out of whatever little savings I have and was slowly adding to. I was even managing to pay down my line of credit.

Well, I guess it’s tin-can-on-the-street time. Lottery ticket purchase time.

And making those responsible pay.

Nigel better watch out. I will talk to my lawyer friend about options. Realistically Nigel should pay 100 per cent for whatever needs to be done by whomever to remedy his mess-up plus a few thousand extra from my pain and suffering. I am also brainstorming what to do that is legal. Meantime, I make sure everyone knows not to hire Nigel.

That latter is what I have been practicing when some so-called professional screws up. I just did it again when my friend Carol was talking about needing a new roof. The company (Extreme Roofing in Ajax, Ontario) I hired in 2009 did a good job in putting up the new roof – and I make sure I say that – but the owner messed up in the assessment – didn’t notice there were three (not two) old shingle layers – the work crew foreman did – so I got charged an extra $800.  My ex and I shouldn’t have paid it but I was afraid if I didn’t agree they wouldn’t replace the roof.

Putting it out there for things to be okay just doesn’t cut it for me. I should remember the four letter words – besides damn and hell, there are snow, rain, and pray.

Now I really want to go back to the 1950s and 1960s – my Mom and Dad never had basement and eavestrough problems like this. But the weather was different then.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Consumer action, Floods, God, Life demands, Mom and Dad, Only child, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford

Blending the past and the present in your memoir

The Beatles back in 1965. This photo is supposed to in the public domain.

The Beatles back in 1964. This photo is supposed to be in the public domain.

I grew through my teenage years as a Beatle fan – complete with screaming at their concerts in Toronto to agonizing over what they said, did (and didn’t say and didn’t do) according to newspaper and magazine stories.

So, seeing the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show (Sunday, Feb. 9, 1964) on this past Sunday (Feb. 9, 2014) triggered a lot of nostalgia. Where was I when the fab four appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show? At a youth club dance at the church where the club organizers had a black and white TV brought in so we could see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show. The TV was appropriately put on the hall’s stage.

On this past Sunday, as I sat and watched others perform the Beatles’ hits and saw the reaction of the two remaining Beatles Paul and Ringo and their wives, and the late John Lennon’s wife and son Sean and the late George Harrison’s wife and son Danny (Danny performed with some of the others on stage including Ringo and Paul’s reunion performance), I was caught up in nostalgia, in going back. And I truly felt that in those days the world was in a better place and the world was not so bad – considering today’s weather to the rush-rush, terrorists, over-technological focus, meanness, etc. etc.

My own little world may have been difficult – I mean as a teenager and experiencing all the usual teen emotions intensely with a few added ingredients. My dad was dying of cancer and I had been bullied in grade school, which left any self-confidence buried deeper than the proverbial hole.

And this is the perfect time where my past and present connected. And you can put this type of connection in your memoir. I already have some of the Beatles stuff in one chapter. Here’s a brief excerpt:

 

One day Susan and I are standing on the sidewalk outside East York Collegiate. Some of the popular crowd in our class – Dana, Lou, Marnie –stand right next to us in an open circle, but talking amongst themselves. I pretend to listen in and not listen, and try to think of something relevant to say. Something that will show I am worthy of them. But my lips and voice do the opposite to my behavior at last year’s Beatles concert.

“Sharon and I are going to see the Beatles,” Susan says. “Maple Leaf Gardens mailed her tickets.”

The eyes of the popular crowd turn to me.

“Lucky you,” Marnie says.

“Fab,” says Lou.

Even Dana is smiling at me – she who seems so formidable, probably because she is tall and heavyset. I just murmur a weak “yes,” and smile back. Why can’t I say more? I know Marnie and Lou, the twins, from Miss Garlick’s piano lessons.

Then John Lennon makes his famous “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ” statement and Susan’s mom pulls her permission. Susan returns her ticket to me but it’s too close to the performance to get someone else to go and I’m too shy to ask anyone. It never occurs to me to ask one of the popular crowd. The second ticket gets sent back to Maple Leaf Gardens and Mom let me go alone.The new ticket holder is a 13-year-old girl, who after intermission moves to sit with her brother and his friends in another section. I’m left alone to see, listen, and fantasize. This time I sit on the same side in the bleachers, but way way down from the stage. The mopheads appear small and far away but I can hear them singing. I don’t scream. I felt inhibited because my friends aren’t around to join me in letting out my emotions.

