Tag Archives: Memoir writing

Only Child teaching Memoir Writing Course

A week from today, I start teaching my Sharing Your Stories: Introduction to Memoir Writing Course at the Toronto Reference Library. For four Tuesday afternoons in April, the 20 participants and I will share some of our personal stories, share the joys and roadblocks we are encountering to even get started writing. I will share how to actually get on your butt (at the computer) and get going at writing your story.

I taught this course last year at another library branch, and many short workshops on Kick-starting Your Memoir. Yes, I have written (and rewritten) a memoir . It has not been published yet, but it has been pitched a few years ago. I got sidetracked because I started getting my mystery fiction published in 2012, but have plans to do some more rewriting (and change the title) of my memoir. Meantime, I pull short excerpts from my memoir and rewrite them with more text pertinent to short or longish memoir pieces for print and online magazines. And I teach memoir writing.

We can all (participants and instructor) learn from each other. As this course is full and not everyone reading this blog lives in the Toronto, Ontario area, I plan to post snippets from each session in the next four or five blog posts. That way I can share some information and suggestions with readers of this blog. After all, one of the original criteria of this blog is the memoir aspect. And I know I have deviated somewhat into posts about weather, religion, gardens, seniors, my parents – well even those are related to being an only child growing up Catholic in the 1950s and early 1960s, the only child of middle-age parents. Our past has a lot to do with our future. Of course, we can make changes, if we choose to do so.

And posting some info here avoids carting around a bunch of handouts. Although I use Power Point for part of the first two sessions, it is still hard copy and a lot of dialogue. Which might be appropriate for a course on writing about the past.

Today, I will just add the overall information about what I plan to cover in this course.

First the blurb used:

Always wanted to write your family’s story or your story but need motivation and guidance? Author, editor and writing instructor, Sharon A. Crawford will get you writing your story. Using prompts such as the six senses to kick-start your memory, sharing your stories, looking at published memoirs, and doing fun exercises, these four hands-on sessions will take you into the nitty-gritty of writing the memoir.

Broken down briefly (for now), sessions will be:

Session 1 – Getting started – often the big bugaboo. And often it is because we can’t decide what to write about. So, we will get some ideas and tools on this and do some writing exercises. Lots of discussion as well.

Session 2 – Research and Writing Your Memoir Beginning:

It’s not all online searching. We must not forget the “rellies” (as a friend calls her relatives). Dialogue, dialogue as well as documents, documents. Again exercises, including writing a draft memoir beginning and sharing our stories.

Session 3 – It’s all about Form and Using Fiction Tools to Write Memoir

Memoir is written in many forms, but the bottom lines are: they read like fiction, but are not fiction. Again lots of discussion back and forth and writing exercises.

Session 4 -Using Fiction Tools to Write Memoir (continued), Truth or Dare, Q and A

The actual memoir writing (and I only promise to get everyone starting their memoir) takes more than one session. In fact a whole six to eight week course would be more realistic and then you would have to write some more. And rewrite and rewrite. So we will continue with this, including writing and sharing our stories. We will also cover something most memoir writers run up against – the rellies wanting to keep family secrets secret.

Are you writing a memoir?

I’ll close with a couple of suggestions of memoirs to read – maybe you have already read them. Both describe family life – but two completely different situations. The books are Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildner and The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Bloggimg, Only child, Only child memoir

Only Child says focus and it might happen

Only child in doorway to her office

Only child in doorway to her office

Last week I blogged about Karma – what goes around comes around, something I firmly believe in even if I don’t see it. But there is also the belief that if you put it out there, the Universe, God or whomever might deliver.

No, I’m not turning into a believer here, but by accident I discovered a twist to this.

