Lessons memoir writers can learn from Zombies

By Jerry Waxler

(You can listen to the podcast version by clicking the player control at the bottom of this post or download it from iTunes.)

Brad Pitt recently bought the movie rights to “World War Z,” a thriller by Max Brooks. Once Pitts star-powered name became attached to the project, everyone wanted to write books or shoot movies about creatures who looked human but have no soul. Thriller writer Jonathan Maberry jumped in with “Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead.” To research the book, he interviewed over 250 experts, including the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control, and his local police rapid response team. He even interviewed me, asking for a therapist’s point of view about the fear and mass trauma that might result from a Zombie outbreak.

Even though I have no interest in writing about Zombies, I regularly take writing classes from Maberry, finding his instruction helpful in unpredictable ways. In this lesson he was making the point that fiction writers can use research to create a more compelling world. I pondered how to apply the principle to memoirs. As I look through my bookshelf, I discover many examples in which factual reporting adds clarity and depth to a memoir writer’s story.

David Sheff’s “Beautiful Boy” reports the background of his son’s addiction to Crystal Meth. Doreen Orion’s first memoir, “I know you really love me,” recounts her experience of being stalked by a patient. During this extended intrusion, she became an expert in the psychological as well as the legal problems of stalking.

When Linda Joy Myers wrote her memoir “Don’t Call Me Mother” she visited the wheat fields and train stations that played such an important role in her childhood in the Great Plains. She rode the trains to awaken vivid memories. And she studied the history of Iowa and Oklahoma, and visited cemeteries and courthouses to track down records of her genealogy.

Kate Braestrup’s memoir “Here If You Need Me” describes exquisite details of the natural habitat of Maine. Foster Winans went to the library to find out the weather in New York on key days in his memoir, “Trading Secrets.” (His advice: “weather ought to be considered another character.”)

Memoir writers even toss in facts for entertainment. For example, in Doreen Orion’s second memoir, “Queen of the Road,” she was at a club listening to a local country music band, when a little girl got up on stage and did a clog dance. Just for fun, Orion inserted a brief explanation of the history of clog dancing.

When I dig back into my own past, many facts seem hazy. Research helps fill them in. For example, to help me remember the riot in 1967 that changed my life, I found two documentary movies, “The War at Home” and “Two Days in October” both covering the Dow Chemical protest riot in Madison Wisconsin. In one of them, an interview with a young man reminded me how much we truly believed that protests could eradicate injustice and create world peace. We even threw poverty into the mix of problems we were going to solve. To help organize my memories about high school, I signed up for Classmates.com and have corresponded with a couple of guys I have not seen in decades.

My goal is remarkably similar to Jonathan Maberry’s. We both want to tell a good story. So I keep listening and keep learning lessons about the relationship between life and story. For example, in a previous discussion he told me that flaws in real people prepare him to write deeper characterization in his novels, a discussion I reported in another essay.

I wonder what else I can learn from Jonathan’s lesson about Zombie folklore. Their current popularity is simply the latest chapter in a centuries-old fascination. In the middle ages, there was the Golem, a Jewish myth about a person who had no soul. In the nineteenth century Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein was created from inanimate body parts. And  in the Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man and Scarecrow wanted to inject human qualities into their inanimate bodies. Looking at my own life through the metaphor, I see the lesson I was looking for.

When I was a young man, I was fascinated by math and science, and bent my entire will into interpreting the universe as a sort of machine. I became obsessed with finding all the physical rules, and the longer I followed this path, the more depressed I became. By the time I was 23, I had lost my will to live.

Finally, from sheer desperation I dipped into the spiritual ideas that were permeating the culture in 1970. Those ideas restored my hope. Ever since, I have invested at least part of my attention to finding the spirit in every day life. Until recently, I thought this interior journey was a private one that couldn’t possibly concern readers. But now that Jonathan has pointed out the vast numbers of people who want to know more about Zombies, I wonder if their curiosity would extend to the true story of a guy who spent his life trying not to be one. It looks like the Zombie wave could add more spirit to my life story than I first realized.

Writing Prompt
List some research that can contribute to your story. For example, list specific examples of people you could interview, points in history you could learn more about, or health and medical details that would help explain what you were going through.

Writing Prompt
What puts the soul or deeper humanity in your story? List specific instances of some of the more sublime aspects of your life, such as spirituality, service to others, creativity, and desire to see others succeed?

