2013 is History

January 1st. Day One of 2014. Today I want to look back at my 2013, its highs and lows, and tomorrow talk about the changes on my blog and goals for 2014. Reflections perhaps seem unusual on the first day of a new year. Yet our year has ended with a trip to the ER for my husband and some nursing on my part. Needless to say, my priorities suddenly shifted, and this post was put aside.

2013 is history

With 2013 now history, I can't change anything, nor would I want to. As a family, we had our share of difficulties and experienced healing in some of those. As an individual, I grew stronger as a woman and wife, mom and grandma.

Most importantly, I grew as a writer. The encouragement I received from various communities and several people is gratifying. Thanks to the following communities and people: Gutsy Indie Publishers Facebook GroupNAMW Facebook GroupMemoir Writers Society LinkedIn Group and Kathy PoolerSonia MarshBelinda Nicoll, and Mary Gottschalk. Many others have played a role in my 2013, but these three groups and four people have helped me discern the direction I should take in 2014.

Now for the countdown of the good and not so good of 2013:

All-Time Top Post:  How to Use Mind Mapping In Writing Memoir

All-Time Top Guest Post: An Adoptee's Story | Interview with Linda Hoye, Author of Two Hearts: An Adoptee's Journey Through Grief to Gratitude

Top Posts in 2013:

Firsts in 2013:

For the first time this year, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge held in April. My posts centered around character development. Indeed, posting daily for 26 days was a challenge but a lesson in realizing that I am capable of writing every day. Granted in this challenge, I had the benefit of working ahead a bit but the concept was always in the back of my mind.

Another first for 2013 involved my extending invitations to others to guest post here and in turn several bloggers invited me to guest post on their blogs. I enjoyed this interaction and the opportunity to work with other writers in accomplishing our goals for the various posts.

My guests included:

And it was an honor to be invited to visit the following blogs:

Thanks to each of these writers for giving me the opportunity to spread my wings as a guest on their blog.

Publications:

"Mama and Her Arsenal," "My Gutsy Story" Anthology, First Edition, compiled by Sonia Marsh, Gutsy Publications (September 1, 2013)

"The Unexpected," “Fall: Women’s Stories and Poems for the Season of Wisdom and Gratitude", edited by Debra Landwehr Engle and Diane Glass (September 20, 2013)

Inside Beachside: 2013 Beachside Writers' Conference | Readings, Writings, Reflections, compiled and edited by Roger Hite (March 2013)

Additionally, Womens Memoirs accepted two short pieces to be published in 2014 in a four-part series based on the seasons of the year.

Other Thoughts:

All of the above represent high points and growth in my writing life. Yet there were some questionable decisions I made -- starting a book review blog which may be outgrowing my ability to keep pace with it in 2014, not giving enough thought and energy to building my platform and developing my brand while writing my memoir, and others I won't bore you with.

What I've learned from the above is that there is a wealth of knowledge and information yet to be unearthed among the writers on the Internet and those leaders in specific areas of expertise. Keeping up with it all has been a challenge in 2013, and I'm still trying to figure out how to manage time, especially social media time vs. writing time.

Lastly, thanks to all of you who have faithfully followed my blog, encouraged me with your comments and support, and who have become priceless friends, some of whom I had the joy to meet face-to-face in 2013.

What would we do without community?

Come back tomorrow and let's talk 2014!

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Christmas Memories

As we draw closer to Christmas day, I find a flood of memories filling my mind. Some are good memories, some are funny, some are sad. But such are the ingredients of life. Capturing these memories felt important, necessary, desired. As I sat down to write them out, I decided some were worthy of the blog where I share my life stories.

Nativity Scene at Centennial Park in Nashville, TN (1954-1967) via Nashville Archives

Nativity Scene at Centennial Park in Nashville, TN (1954-1967) via Nashville Archives

Not too long ago I posted on memory triggers. In the last few days, a high school classmate posted an image on our graduating class's Facebook page.

That image triggered a rush of memories.

Suddenly I could feel the biting cold of the night air as we stood under the stars and gazed upon the largest nativity I had ever seen. Every year we piled in the car, bundled from head to toe, to join with hundreds, maybe thousands, of other citizens in and around Nashville to view the Nativity donated by a local businessman.

And then it was a quick drive home to warm up and crawl into bed but not until Dad had read the nativity passage from the Bible. Mom, Dad, and I -- and years later my younger brother -- gathered on the living room sofa with the lights twinkling on the tree and our now somewhat very small nativity lit on top of the radio/phonograph console.