As many of you know I have turned into a very cranky angry person, thanks to all the crap that has been shoved my way and thanks to that, all the areas in my life where I feel cheated. So it has made me push a lot in my complaining. Besides the health area (which I will stay off this time), I have been complaining loud and clear about my financial position, about living below the poverty level. I just did my income taxes for 2015 and that confirms it – even lower income then for 2014 and 2016 was looking even worse, what with the powers that be at Service Ontario cum CPP, cutting back on my monthly CPP income and adding insult to injury by deciding to take off all the “extra” in May. Of course, I filed a dispute.

Along with this bad financial situation is the lack of sufficient work coming in for the first part of this year. I am teaching a fiction writing workshop at the S. Walter Stewart Library branch later this year in October.

So, I’ve been yelling about these two – financial and lack of work to bring in money – but also putting my invisible money where my mouth is, so to speak. I’ve been pitching both my writing workshops and speaking engagements for my Beyond fiction books to various branches.

Voila.

Late last Friday afternoon I received an email from a librarian at the North York Public Library branch. The writer/editor who usually teaches their four-session Memoir Writing Course in June has had to suddenly cancel (why is her business). So the librarian who looks after programing there emailed me and asked if I would like to teach the course and there would be financial compensation.

He had received my name from another librarian, Janet Nanos (and I don’t mind mentioning her name and you’ll see why in a sec) who is instrumental in my East End Writers’ Group meeting almost monthly at the S. Walter Stewart branch and also for that October fiction writing workshop. Turns out the NYCC librarian and Janet used to work together so he emailed her and she recommended me. And yes, I thanked her.

I have since talked with Val, the NYCC librarian and we have firmed up what I am to teach (pretty much up to me for the content) and he confirmed my fee (same as I get at other library branches per hour). This is for June. The write-up about it will soon go on their website and I’ll post that in future when that happens in case anyone is interested in taking this course. It is free to library patrons – the only catch being you can’t have taken another version of the course previously at that library branch.

So, sometimes putting it out there will bring in some help. Sometimes you just have to yell and complain a lot to be heard.

Now, I just have to figure out how to afford to get through May with no extra income and less CPP. I have gardening and yard supplies to get, trees to be trimmed, and one of my handyman to be here to do some tasks.

Plus I have a horrendous water bill – over $230. and a lot of that has to do with the City not billing often enough. Last bill was in December and this one that just came is due May 9. Plus there is a property tax bill, etc. etc. etc.

Looks like a few health-related issues may have to be put on hold.

But all that is for another post.

Cheers.

Sharon

Only Child Writes

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under finances, God, Home and Garden, Librarians, Libraries, Memoir writing, Memoir writing course, Only child, Poverty

Only Child on end of summer

Garden front of house

Tomorrow Sept. 23 is the first day of fall. So today is the last day of summer and winter is getting closer and closer. For someone like me who hates winter, that means I need to focus on something positive.

Every year about this time I start preparing for the big winter hibernate. No, I don’t go underground like the bears (although sometimes I wish I did); however, there are other things I do before I wind down somewhat – at least in how often I go outdoors, and softening the negative vision I see when I look out the window in winter – like snow, ice, dead brown trees and dead brown plants. I do not get anything positive from winter scenes and neither like nor participate in winter sports.

So, I focus on the preparation. I make lists of fall cleanup/fix-up repairs inside and outside and gardening cleanup, actual doing down some veggies and fruits (some from my garden and some from the farmers’ markets), and my list of and buying of grocery items – big items like toilet paper I really don’t want to cart home in the snow and other winter weather. Food items – yes, some canned, but many in bottles and dried – again so I have them here in case of bad winter weather. For October and November I add a bit more to my weekly grocery budget so I can gradually get all these supplies home (yes, batteries and the like included). No car, so have to do it gradually anyway.  And who will shovel the four-letter bad word for winter – snow.

My house and garden list has a column called “Who?” as in “Who will do?” I’ve already contacted my main handyman Mike to set up what he will do and when in early October. My friend across the street, Al, has given me a battery-operated tree trimmer and said he would trim the overgrown yews this time so in future I can keep up with it regularly (he said to remind him, so I have to do that). The fellow who cleans out the eaves troughs – mostly from all the black walnut leaves and branches from the trees next door (branches hang over into my patio but they give me summer shade) has already done one cleaning. There will probably be two more before mid-November.