But John Lennon’s statement stuck and I found myself trying to defend it, mostly in my mind. Looking back, the seeds of discontent with religion may have already been planted inside me, although Lennon’s statement wasn’t what would make me question the righteousness of religion, in particular the beliefs of the Catholic faith. My own home situation with Dad dying from cancer coupled with the change in society norms coming right up against the religion-by-rote from grade school would take care of that. This time Mom wouldn’t stand on my side and when I would turn around, no one would be there at 139 to confide in. (Excerpted from You Can Go Home: Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

 

There is some hint of what will come in the near future. But this is a good place to add a couple of paragraphs to connect it to the present – how I felt when I saw the 50th anniversary of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan Show Feb. 9, 2014. The religious angle could also lead in to how and why I feel the world is not a better place now and why it was at least simpler then. How I feel now is important because memoirs are also about your personal feelings.

 

That is the way I would do the past and present connection. As long as the present doesn’t go off on a tangent and you can find your way writing back into the past, adding the parallel in the present can work.

Perhaps the quote I use at the beginning of my memoir says it all

 

The past is our definition.  We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it. 

~Wendell Berry

If you are in the Toronto, Ontario Canada area and want to learn more, I am teaching a memoir writing workshop, Saturday, February 22, 2014.  Here are some details:

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.

Check out the full details on my website at www.samcraw.com (click on Speaker’s Bureau).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Beatles, Family and Friends, Mom and Dad, Nostalgia, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child honours Dad on his anniversary

Only child's Dad when he worked for the railway

Only child’s Dad when he worked for the railway

Losing a parent can be devastating, but particularly if you are a child. My dad, Albert Langevin,  died from brain cancer at 66 on November 15, 1965. That is a double whammy as I was only 16 at the time. But if truth be told, Mom and I had lost Dad years before that to cancer, starting with the first cancer hit in his lungs a few months before my 10th birthday. Surgery of half a lung removed got rid of it there, but cancer being cancer, it spread to his brain two and a half years later. Mom and I thought he would die. And we had the talk.

One day Mom corrals me in the kitchen.

“Sharon, I have something to tell you,” she begins, as we stand, facing each other. This isn’t sit-down business. “Your father has cancer of the brain.”

“Is he going to live?”

“I don’t know.”

Our hug does not reassure. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

So Mom called in the “troops” in the form of one of her older sisters to help out at the house so she could spend more time with Dad and often I joined her.

Aunt Gretchen now joins the litany of worriers hovering around Dad as he continues to vomit and endure the headaches. She brings her dumpy flowered housedresses, straight black hair, black oxfords, and bricks of blue cheese that stink up our fridge and would probably kill Dad if he were home and could keep anything down. I don’t remember Gretchen ever setting foot in the hospital, but she rules the home front. She commandeers the cooking and washing up after dinner, supposedly a blessing for mother and me…

 

Gretchen’s answer is to pray. I still hold onto religion then, so our impromptu female trinity prays rosaries, as if strumming the circle of beads and muttering praises and pleas will make my father whole and keep him alive.

     

St. Michael’s Hospital radiatesa friendlier air than Western, maybe because the chief guardian angel resides there. And St. Mike must have listened to our prayers, because one day when mother and I walk into his room, Dad smiles at us.

 

“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says. [Author Note: not blue cheese]

     

Soon after Dad returns to our house and Aunt Gretchen returns to hers. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

That wasn’t the end of the cancer but four years later would be Dad’s end.

I like to remember Dad for more than just his cancer. He taught me to ride my bicycle, leading me along our street and the dead end crescent adjoining it. I was nine and a half, maybe a bit old to be just learning to ride a bike as my best friend The Bully told me. Looking back I realize that Dad holding the bike bars and leading me around along our street helped neutralize this Bully’s remarks. True, Dad was overprotective, as elderly parents often are, but he tried to protect me from The Bully.

Dad gave me the gift of being a railway/train-riding enthusiast. Dad worked as a timekeeper for the old CNR (when CN was CNR and had passenger service) so Mom and I got free passes. Our annual holidays to Grandpa’s and my godmother’s farms near Walkerton, Ontario, trips to visit the Detroit, Michigan relatives, and tourist trips to Buffalo, Rochester and New York City were all courtesy of Dad.

