For each writer, or painter, or composer, inspiration comes from a different source. We are not all the same, and our muses work from a variety of points of inspiration.
Because I have a good memory, I have been able to draw from my childhood easily when working on my memoir. When my mother died, she left an abundance of old black and white photos. They have helped me pinpoint her expressions, both when happy and not so happy. But this week, inspiration arrived in an email.
My cousin, Rosie Lee, sent an email out of the blue. We communicate from time to time but not often. Her email held her stories of two experiences she had with my mother — one when she was nine and the other after she had become a mother. Both were contrary to my own experiences but timely as I am working on a part of my draft focusing on the goodness in my mother, goodness seen and heard from others.
Rosie also mailed a lovely collection of black and whites which included one of my mother holding me when I was about eight months old. I had never seen that photo. In it, my mother’s eyes are shining and her smile spells happiness. Her expression speaks love. That photo told me she truly was glad to have me in her life despite the experiences that took place over the next 50+ years.
One photo moved me to a pinnacle of inspiration for drafting this portion of my memoir about Mother’s goodness and graciousness to others. There are surprises in store for my readers as this part of the memoir unfolds, and I believe I may be in for a few more surprises myself.
Thanks to Rosie for her loving email and sharing with me her experiences as well as sending those photos, such important chronicles of our lives with my mom.
Now, how about you? Where do you find your inspiration? Is it in people, places, photos, nature, art objects? Share with us, if you will.
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What’s next? On Tuesday, October 15th, I have the privilege of hosting Carol Bodensteiner in an interview. Carol and I exchange a variety of questions and answers, and one fascinates me — how she is accomplishing the switch from her memoir to a historical novel. Come and find out!
MEMOIR REVOLUTION: A SOCIAL AND LITERARY SHIFT THAT USES YOUR STORY TO HEAL, CONNECT AND INSPIRE By: Jerry Waxler Publisher: Neural Coach Press Published: March 13, 2013 Genre: Nonfiction Source: Purchased
In the 1960s, Jerry Waxler, along with millions of his peers, attempted to find truth by rebelling against everything. After a lifetime of learning about himself and the world, he now finds himself in the middle of another social revolution. In the twenty-first century, increasing numbers of us are searching for truth by finding our stories. In Memoir Revolution, Waxler shows how memoirs link us to the ancient, pervasive system of thought called The Story. By translating our lives into this form, we reveal the meaning and purpose that eludes us when we view ourselves through the lens of memory. And when we share these stories, we create mutual understanding, as well. By exploring the cultural roots of this literary trend, based on an extensive list of memoirs and other book, Waxler makes the Memoir Revolution seem like an inevitable answer to questions about our psychological, social and spiritual well-being.
“Jerry Waxler writes beautifully about his own life journey and integrates it with his deep and abiding knowledge and passion for story. His book is inspiring and welcoming to readers, writers, and teachers. I think his book could start an even bigger revolution!”
~ Linda Joy Myers, PhD, therapist, founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers and author of Don’t Call Me Mother and Journey of Memoir, a Workbook
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The new search for self takes advantage of Story, a powerful system of effort and reward that is at the heart of civilization. Through story, we learn about the journeys of others, learn the rigors and requirements of being ourselves, and then pass along what we’ve learned, developing far greater wisdom together than any of us could develop on our own.
~ Jerry Waxler (Memoir Revolution, Loc. 116, Kindle ed.)
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Jerry Waxler’s commitment to the burgeoning genre of memoir and his love of personal stories, his own and others, has brought to the pages of Memoir Revolution an amazing collection of his insights and life glimpses in combination with an overview of the genre and process of writing memoir.
As students of memoir, we are constantly reminded that reading others’ memoirs is the best way to grasp the craft of writing your story. Waxler stands as a leader among those who pass along this challenge, having read 100s of memoirs and continuing to do so. Drawing from his reviews of these memoirs on his blog, Memory Writers Network, Waxler’s analyses of these works offer a firm foundation for his credibility in showing the rest of us the “how to” of writing down our stories.
Often those of us writing memoir hear that to be published we must be a celebrity, someone famous, but not so says Waxler. In this book, he gives hope to the ordinary man and woman who believe they have a story to tell. And we all do. Waxler’s encouragement is palpable on the book’s pages.
Coupling clarity and readability, and his own coming of age story, Jerry Waxler brings to the writing community a must-read book for anyone drawn to writing memoir.
If you are interested in writing your life story or memoir, consider purchasing Waxler’s book. It is a window into the 21st century memoir revolution, as coined by Waxler, a revolution you can become a part of as you gaze into the windows of your soul for your own stories.
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Meet the Author:
JERRY WAXLER teaches memoir writing at Northampton Community College, Bethlehem, PA, online, and around the country. His Memory Writers Network blog offers hundreds of essays, reviews, and interviews about reading and writing memoirs. He is on the board of the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference and National Association of Memoir Writers and holds a BA in Physics and an MS in Counseling Psychology.