At least the squirrels will disappear – as long as it’s not in my attic or anywhere on my property. So far they have made a mess with their bad “table manners” chewing on the walnuts – ruined the colour of the two patio chairs and dug up potted plants. One of my favourite phrases lately is “roadkill.”

So, on this last day of summer I am posting a couple of photos from my garden.

Then I have some last minute prep for a Memoir writing workshop – Writing Your Memoir from Pictures I’m teaching this evening at the Brentwood Library branch in the west end of Toronto.  It is free, although I do get paid to teach it.

 

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

 

Roses in bloom late spring

Raggedy Annie guards Only Child's front garden

Raggedy Annie guards Only Child’s front garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Gardening, Grocery Shopping, Home and Garden, Lists, Memoir writing, Only child, Shopping, Snow Removal, Weather

Only Child on first novel Beyond Blood being published

Cover of Only Child's first published mystery novel just out

Cover of Only Child’s first published mystery novel just out

Hi all:

Getting my first novel Beyond Blood published even at the ripe old age of 65 still resonates. Especially when I dreamed for years of doing so but had to hold back on the writing required because I needed to do other stuff to earn a living.

That includes working as a secretary in what seems like another life. But some of this other stuff is and was writing – since 1976 (gulp) when I first started getting my humorous personal essays and feature articles published in a local Bradford, Ontario newspaper. Personal essays equals short memoir pieces and although the book-length memoir is still being rewritten, getting personal essays published early in my writing career apparently is a feat not easy to do – at least these days. All fodder for the memoir book.

As for Beyond Blood – it has been in the works off and on for around 15 years. Maybe longer, as my freelance writing and some of those secretarial positions provided information, research and impetus for Beyond Blood. For example, two of my main characters who are PIs, fraternal twins Dana Bowman and Bast Overture get some of their career history from me. Bast is a former crime reporter and although that wasn’t my main beat, I did write some crime stories. Dana has a history as a freelance PI, which I never did but being a journalist also requires a lot of digging around and interviewing people. And the main police officer in the novel, Detective Sergeant Donald Fielding was inspired by a sergeant when I worked as a clerk for the Toronto Police Services back in the 1970s. I also worked as a secretary in a legal office in the late 1980s. So my secretarial background did more than pay the bills.

Then there are my growing-up years when I became hooked on mystery fiction. My late Mom and I would watch the Perry Mason series (the older one in black and white) on TV every Saturday evening. My mystery reading started before that with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, moving on to Agatha Christie when I was 12 or 13 – and on to many other mystery authors since. I am still reading new mystery authors (new to me) and learning from them.

It goes to show that writing fiction digs back into your past. Who you were, who you have become and your experiences all factor in. As a child I was bullied by both a classmate/friend and one of the nun teachers. So I felt like the underdog – and that is an underlying theme in my mystery writing, especially where children are concerned. But not all children with horrific childhoods come through okay. And I use that too.

Writing fiction also uses my imagination. It is fiction, not fact. The plots can become devious and I should hope original. And the characters… Let’s just say Dana and Bast (Dana, in particular) tend to take over and rule the roost in my fiction writing.

That’s a good thing for me. Fiction writing can get you out of the misery of your life. But it is also a means to have things get solved, some resolution, some closure – which often doesn’t happen in life.

Of course, some things in fiction still carry over into the next book.

Check out my publisher’s website for more info on Beyond Blood www.bluedenimpress.com and also my author blog www.sharonacrawfordauthor.com

And the book cover at the top links to my book on Amazon.

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

3 Comments

Filed under Beyond Blood, Mother, mystery novels, Nancy Drew, Only child memoir, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncategorized, Writing

Only Child roars about sleep deprivation

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

Only Child catching some much-needed zzzzs.

