As if night
My soul cries out
So you want to know how to write a memoir. Well here’s what I know.
Step one: Ask yourself if you’re nuts. If yes, proceed to step two.
Step two: Attend a writing conference for inspiration.
Step three: Go home and cry because you don’t want to reveal the level of detail one conference speaker said you would have to.
Step four: Pray and ask God for direction.
Step five: Write and self-publish an autobiographical poetry book that vaguely addresses the story you want to write.
Step six: Tell yourself the poetry book is a sufficient memoir because, after all, we don’t know what Paul’s thorn was either.
Step seven: Have several people ask when you’re going to write your story.
Step eight: Write an outline of your story in your Color Notes app on your phone, then write two book proposals, one for your memoir and one for a devotional.
Step nine: Attend another writers conference and pitch your book ideas to editors and agents.
Step ten: Get sidetracked for three months working on a “marketable” idea from the agent, ignoring advice from a spiritual writing mentor.
Step eleven: Get further sidetracked writing and self-publishing a holiday poetry book.
Step twelve: Lie awake at night running scenes in your head of what you need to write, but not get up to actually write them down because you don’t want to disturb the sleeping dog.
Step thirteen: Tell your friends and family you’ve decided to write your memoir. (This step may be optional, but is helpful if you’re the kind of person who once they’ve said they are doing something has to do it.)
Step fourteen: Decide you need to learn more about the craft of memoir writing.
Step fifteen: Read memoir by spiritual mentor from writing conference.
Step sixteen: Read another memoir, and a book about how to write memoir, and another memoir, and another book about how to write memoir, then start reading a third memoir but decide it’s not believable and make a mental note not to write your memoir that way.
Step seventeen: Take advice from book on memoir writing and simply start writing one paragraph, one scene at a time.
Step eighteen: Get into text discussion with a friend who suggests yet another book on memoir writing you should read. Order said book on your Kindle, realize what you’ve ordered is actually a different book by that author, then order the paperback of the first book from Amazon.
Step nineteen: Write poems about writing memoir.
Step twenty: Stop worrying that your first draft is terrible (because as Anne Lamott says, they all are), and resolve to write, edit, rewrite, and persevere.
I’m afraid that’s as far as I’ve gotten so you’ll have to come back next year for the remaining steps.
The NaPoWriMo prompt for today is to write a “How To” poem. Since I am in the process of writing (or trying to write) my memoir, I thought I’d share a little step-by-step how-to on how to do it.
My story is not unique
but it’s uniquely mine
My experience is universal
yet my own
People say, “me, too!”
But how can they know
They weren’t there
My pain is not theirs
What others have been through
mirrors my ordeals
with a twist
For the Quadrille prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today Grace wants us to use the word “twist” in a quadrille of exactly 44 words, no more, no less. I wrote all but the last stanza of this last night with the hopes I could work in the given word and make it a quadrille. Head on over the dVerse and check out some of the other twisted quadrilles the pub patrons have to offer today.
I’d love to write a sonnet
While wearing an Easter bonnet
Or perhaps a villanelle
That would do as well
The problem I have with meter
Which is meant to make a poem neater
Is that I struggle to understand iambs
Those metrical feet, not of lambs
The tercet, quintain, and quatrain
Give structure to my creative brain
A terza rima might morph from tercets
But that’s not as crazy as it gets
If I am really courageous
I might try a sestina, it’s not contageous
But poetry is if you write it too much
And find that the hearts of others you touch
Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to find a specialized dictionary, select at least 10 words from it, and write a poem using them. I pulled my copy of the poetry dictionary by John Drury off the shelf and wrote this ode to poetry. Selected words are italicized.