Memories by now were marching on and I'm thinking back to one Christmas night when I was about seven, almost eight. As all children experience, I went to bed when told but could not sleep. Waiting and listening for any sound that evidenced the arrival of Old St. Nick.

There it was. Sounds of activity in the living room. Voices even. Could it be?

Only one way to find out. I quietly climbed from my bed, opened my door, and peeked into the hall. Someone was in the living room!

Tiptoeing as quietly as possible I made my way down the hall. He was in the living room. Putting together a blue bicycle! Oh, how I had dreamed of this moment. My very own blue bicycle. And Santa, right there before my eyes!

1955 Hanes Ad via Google

1955 Hanes Ad via Google

Strange -- Santa wasn't wearing the familiar red suit. Instead he was wearing jockey shorts and the standard male undershirt of the day. A toolbox sat by his side and an instruction sheet laid out to follow along. Didn't his elves put everything together for Santa to deliver?

And there was Mom, her hair in curlers and her in her robe in the middle of the night. What was she doing up with Santa in his underwear?

This was definitely not what I expected. I gasped and gulped back my tears.

Santa was evidently my mom and dad. All this time I believed in a man in a red suit with a snow-white beard who drove a sleigh pulled by reindeer and delivered toys all over the world. The truth sat in my living room, right before my eyes!

Mom and Dad looked up at my gasp, and they knew then that the secret of Santa was no more. Their little girl discovered the truth on this very night called Christmas Eve.

I sat in Mom's lap while Dad finished putting the bike together. He sat me on it and promised the next morning he would take me out to go for a spin.

Santa or no Santa, I gave Dad a big smile!

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These are only a couple of my Christmas memories that came back to me this last week. Have you experienced any cherished memories in the past few days or weeks? Perhaps you'll share them in the comments below.

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Healing by Writing will be quiet until the first of the year. It's a time to be spent with family and cherishing the new memories being made.I hope you'll be doing the same.

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Using Sense Memory to Remember Story Details, A Post by Bryan Cohen on Memoir Writer's Journey

Bryan Cohen, Author of 1000 Creative Writing Prompts
Bryan Cohen, Author of 1000 Creative Writing Prompts

Last week on Kathy Pooler's blog, Memoir Writer's Journey, Kathy's guest was Bryan Cohen, author of 1000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts , Stories and More. Bryan shared his thoughts on Using Sense Memory to Remember Story Details.

Bryan's post was so interesting and informative I wanted to take this opportunity to share it forward with those who might not see it otherwise. So, please take a moment and visit Kathy and Bryan to read Bryan's post.

How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal by Brooke Warner | A Review

Image via Goodreads
Image via Goodreads

How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal

By: Brooke Warner
Publisher: She Writes Press
Published: October 25, 2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Author

Synopsis: How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal offers memoirists an easy-to-follow formula to create a winning book proposal that will attract agents and editors. Brooke Warner is a former acquiring editor and current publisher who breaks the nonfiction proposal into three editorial components and three marketing components. This ebook includes a section about platform-and an explanation of why memoirists need one and how they can build one-as well as real samples from authors who have sold their memoirs to traditional publishers off their proposals. Find easy-to-follow templates and smart tips for navigating agents and publishers, along with best practices memoirists can't afford not to know!

(Synopsis from Goodreads)

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My Thoughts:

With a memoir well on its way to completion, I've been muddling over what does a writer does once the manuscript is complete, when you believe it's really ready for the hands of a publisher.

When the opportunity arose to review Brooke Warner's newly released book, How to Sell Your Memoir: 12 Steps to a Perfect Book Proposal, I signed on to help spread the word about it. Little did I know that a majority of my questions would be answered while I read the book.

Warner succinctly and with clarity provides a step-by-step guide to what a memoirist needs to do in order to place his/her manuscript on the correct pathway to publication. Leaving nothing to chance, she provides tips set apart in such a way that it is easy to thumb back through the book and easily spot them. Here's an example similar to what you'll find in Warner's book:

TIP: THINK OF YOUR BOOK PROPOSAL LIKE A BOOK REPORT YOU WOULD HAVE DONE IN GRADE SCHOOL. IT NEEDS A TITLE PAGE AND A TABLE OF CONTENTS SO THE READER OF THE PROPOSAL KNOWS WHAT THEY CAN EXPECT TO FIND, AND SO THEY CAN SKIP AHEAD IF THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIFIC OF INTEREST TO THEM.