Note – Turning Nonfiction into Fiction
Maberry’s research was creating a modern folklore to help him understand what makes Zombies tick and what the rest of the world thinks about it. He’s already used this technique. Author of one of the most successful and authoritative books about Vampire Folklore, Maberry wrote a thriller trilogy, starting with Ghost Road Blues, based on that creature. Now he’s doing it again.

Maberry’s extensive research into Zombie lore is turning into a novel. “While researching plagues and epidemics ZOMBIE CSU, I began speculating on how this info could form the backbone of a novel.  The concept blossomed from there: a plague that reduces people to a state that simulates death while creating uncontrollably violent behavior.  That idea became PATIENT ZERO, which will be my first mainstream thriller, set for release in March by St. Martins Press.”

Many fiction writers start with facts. For example, Jason Goodwin studied the Ottoman Empire as an historian. Later he turned his knowledge into a setting for fiction, having recently published the murder mystery, “The Snake Stone,” set in the city Istanbul that he had come to know so well.

To listen to the podcast version click the player control below: [display_podcast]

Escaping the prison of what might have been

By Jerry Waxler

(You can listen to the podcast version by clicking the player control at the bottom of this post or download it from iTunes.)

Tony Cohan, author of the memoir “Native State” grew up listening to his father speak about popular musicians with the awe usually reserved for gods. Cohan’s father, Phil, produced a variety show in the heyday of radio, and famous performers like Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante filled dad’s heart with admiration and also put food on his table. It was natural for young Tony to want to grow up to be one of the performers his dad revered. At 13-years-old Tony played his first gig as a drum player at a high school dance. Then he moved “up” to bars and strip clubs. A few years later, his ambition took him to North Africa and Spain, where he played with the hippest jazz performers, but nothing satisfied him. No matter how far he progressed as a musician, his life remained stuck in dimly lit nightclubs, poverty, drugs, and danger.

Flash forward a couple of decades. Cohan is earning his living as a successful writer, living in Mexico with his girl friend. This explains why he felt stuck all those years. Music was taking him in the wrong direction. He wasn’t able to find satisfaction until he escaped his original goal. Empathizing with Cohan’s frustration, I turn pages, wanting him to find his true dream.

I have met many men and women whose lives started in one direction, say towards a profession, or marriage and babies, or the family business. Then they end up somewhere else. Often the change in direction leaves them or their parents confused, as if they have disrupted destiny or lost a crucial component of their own identity.

Later in life, they look back and wonder about the discrepancy between the initial story and the later one. If they describe it as they originally felt it, it raises issues of disappointment and regret, or anger and rebellion. They feel echoes of the initial confusion. All these years later, something about the transition into adulthood still feels “wrong.” And yet if they don’t include it, the story feels incomplete, as if they are ignoring major events.

I had such a fracture in my own Coming of Age. On the rare nights when dad could get away from the store to join the family for dinner, he told stories about his customers. His tone about most people was overly familiar, jocular, often condescending. But when he talked about doctors, the tone changed. As a pharmacist, he was simply fulfilling their orders. They were his gods. I didn’t want to be one of the mortals, the everyday people who became the butt of dad’s jokes. I wanted to be one he respected. To achieve that dream, I became increasingly tense about amassing knowledge. My intellectual drive constricted my view of myself and my role in the world.

By the time I was 18, I had become hyper-focused on science, math, and medicine, and becoming a doctor was the only Truth worth living for. Then, something very strange and disturbing happened. I entered college during the sixties, when cultural and political upheaval stirred my world into a frenzy. I became interested in philosophy and literature. Shaken loose from my original obsession, I started rebelling against everything, and then dropped out to pursue some hippie utopian fantasy.

I replay the events over and over. I was a hardworking and competent young man with a well-stocked arsenal of academic gifts already in place by the time I was 18. I wanted this one thing so badly. Then, like a clown stepping on a banana peel, I slipped and fell on my ass. For years, I thought my academic pratfall meant I was a failure. I didn’t live up to my own or my father’s expectations. Now as I review Tony Cohan’s story, I see my life journey from a different point of view.

When I threw myself into the social revolution and rejected everything my father and family stood for, it was not an accident. It was a choice. Math and science satisfied me mentally but cut me off emotionally from the rest of the world. Something inside me was crying out for release. Like a prisoner who takes advantage of a riot to cover his escape, I used the sixties to help me break out.

It turned out to be a messy process. Without my father’s dream, I was on my own. In the following decades, I explored a rich variety of life styles, shared my days with a far broader set of companions, pursued creative outlets in computers and psychology, writing and spirituality. The life that I actually lived is fine, despite the fact that it’s different from the one I thought I was heading towards.