The sun rises high
In the cerulean sky
The wind comes like manna
Out of Santa Ana
The brown weed field
Naught but thorns does yield
In the one-story houses
The ungrateful one grouses
Pool parties and a picnic feast
Friends come from north and east
Catching pollywogs and crayfish
Riding horses our greatest wish
I dream of being a writer
Not knowing I must be a fighter
Eucalyptus trees line the street
Dust devils you’re likely to meet
Nothing of substance to export
Not even our own airport
Painted on the town water tower
A lovely field of wildflower
There I found the lover of my soul
He who one day would make me whole
The sun and drought did conspire
To destroy weed fields by wildfire
That same sun sure did bless
So we’d wear shorts and Ts for dress
Bathing suits were all the rage
If only there I’d come of age
Riding bikes so innocent
To school and library we went
The most notable person in town
Was my dad who I seldom saw frown
He loved to pull our travel trailer
I think it reminded him of being a sailor
It sat out the picture window pane
And was more fun than flying by plane
Once again the wildfires burn
The news says for a good rain we yearn
I had a pen pal from Bangladesh
Suriman Bang was her name so fresh
I don’t remember what we wrote
And so I cannot share a quote
But I wonder if we talked of the unicorn
Or the day that Bigfoot was born
Did I share my favorite children’s tale
Where the Wild Things Are, when I sent her mail
Or Mystery in the Night Woods
Where Flying Squirrel hid in alley backwoods
Just beyond the border of town
You heard the sounds of animals die down
As evening gave way to dusk and night
At the Wild Animal Park all was right
I know not yet the meaning of fear
But bask in this sweet security dear
After I had moved away
A friend sent a postcard to say
With a picture of a sign that does endear
Wish you were still here
The NaPoWriMo Day 16 prompt called for answering a series of Almanac questions and then using the answers to fashion a poem. I decided to write a poem about my childhood hometown of Ramona, California. I answered each of the questions and decided to leave all the answers as a series of thoughts about my life in that town.
Trustworthy and true
Mercy to my soul
A little elfje for NaPoWriMo Day 15, and while you’re at it check out Jars of Clay and The Blind Boys of Alabama singing Nothin’ But the Blood of Jesus.
Yesterday, Toni at Kanzen Sakura commented thanking me for writing two haibuns. I replied that I’d only written one. Apparently that’s because the second one was still in the works. So I’m posting this second haibun now for Haibun Monday at dVerse Poets Pub.
Working on my memoir, giving in to the compulsion to communicate my story to whoever might need to read it, I decided I would have more success in actually getting the words on the page if I hand wrote. There is something about typing that makes me feel like it has to be perfect the first time, but handwriting builds in an automatic rewrite when I later type it up. So I rummage through my cloth basket of blank journals for just the right one. [This takes some time because there are probably 20 or more journals in that basket, evidence of another compulsion]. I find a 150-page spiral bound notebook with only 10 pages used up and decide that’s perfect. I peruse what’s been written and come across these words, written 18 ½ years ago:
It takes courage to write. Courage is not the same as fearlessness. Rather, courage is writing in spite of fear.
Just been reading “The Courage to Write” by Ralph Keyes. It got me thinking about writing a book about the effect being raped at the age of 14, while still a virgin, had on my life—the teen years, college, marriage, sex, life, thoughts, depression [although genetics had something to do with this as well].
I must be crazy. I can’t write such a book. Or rather I can, in that I’m sure I have enough material and could actually write it, but would I ever be willing to let anyone read it?
Crazy indeed. Yet here I am, almost two decades later, still compelled to write that book. Only now the story is complete. There is more than just the pain and suffering of trauma to tell; there is also the story of healing and redemption. Now there is courage.
Hidden on journal pages
Die and are reborn
Covers every surface
Makes my eyes water
For Haibun Monday at dVerse Poets Pub we’re writing about communication. I decided to write about the frustration of communicating in a particular circumstance.
People who have never experienced chronic pain don’t seem to understand why sometimes I just can’t do certain things. I know I look fine from the outside. I know I hide it pretty well most of the time. But it’s exhausting to try to live as if I had no pain. It’s difficult to know how to communicate the struggle. If I told you I was in pain every time I was in pain, you’d think I was a whiner or a broken record. So I don’t tell you, unless it’s really bad.
“What’s your pain number today?” I hate this question. I never know how to answer it. Ever. And how does what’s a 6 to me (based on 10 being the worst pain I’ve ever experienced) really communicate to a doctor how much pain I’m in? I want to answer, “Whatever number will cause you to do something to make it go away!” Because although today’s pain may not be the worst I’ve ever experienced, it’s bad enough that it brought me into this terrible, sterile, time-wasting environment in the hopes that you could help me.
“Describe your pain. Is it burning, stabbing, aching, sharp, or dull?” “Umm, yes. Can you make it go away now?”
Jesus knows my pain
Will wipe away ev’ry tear
When the Son shines bright
A new puppy picture
every day of the year
except Saturday & Sunday, which
double up with one pic for the two
I love tearing off yesterday’s puppy
to reveal the adorable face underneath
Sometimes a whole litter
It’s one of the highlights of my day
Today’s puppy is
a delightful black lab
surrounded by pink flowers
Yesterday offered three
pups in a basket
I wonder what tomorrow will bring
I’ve attempted the NaPoWriMo prompt for today, to describe an object then end with an abstract phrase that seems unrelated but actually is. I’m not sure if I was completely successful with the prompt, but it’s one of those days when inspiration seems to have taken a vacation.