Additionally, Warner provides other best practices information with each chapter. These are extremely well written and easily understood. Samples of each phase are provided, including query letter, components of proposal, marketing research, etc.

Sprinkled along the way are resources Warner believes beneficial to the writer new to the marketing and publishing aspects of book publishing.

Her writing and format are both good examples of what agents and publishers will likely be looking for.

Considering the short length, 88 pages of text and tips, Warner answers all of my questions to date and has demystified the issues of platform, query letters, book proposals and more.

My Recommendation:

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough for people writing memoir who may be reaching that point where issues surrounding marketing and publishing begin to come into focus. This is by far one of the best examples of a "how to" book which clearly maps out the process for you.

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Meet the Author:

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

Brooke Warner is the founder and president of Warner Coaching Inc., where she specializes in helping writers get published. She is also the publisher of She Writes Press. In her thirteen years in the publishing industry, including seven-plus years as an acquiring editor at Seal Press, Brooke shepherded over 500 books through the publication process. Her expertise is in traditional and new publishing, and she is an equal advocate for publishing with a traditional house and self-publishing. Brooke's website, www.warnercoaching.com, is the recipient of an award from the Association of Independent Authors for Best Website for Independent Authors. She sits on the board of the National Association of Memoir and She Writes. What's Your Book? is her first book and she's proud to be publishing on She Writes Press. Warner lives in Berkeley, California, and works remotely with clients nationally and internationally.

Other places to connect with Brooke Warner:

Facebook: facebook.com/warnercoaching Twitter: @brooke_warner She Writes blog: http://www.shewrites.com/profiles/blog/list?user=1resr57ciyxus YouTube: youtube.com/warnercoaching Pinterest: pinterest.com/warnercoaching

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UP NEXT: Coming soon we'll take a look at how to choose stories you'll include in your memoir. 

Memoir Writers' Resources Series | The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story by Linda Joy Myers

This is the third in this series, which has an infinite number of parts. Therefore, there is no "Part 1 of a #;" it will simply continue until the well dries up. The first two posts can be found here and here.

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Image via Goodreads
Image via Goodreads

Linda Joy Myers' book, The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story, is among the first books I turned to when I recognized the desire and yes, even the need, to write my story.

When I sat down to read through it, Myers' writing style mesmerized me. Myers shares not only writing tips and guidelines, but as a psychotherapist she has helped others through pain and has worked through a great deal of emotional pain herself.

Comfortable and sensitive in her choice of words, Myers made me feel as if I were the only one she was talking to as we worked our way through this how-to guidebook on memoir writing.

Found between the covers of The Power of Memoir Writing are resources going beyond the mere writing of the manuscript. Here are a few examples:

  • A Useful Disclaimer
  • Tips for Making Ethical Decisions About Your Memoir
  • Preparing to Publish Your Memoir
  • Finding a Professional Editor
  • The Opinions of Friends, Peers, and Writer's Groups
  • Building Your Platform
  • Book Publishing Options

Recently, I read a blog post by Myers, Tips for Your Memoir Writing Journey. The post begins with language that I feel sums up beautifully the message in The Power of Memoir:

Writing a memoir is like finding yourself on a journey: you thought you knew where you were going, but eventually you are lost! We all experience several stages that lead up to your journey: As you pack your suitcase, you think about the thrilling and interesting moments you will encounter. And as you start your journey, you are still excited and moving forward with great energy. Then reality sets in. Life still presents challenges. And it is this way when we write our memoir.

If you are just beginning or have already begun writing your memoir, The Power of Memoir should be on your list of resources to find and add to your writing library.

Perhaps you have a favorite memoir writing resource or resources.

If so, I hope you'll share them in a comment below.

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Linda Joy Myers' books are available on Amazon, where you will also find a short author's biography. Myers is also the founder and president of National Association of Memoir Writers, another incredible resource for the writer working on memoir. Additionally, Myers blogs at Memories and Memoirs.

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Triggers for Releasing Memories

“Songs and smells will bring you back to a moment in time morethan anything else. It's amazing how much can be conjured with a few notes of a song or a solitary whiff of a room. A song you didn't even pay attention to at the time, a place that you didn't even know had a particular smell.”