In this fast-paced overwhelm world getting enough sleep is a pipe dream for many of us. I’m at the point now where if anyone – expert or so-called well-meaning “friend” suggests I need more sleep, I will hand over my “to do” list (or rattle it off) and say,

“Here, take care of all this and maybe I might just enough sleep.”

Maybe is the key word here. I have other sleep stealers going on. I’m a senior and as you age your quantity and quality of sleep diminishes. Copy that – at least in the sleep beyond 7.30 a.m. or 8 a.m. area. That is if I don’t get woken up by the boarder getting up from her room to feed her cat anywhere from 5.30 a.m. to 6.30 a.m. I don’t hear them every morning.

Or one of my many medical conditions either keeps me awake or wakes me up early. Or something unknown – maybe a bad dream – wakes me up during the night. If I don’t get back to sleep within 10 minutes it’s a lost cause as my mind starts thinking of my too many problems, some of which are on that “to do” list.

I’ve tried getting to bed earlier but between what I call housework shit (no, not dusting, just the routine daily stuff like lock doors, make the coffee and set it up for the next day, etc.) and the bedtime rituals (shower and sometimes washing and drying hair) I’m lucky if I make it to bed by 12.30.

Amount of sleep needed each night is different for each individual. I need at least seven and a half hours sleep each night for my health and I would love to get it. Sometimes I think about when I was a child sleeping in my room and hearing the comfort of my parents talking about budgets of all things down the hall in the kitchen. Or sleeping in on weekends until I heard my mother yelling, “get out, get out,” not to me or Dad, but to the roast stuck in the very small freezer atop the small fridge.

I know all my nights in childhood didn’t have 100 percent sleeping with no worries. In high school I would worry about finishing studying for exams and get up really early for more studying. Life as a kid and teenager was not stress-free.

Somehow, over the many decades since, the stress has piled up and up and turned into a constant overwhelm – even when one problem gets solved another one pops up.

And it all affects my sleep.

I’m not alone here – we are a sleep-deprived society with our hurry-rush-rush lifestyles. Smart phones (what a misnomer) and all the other technology that keeps us “connected” 24/7 is partly to blame. Although maybe not in my case as I don’t have a smart phone; I don’t do “Twitter” (for the birds is my take on that), and I make sure I have off-the-computer time where I actually shut the computers off. I do have an e-reader but reading is one of my so-called relaxing pastimes (whether print or e). I say “so-called” because finding time to read for pleasure is almost as hard as finding time to sleep.

Despite my dig at sleep experts and other health experts above, they are right about the downsides of not getting enough sleep. I do agree, but sometimes I feel like shouting “stop the world I want to get off.”

Check out these articles on sleep deprivation.

Insufficient Sleep is a Public Health Epidemic http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
Sleep Centers Increase to Highest Number Ever http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/03/sleep-centers-highest-number-american-academy-of-sleep-medicine_n_2366719.html

We are a sleep-deprived world and we resent it.

How do you get enough sleep or do you get enough sleep? Comments please.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Sharon A. Crawford teaches memoir writing workshops and courses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Her next workshop, Getting Your Memoir off the Ground is Saturday, May 10, 2014 at Hugh’s Books and the Studio @ Hughs in east end Toronto. If you are in the Toronto area and want to learn more about writing memoir, this might be the workshop for you. More details on at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

4 Comments

Filed under Memoir writing course, Mom and Dad, Only child, Overwhelm, Problems, Sharon Crawford, Uncategorized

Only Child on the creative side of writing memoir

 Only Child as a toddler  with Mom in the backyard

Only Child as a toddler with Mom in the backyard

Memoir is non-fiction so it has to be factual and perhaps dull? No, no, no.