For most of my life, I have tried to forget that loss of momentum, hating the accompanying emotions of failure and regret. Who wants to dwell on the crappy past? But finally, now that I apply my storytelling intelligence, I begin to see how one boy’s life played out. The events in high school and college, while seeming so vast at the time, were just the beginning of the story, not the end. In the beginning I thought I understood how life was supposed to be. And then came the decades of learning how it actually was. As I translate the fragments of my life into my life story, I develop a much deeper understanding of my own path.

In one sense, we are all “trapped.” First we are confined by the expectations instilled in us by our family, community, and society. Second, we feel trapped by what already happened. As life plays out, our past choices limit us to only a sliver of the infinite possibilities that might have been.

Yet, in addition to these two confinements there are also two freedoms. First, we apply our intelligence and creativity to make the best choices in each new moment. Second, as storytellers, we are free to interpret our past in the most interesting and engaging way. That original story of who we were supposed to be was just a springboard. Now it is our choice to craft the story of what actually happened. By exploring the past as a storyteller, we can become more accepting of this complex person, with all the twists and energy that have emerged from the cauldron of the past.

Writing Prompt
What initial story did you feel constrained to follow? Which parts did you end up fulfilling? Which parts did you not? Write an anecdote about a time when you felt your earlier dream slipping away. Write another one about an early image of yourself coming true.

Writing Prompt
Consider any regrets you might have about an earlier direction that felt like it slipped away. Look at those experiences as a storyteller, and create a positive reason for turning in the new direction. Write a story in the third person about a satisfied person who lived the life you actually lived. In your story, let this satisfied person meet a miserable person who followed the course you originally thought you were supposed to follow.

Writing Prompt
Another approach is to develop an alternative reality in fiction. By setting yourself free in the world of imagination, you can discover entire lifetimes. Write an anecdote about a key transition. Use it as a basis for a fictional story, and see where your imagination takes your character.

To listen to the podcast version click the player control below: [display_podcast]

6 Life Story Writing Prompts Inspired by a Book of Short Stories

By Jerry Waxler

Xujun Eberlein’s book of short stories “Apologies Forthcoming” are accounts of growing up in the 1960’s in China. [Read my review and interviews.] Since the stories are based on her life and times, I thought I could learn a few lessons about how to turn life into story. I was right. Here are some of the lessons I learned for writing a memoir, along with some writing prompts to help you apply these lessons to your own life.

Interaction of individual and society
When Xujun was a young girl, deadly fighting broke out between two factions of Red Guards, mostly teenagers who fought each other with deadly force to prove themselves the true upholders of the Chinese Revolution. Because of social upheaval, her parents lost their jobs, she was unable to go to school, and her sister died. These stories provide extraordinary examples of that strange and complex fact of life: our individual journey is intertwined with our society.

Writing Prompt
Review the periods you want to write about and look for historical forces and trends that were shaping your own experience. How did the economy affect your household wealth? What members of your family have been influenced by war? What community upheaval or natural disaster or social trend took place? When you have identified a meaningful intersection between your individual life and the larger community, write a story about it.

Use the short story medium to shape your memoir
When trying to describe real life, the multitude of themes, dreams, and people become tangled, making it difficult to weave it all together. Xujun solves this problem by biting off one specific challenge at a time. Focusing on that one theme, she develops its context, then shows how the emotions rise, crescendo and resolve.

In one of the stories, the main character had an affair with a married man. As time went on, the girl’s emotional dependence grew. She became jealous of the man’s wife, and fell farther into despair. In the end, she broke through the tangle of emotions with a surprise. In another story, she left her family and went to the country to work in the fields. As a city-girl in a town of farmers, she clumsily stumbles against local customs, creating disturbing tensions.

Even though each story stands on its own, they add up to provide insight into a young girl’s life in that time and place.

Writing Prompt
What Xujun did in fiction, you could do in reality, developing a series of stories that gradually add up to portraying your life. Review your list of powerful transitions, such as a love gained or lost, an accident, illness, peak accomplishment, or realization that changed. (If you don’t have such a list, start it today.) Describe a single scene that represents that transition. Then surround this scene with context to turn it into a self-contained story. At the beginning, introduce the dramatic tension. Then encounter and respond to obstacles. In the end, resolve the dramatic tension. (To extend it beyond a self-contained story, end the piece with a hint of the dramatic tension that comes next.)