NEXT UP on Monday, September 16th, I will be a guest on Nikki Laven’s blog, simplystriving, using my writing in a different style than usual. Faith plays a big part in who I am and how I arrived at this writing life. I hope you’ll join me at Nikki’s.
I want to share with you two new resources which motivate me as a writer from the perspectives of memoir writing and fiction writing, specifically historical fiction.
I’ll share my thoughts on each in separate posts. First, I’ll be looking at Bob Welch’s Pebble in the Water, and on Thursday, September 10th, I’ll review Jerry Waxler’s new book, The Memoir Revolution.
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PEBBLE IN THE WATER By: Bob Welch Publisher: AO Creative Published: 2008 Genre: Nonfiction, Inspiration Source: Purchased
Synopsis: From ideas jotted on a Wendy’s napkin to twenty-six rejections to ABC’s “Good Morning America,” this is the true rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Welch’s research, writing, and promoting of the Oregon Book Award finalist, “American Nightingale.” His nearly four-year journey takes the journalist to Boston, Ellis Island, France and beyond. But his ultimate destination is a place of truth, the realization that sometimes the treasure we find at adventure’s end may not be the treasure we originally sought.
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Drop a pebble in the water, just a splash and it is gone But there’s a half a hundred ripples circling on and on Spreading from the center, flowing to the sea And there’s no way of knowing where the end is going to be.
— James W. Foley Featured in Welch’s books, American Nightingale & Pebble in the Water
Bob Welch’s book, Pebble in the Water, chronicles not only his experiences while writing the story of a World War II nurse nearly 60 years after she died in Belgium, but also the intricacy, detail and doggedness in Welch’s work and research. Welch believes the discovery of Frances Slanger’s story is either coincidence or, in the words of G.K Chesterson, a “spiritual pun.” In fact, Welch really didn’t discover Slanger’s story; it literally found him.
Once Welch heard Slanger’s story and her passion to change the world in a small but significant way, he could not let go of the project that would be his next book. It is the getting there that was bigger than writing the book.
Research and interviews with the few remaining survivors of the war who knew Frances Slanger took Welch from his home in Eugene, Oregon, to Boston, Massachusetts, on to Paris, France, and to the Pentagon. These trips were all at the author’s own cost, not only financial but at the expense of his family who spent many days and nights without him home.
Dogged determination is the essence of Bob Welch in whatever he is committed to doing. I have seen this in action in his workshops, other writings, his newspaper column, and yes, in his passion for living.
Whether you are a writer or not, Pebble in the Water,is an inspirational book. As the reader follows Welch in pursuit of all he can learn of this Polish Jewish woman who was caring for American soldiers when she was killed by a German sniper in October 1944, the reader begins to learn life lessons about sacrificing to follow your dreams:
“Take that step and, yes, you risk failure. But don’t take that step and failure is a certainty.” ~ p. 21, Pebble in the Water
If Bob Welch had never committed to write Frances Slanger’s story, if his wife had never committed to be both mother and father while he travelled and to love him day in and day out, if his children had never committed to loving him and caring about his dreams, American Nightingale would have never been written.
Nor would Bob Welch ever have met the remaining survivors, few that they were, of Slanger’s unit. Or had the opportunity to share her story on network television. Or with you and me.
Anyone interested in writing period, or specifically historical fiction, should read this book. It is a window into the life of a man managing to balance family, a job with a newspaper, and the research necessary to bring Frances Slanger’s story, American Nightingale, to print. Welch has something for everyone who is passionate about writing. Bob Welch can make you feel good about the day you felt you wasted and excited about the little things that you didn’t expect.
As head of Pebble in the Water Inspiration, he has keynoted conferences, workshops and retreats across America, tugging at hearts, tickling funny bones, and inspiring people to be ripples on life’s waters. Among his speaking highlights was being asked to keynote the dedication ceremony at the Massachusetts Statehouse for a plaque honoring WWII nurse Frances Slanger. It was Welch’s book about Slanger,American Nightingale, that convinced legislators to honor the Boston nurse.
“Forget the hyperbole,” said Julie Zander, organizer of the Association of Personal Historians conference in Portland in 2006. “Our 261 participants scored Welch a 4.81 on a 5.0-scale.”
A storyteller by nature, most of Welch’s speaking fodder comes from the 14 books he’s authored and the nearly 2,000 columns he’s written for The Register-Guard, Oregon’s second-largest newspaper, since 1999. He has twice won the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’s highest award for writing. In addition, he has won dozens of other journalism awards, most recently the 2011 Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association’s “Best Writing” award. Other honors include the Seattle Times C.B. Blethen Award for Distinguished Feature Writing and the ONPA’s “Best Column” awards.
His book about a heroic World War II nurse, American Nightingale (Atria Books, 2004), was featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. A follow-up book, Pebble in the Water (AO Creative, 2008), amplifies the author’s American Nightingale experience from an idea written on a Wendy’s napkin to the four years it took before the book was published, and the life lessons learned along the way.