True, you have to get information you include such as statistics and dates of birth of family members correct. However, you are telling your story, what you remember. The key word is “story.” In fiction, stories are made-up and  creative (or should be). And that creativity (but not the made-up part) can be applied to certain types of non-fiction such as narrative non-fiction and memoir. For narrative non-fiction consult an expert writer in that area, such as Ken McGoogan who has written several award-winning books in that vein and teaches the subject at the University of Toronto. See http://kenmcgoogan.blogspot.ca/p/home_11.html

Your memoir should be your truth but should read like fiction. Here is a brief example from my memoir-in-the-works You Can Go Home: deconstructing the demons (and I want to change that title as well).

One night, late, loud pounding on the front door wakes Mom, Dad and me. Like the servant heeding the master, we all trip out to the front. Mother turns on the veranda light and yanks the door open.

 “Do you know this man?” A police officer stands on our veranda. His right hand supports the shoulder of a dishevelled man.

“Uh, home,” the man says.

The stench of his breath assaults my nostrils and I jump back behind my mother, but nudge my head out. The man’s black hair lies flat and oily. Night shadow and red compete for attention on his face. He is bare from his neck to his dark trousers and when I look closer, I see blood streaking down from a deep slice on his left cheek and dribbling onto his chest. His eyes look bloody and vague, at least what I can see of them. A black mass hovers above his left eye.

“Home?” he asks again.

“Sharon, go back to bed,” Dad says. “This is not for little girls.”

But I am both fascinated and repulsed. I lean out a little further. Who is this man?  Copyright 2014 Sharon A. Crawford)

This reads like fiction, but it is what happened (as far as my memory can well, remember). Fiction tools used are:

Dialogue – although with memoir you don’t have to remember it word for word. Dialogue shows the reader how you saw the people in your life and how you spoke then. Try to make your dialogue consistent with your age back then. Unless you were a child genius you probably didn’t talk like an adult. Also remember to use appropriate slang for the time period. “Awesome” wasn’t used back in the 1950s and 1960s – at least according to my memory.

The people involved are presented as characters with traits. For example, I’m shy and hide behind my mother. Dad tries to protect me. The man at the door is shown as drunk with how he looks to me and there is one word of dialogue from him.

Point of View – usually with memoir it is the memoir writer’s  (you) POV but if you are writing about your parents and their story, you can use third person. Here it is my point of view. And as mentioned in last week’s post, your point of view can change now from when it was then. The trick is to put yourself back to that child you were at whatever age your story occurs and write from there. This is what I did here. With some of your scenarios, what you know and think now may be scurring around in your mind. It’s okay to add a bit of that, but make sure you word it as today’s take. This often works for comparison. But I wouldn’t use it for every scenario as it can get tedious. Some memoirs will cover the time-line gap, so today’s view could go in chronologically.

With fiction, I find many authors whose book manuscripts I edit, mix up their point of view use. Point of View doesn’t usually present as much of a problem in memoir because you are telling your story.

You can combine scenarios to a certain extent. For example, at the reception at home after my Dad’s funeral, I combine something one of my aunt’s said at another time (no story with the actual time she said it) with certain other things actually said at the reception. I was contrasting Mom’s country-born family with Dad’s city-born family and the interaction of the two “species.”

Which bring me to my final tip – as mentioned in last week’s post, each chapter should focus on one topic and its theme. For example, I have a chapter that focuses on gardening with my mother and father and its connection with our religious beliefs back then. So, no going on tangents here about what happened in school – those stories go into a different chapter or two or three. However, I do get into some of my friends I hung around with where it is connected to gardening and religion. When my friends and I played with our dolls outside in the backyard, we used to pull leaves off the trees and shrubs for the dolls’ food. My dad would charge out into the backyard and give us hell for doing so. Next day we’d be over at one of my friends in her backyard and get into a discussion about religion – she was Baptist and I was Catholic.

You see, how you can weave in your stories.

The above should give you some ideas about writing your memoir creatively. If you are in the Toronto 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

http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Family, Memoir content, Memoir writing, Mom and Dad

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 http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/SpeakersBureau.html

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Leave a comment

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