Create empathy for the protagonist
Xujun’s protagonists stir my compassion. In each story, I worry about the protagonist’s plight, feel the loss of her sister, want her world to be more sane. Her goodness and suffering help me suspend disbelief and accompany her through her trials. Like the fairy tales of Cindarella and the Ugly Duckling, Xujun’s protagonist is often misunderstood. Xujun the author should know about being misunderstood. She is smart, but the people around her don’t care. China in the Cultural Revolution has turned against smart people.

Writing Prompt
Review one of your favorite anecdotes, or write a new one, and then step back and look at it from a reader’s eyes. What emotions will help readers bond with you. How have you been an outsider in your own world, misunderstood by people you are reaching towards? Will readers be urging you to grow, to find your niche, to be loved?

Friends
When Xujun’s protagonist relates to the people in her life, whether coworkers, friends, or family, I feel her respect for them and her desire to be respected in return. These emotions haunted me so much I asked the author why she was so focused on friends. She asked me where I saw it, and I said, “Everywhere.” She replied that friendship was a revered part of her culture. It also happens to be a wonderful part of my life, too, and yet in my writing, friendships often disappear into the background. Her stories inspired me to pay more attention to the emotional clout supporting characters can convey.

Writing prompt
Consider how friendships can enrich your readers’ experience of your life. Friends’ perspectives help you see your world in a different light, their companionship provides relief from loneliness and gives you someone to talk to, and their support helps you overcome obstacles. Write a scene that emphasizes such interactions.

Sexuality while coming of age
As Xujun’s protagonist grows from child to young adult, her friendships become complicated. Later in life, she again feels a tug of war between sexual attraction and friendship. She masterfully shares the power of these emotions, while at the same time maintaining the privacy of her world and the decorum of mine. This delicate balance of intimacy and power is known in literary as well as psychological circles as “maintaining appropriate distance.”

Writing prompt
You may assume that sexuality is too heavy-handed or too personal a subject to include at all, or perhaps you have gone to the other extreme, including erotic scenes that may offend or drown your readers. Consider using Xujun’s model, and follow a path down the middle. Try writing a scene in which you convey as authentically as possible your unique experience, while understating or hinting at the mechanical parts. The power of the written word is that it gives readers the opportunity to fill in the rest.

Unique characteristics make us all “foreign” to someone
When Xujun tells about her life in China in the sixties, I lean into every word, drinking in glimpses of a portion of this foreign, mysterious world I have never seen. So what does this have to do with writing my own memoir? I can’t change my past to be as exotic as Xujun’s. But perhaps I don’t need to.

When I look at my life through the mirror, I realize that growing up in a row home in Philadelphia is foreign to Xujun. This fact becomes more apparent when I look at my bookshelf. In every memoir, my curiosity about the author’s world compelled me to turn pages. Whether I was learning about Brooke Shields’ postpartum depression, or Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s life in the foster care system, or Linda Joy Myers’ childhood in a broken home in the Midwest, or Barack Obama being raised by a white mother and visiting his African father, or the authors of “The Pact” who grew up on the mean streets of New Jersey, or Henry Louis Gates or George Brummell, growing up in the segregated south. We are all exotic to each other.

Writing Prompt
Identify parts of your life that reflect your unique past. Did you grow up on a farm? Went to a university? Joined the army? Had kids? One of them had a disability? As you list the parts of your life that make you unique, consider what you look like to someone who grew up in a different world. Write three character sketches of readers who might think parts of your life were foreign.

Conclusion
Xujun’s collection has reached my desk at an exciting time. Short stories are in a resurgence. This medium offers many of the pleasures of a book, but within a more compact form. They explore fascinating issues of growing up in another culture, during a complex time. And they offer insights into writing that can help you write about your life.

Notes:
For an example of stories that emphasize foreignness, see She collected stories by Italian American women. Louise DeSalvo and Edvige Giunta, editors, “The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture.” (Feminist Press, 2002) Louise DeSalvo is the author of a valuable book about memoir writing called “Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives.”

More memoir writing resources

To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

Self-image changes in step with society

by Jerry Waxler

Henry Louis Gates, author of the memoir “Colored People,” grew up in Piedmont, a small town in the northeastern corner of West Virginia. The town was geographically in a hollow, and through the eyes of a child, looked picturesque, even cozy. In those simpler times in the 1950’s and 60’s, people got along with each other, except when race entered the picture.

Gates’ first inkling that race was going to make life complicated started in grade school. When he first became best friends with a white girl in his class, neither of them noticed they had different colored skin. Over time, this became more of an issue, and she began to pull away. Gradually, Gates noticed increasingly important issues, such as not being allowed to eat with whites, and that the paper mill only hired blacks to work on the loading dock.