― 

Emily Giffin

Something Borrowed

Lately, as I attempt to finish my memoir, I find myself looking for motivational triggers to release memories perhaps faded or almost forgotten. So many stimuli in our environment can release memories -- photographs, letters, music, smells, words and phrases, hearing from old friends:

The following excerpt from my draft memoir is an example of the impact of the of the sense of smell on memory:

I stand in the kitchen mashing bananas for muffins, and I'm suddenly aware of beginnings and endings. To nourish my infant son some 30 years ago, I mashed bananas as part of his diet to nourish what was beginning in him. My mind's eye also sees clearly the mornings I stood beside my mom's bed in her nursing home room mashing bananas hoping to sustain what was left of her life. The ordinary things of life so often mark the eclipsing joys and sorrows of our lives.

The essence of the banana I was mashing reached my olfactory senses and plunged me deep into the cycle of life as I remembered both my son's infancy and the end of my mother's life. It is a cherished memory in both situations.

Other triggers I find helpful that are close at hand are listed below:

  • Photographs are an effective means of triggering memories, both about people, places and time. For example, this photograph of my mother reminds me instantly of her strength and determination, but also the set of her jaw and mouth centers my memory on her tragic method of disciplining with cruel words that struck at your emotional stability. Despite the age and damage to the image, I can see, hear and feel the power with which she moved about daily doing her housework and making a home for us. At the same time, I can also see, hear and feel the wrath and temper behind her angry words and manipulations as she punished us. The photo also reminds me of where we were living, her age at the time, and some memories that were made in our home there.Using photographs to evoke memories is effective. If you have access to old family photos, try looking at a few to see what memories they may trigger.
  • Music can also evoke memories especially when connected to specific events. For me, listening to classical music enhances my writing time. Something about the harmonies floating together, the richness of the instrumental sounds, and even at times the dissonance in some compositions enhance settings, moods of characters, and other writing elements depending on the selection being played. Edgar Elgar's Enigma Variations is a work consisting of 14 variations based on an impromptu composition. The ninth variation, commonly called Nimrod, was introduced to me by a now deceased brother-in-law who enjoyed words and excelled at writing. His encouragement of my writing endeavors is mentally linked to that beautiful Elgar composition for eternity. When I hear it, I immediately think of times with Jim talking about writing and words. My writing suddenly becomes swifter and easier.
Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago Sharon Lippincott shared on the Lifewriters Forum a link, Upchucky.org/JukeCity, where, by clicking on the year you graduated from high school or college, you can select from 20 popular musical selections from that year. For me, the memories were flowing as I listened to the music of my high school graduation year, 1964, and I was reminded of listening to it on a tabletop jukebox like the one shown here. Check it out -- it's great fun and perhaps there's a story waiting for you.

Are there perhaps recordings of music that touch you in such a way or that are connected to events such that they would bring back memories you may have otherwise forgotten?

  • As mentioned above, smells can be evocative of certain memories and places. There are foods that when I smell them cooking I am instantly transported to my mother's kitchen. An especially strong aroma for me is the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking. I see myself perched on Mom's kitchen stool. It was red and had two steps to get to the seat. From there, I imagined myself helping, which wasn't allowed, but it didn't hurt to imagine (no one else knew what I was imagining!). Oh, but the smells of baking that filled the kitchen were luscious. Other recipes of Mom's can also take me back to that kitchen.Try making a meal or a single recipe from your childhood and see if it has an impact on your memories and how easily they may come forward.
  • Lastly, let's look at the power of words and phrases to evoke memories. Certain phrases from my family included "whatever floats your boat," "that's so hard bet you can't stick a pin in it," "shut my mouth," and many more that I can think of in my family. Growing up in the deep South, I also remember colloquialisms such as "his'n" and "her'n" instead of "his" and "her" or "hit's jest down the road apiece" when you've asked for directions. My mom's maid, Lucy, always called me "my sweet chile." When I'm back in Tennessee for a visit and I hear the word "chile," I immediately see Lucy and smell her lavender water that she always wore. I also feel the softness of her arms around me and her lap when I needed it.

These are just a few of the triggers that came to mind as I prepared this post. I am sure many more exist in our individual worlds and environments.

What triggers do you find most helpful in your writing? Would love for you to share them in the comments section below.

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Coming up next: Continuing the memoir resource series with Linda Joy Myers and her book, The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story. You don't want to miss this!