Dad’s railway job (an office one at the CNR office when it was in Toronto) may have induced his obsession with all things (including the kitchen wall clock and his watch) being on time. We had to arrive at Toronto’s Union Station very early so he could be first in line to get on the train. Once we were allowed on, Dad cased the joint by walking up and down the coach aisles until he found the perfect seat. Then he would grab the top of the seat back and slide the seat backwards, creating two double seats facing each. I know, this dates me, but it was a great answer to keep families travelling together.

One of our trips to Detroit, when I was five was memorable because when the train arrived at Windsor, Ontario, a boat took us, train and all across the Detroit River.

 

Enter the Landsdowne Ferry in 1891, at 312 feet, the longest ferry on the Great Lakes. That summer of 1954, Mom, Dad and I were fortunate to take one of its last runs because in September 1955 or 1956, depending on your source, the CNR pulled the plug on passenger railway/ferry service. Once again passengers had to disembark from a train at Windsor and board an American train at Detroit. This time a bus carried them through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.

 

But to a five-year old, the river run is a big sea adventure filled with rollicking train coaches and the screech of metal wheels on steel rails as the train jerks and jolts onto the long open freighter. Instead of the train whistle, we get the foghorn call of the boat and the floor seems to zig and zag. I hang onto the seat, but I also look out the window. The train appears to be moving on water, as if its wheels are kicking through the river…

 

We head to the back of the train and I gasp. The doorway is wide open and an expansion gate blocks our exit out onto the boat. On the other side of the gate the top of the boat sits level with the tracks, and beyond is the city of Windsor, fast disappearing as the boat-train sloshes and kicks its way through the dark green Detroit River. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford.

Sometimes in November I can feel Dad’s spirit here in my house. In 2005, on the 40th anniversary of his death, I heard his spirit rush through the house, through the back hallway.

I don’t know if he will re-appear so dramatically this year, but I know he is here.

Love you and miss you Dad.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Dad's last picture

Dad’s last picture

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Albert Langevin, Canadian National Railway, Death and Dying, Elderly parents, Family, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Vacations

Only Child tackles starting the memoir

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

When I first started writing my memoir I had a very different take on what I wanted to include. I wanted it to be more family history – mainly the dead relatives and my relationship with them – when they were alive. I’m not that weird. Some family flak, as well as some constructive criticism from another writer, steered me in another direction. My memoir is now my story of growing up a shy only child of elderly parents in the 1950s and 1960s when Dad is dying of cancer and the environment is old-school Catholic.

When you find your memoir muse, writing the actual memoir can seem daunting. Where do you start? Where do you go?

In my last post https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/only-child-on-finding-your-memoir-muse-2/ I talked about using the kaleidoscope method to narrow down what the heck you want to write about. When you decide if it is overcoming your drug addiction, your crazy childhood or your travels through the Yukon, that’s the branch of your kaleidoscope you use to create an outline.

But before you do that, you want to write down your memoir’s focus or mission statement. As I did above, try to get it down to one sentence, two sentences maximum. This will help you create your outline.

“Create” and “Outline” seem worlds apart. But if you just write “from the seat of your pants” your memoir will be all over the place. Just remember that whatever you put in this outline may not be what you end up with. Keep an open mind for change because as you write your memoir, things will change – perhaps your perspective, perhaps due to family flak, perhaps boredom on your part. Consider your outline a “work-in-progress.”

Then…

  • Do it as a chapter-by-chapter setup or as subject matter you wish to cover. This is just to get you started – to move you from mission statement to content.
  • Under each “subject” listed, write a few sentences or list (whichever works best for you) what you could cover there.
  • If you need to dig further for information, make a note in brackets (further info needed).

That’s it in a nutshell. And, once you write your beginning chapter, you don’t need to write the chapters in the order listed. Perhaps you are missing some research for Chapter Two or the content of Chapter Five is calling your muse.  Follow it. That’s being creative. Remember, you still have your outline to steer you in…later.

Happy memoir writing.

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes.

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, cancer, Catholicism in the 1950s, Elderly parents, Memoir writing, Only child memoir, Organizing Memoir, Sharon Crawford