As Gates tried to sort out his role as a black man in a white-dominated culture, millions of other people were doing the same thing, not just asking questions, but taking to the streets to demand answers. This was a strange and powerful time in our history. We were a nation that preached equality with the fervor of religion. But in practice, Jim Crow laws limited the rights of blacks all over the south.

I don’t know what stirred up such a bold call to action. Perhaps it was the fact that little more than a decade earlier, Americans had risen up to smash Hitler and had become accustomed to destroying great evils. Perhaps the pervasive eye of television made the world too small to hide the fact that so many governmental and social policies contradicted our shared dream of equality. But for whatever reason, society was tackling the same problem collectively that Gates was facing individually.

Gates described a compelling scene to demonstrate the intensity. Late in his teen years, when segregation had become illegal, Gates and his friends showed up at an all-white bar, the only black faces in the crowd. He survived the ensuing confrontation without physical injury, providing himself forever with the pride of knowing he risked his own safety to defend American idealism.

In the end of this crescendo of social conscience, Gates shares a gentler image of the fading of segregation. The paper mill held their annual picnic, one for whites and another for blacks. Even though the separate but equal doctrine was dead, that last picnic had a wistful quality, as people fully engaged in their own culture and enjoyed each other for exactly who they were. It was a lovely scene that provided me with a fascinating puzzle. As we blend into the larger culture, we lose some of the characteristics of our separate one.

Gates’ life story was compelling enough as an individual journey. He increased its value by artfully weaving his private life into the trends of the world. To paraphrase John Donne “no person is an island.” While it seems like a lucky break for Gates that he was learning about himself during the Civil Rights movement, I step back to see if I can find ways my life has interacted with the world. And I find many.

For example, even though I was born two years after World War II, I was profoundly affected by the ripples of despair and hope that emanated through my generation. And then, during the Vietnam War, I was deeply affected by the protests, the fear, and the pain of divisiveness. Looking further across the decades, I see sweeping changes in attitudes towards gender, race, religion and spirituality, age, career, marriage, and sex.

And everything seems to be speeding up. Our lives are impacted each year by some new radical change. Just in the last twenty years, cell phones have connected people wherever they are. Politics in faraway places we never heard of implode into our lives in terrorism. The price of homes went up, seemingly bringing with it unlimited wealth, and then crashed creating a financial crisis throughout the world. The oil that heats our homes and fuels our cars could be running low, becoming more expensive, and at the same time, damaging the atmosphere. My car is contributing to the melting of the ice caps. We’re all connected, and it’s all changing.

Social trends are not always obvious when we’re in them. Like a rowboat rising and falling on the surface of a large wave, we might not even notice we are being moved. To me, this is one of the most wonderful benefits of memoir writing. By encompassing a larger view, we see not only what happened inside our own lives, but we also fit in to a broader context, connecting our individual stream with the ocean of humanity.

Writing Prompt – social change that changed the way you saw yourself
Focus on some powerful transition or theme or period in your life. Then look for parallel changes in the culture. What was going on in the people, the media, or other larger scope that helped or hindered your personal development? If you can’t find an obvious parallel, the way Gates does in “Colored People,” look for subtler ones.

Describe examples of these cultural influences, from news stories, or from stories you know about other people. See if you can weave your individual life with the trends that are taking place in the people around you.

Notes
Check out these other essays inspired by memoirs about the mixing of cultures and search for identity:
Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein
Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas

Dreams of our Fathers by Barack Obama

For the podcast click the player below or download it from iTunes: [display_podcast]

Good hair in the melting pot

by Jerry Waxler

(You can listen to the podcast version by clicking the player control at the bottom of this post or download it from iTunes.)

During the cultural rebellion of the sixties, like many white kids, I tried to reach across the racial divide by emulating black slang and embracing soul music. My dark brown hair grew longer, and by the time I returned home from the University of Wisconsin that first summer of 1966 it had curled into a tangle that looked vaguely like an Afro. My great-uncle Ben, with whom I had always got along, said “I didn’t know we had anything like that in the family.” We never spoke civilly to each other again. In Madison, Wisconsin the following year, some boys drove to campus to beat up kids who looked like me. They jumped out of their car, threw me to the ground and kicked me for a while to let me know that long hair was against the American way.

A memoir by Henry Louis Gates called “Colored People” made me think more about that incident. After all, this is the Melting Pot. We’re supposed to be able to absorb all kinds of people — the northern Europeans with their blond hair, Irish with their red hair, Mediterraneans, with their jet black hair. My own ancestors, eastern European Jews, inherited dark curly hair from our Semitic ancestors. Blending hasn’t always been easy. As each group arrived, a cry went throughout the land “We already know who we are and you are not us.” After a couple of generations, the children lost their accents and adopted clothes and customs that helped us blend. We intermarried. Voila. We’re in the mix.

But the resistance to blacks has persisted longer than for most other groups. I’ve thought about the reasons and the problems of that lack of mixture my whole life, but I’ve never thought about it as clearly as I did when I read Gates’ memoir, in which he explains what it was like growing up in the segregated south. As I listen to Gates, the magic of story reading takes over and I’m with him in the 1950’s and 60’s. At home he saw people of one color, and on television he saw another. As he ponders this contrast, and tries to sort out his place in the mix, one of the most revealing insights is the chapter on hair.

As a child, Gates’ barber complimented him on having a “good grade of hair,” or “good hair” meaning it wasn’t too curly. His good grade came with his genes, while others had to work for the desired straightness by greasing hair down and flattening it with a tight stocking cap. They ironed their hair. They used home chemical concoctions of potatoes and lye to defeat the curls. Or they spent big money on a chemical procedure call “processing.”

Through Gates’ story, I begin to see that hair has deep significance, and the more I think about how it fits into our emotional lives, the more of its power I see. Absence of hair is important to men who lose it at middle age, and the loss of hair during chemotherapy is one of the demoralizing marks of cancer. Prison camp inmates and new military recruits often have their hair shaved to reduce their individuality. Older people hide their gray to look young, while young people enhance sexual charisma by primping, extending, dying, or spiking.

So I shouldn’t be surprised that black people, to improve their image, would like to manage the impression their hair conveys. Working in my dad’s drugstore in the early 60’s I often saw black guys wearing these tight caps, or “do rags” as they were called. And my dad stocked a whole section of specialized hair products. Looking at it from the outside it seemed mysterious. Now I see they were trying to do the same thing Americans had been doing for centuries, trying to achieve entry into the Melting Pot, so they could participate in the American dream.

Hair defines the group a person is in. That simple, yet profound observation sends me searching. Surely something so important must insinuate itself in other aspects of my life. As I look for more evidence of the importance of hair I spot another crucial period.

Before I turned forty, my prematurely gray hair made me look like an old guy, an outsider among the young people I walked past every day at the university where I worked. I decided to dye it back to its original color, to reclaim my membership in the younger generation. The first time I went to visit my friends Larry and Ivy for lunch, their eyes opened wide. “It’s like instant youth.” My membership restored, I have been dying my hair ever since, despite research that suggested prolonged hair dying might cause a deadly form of cancer. When I was knocked down and kicked because my hair was too long, it never occurred to me to cut it. Now, I am once again placing my acceptance into a group above my own safety. With my dark hair, I’ll signal my membership in the youthful American Melting pot, even if it kills me.

Writing Prompt
Write a story about times in your life when you liked your hair, or didn’t like your hair. What message was your hair broadcasting?

When have you changed your hair to try to redefine or accentuate your acceptance into a group?

When has some one else’s hair sent you a message you had a hard time accepting?

Have you ever had the experience of being an outsider because of your hair, like the time I came home with long hair and was outside my family’s comfort zone, or like the way my friend’s blond daughter provoked cat calls in Egypt, where she stuck out like a… blond in Egypt.

Note

It turns out that my college hair style now has a name. It wasn’t really an Afro. It was a Jewfro.

To learn more about the African American attitude towards hair in the melting pot, see the documentary called “Good Hair” by producer and performer Chris Rock.

To listen to the podcast version click the player control below: [display_podcast]

More memoir writing resources

To see brief descriptions and links to all the essays on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order my short, step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

To learn about my 200 page workbook about overcoming psychological blocks to writing, click here.

Check out the programs and resources at the National Association of Memoir Writers


Follow that car! How drama reveals the inner story

by Jerry Waxler

(You can listen to the podcast version by clicking the player control at the bottom of this post or download it from iTunes.)

Six mornings a week, my dad commuted to his drugstore in North Philadelphia. By closing time, he had been there for almost 14 hours, but I never heard him complain. He enjoyed his work, and it may never have occurred to him that there was anything to complain about. When I was in high school, I started working with my dad at the store. Every Friday afternoon I took the subway, and on Saturday afternoon drove with my mom. My job was stocking shelves, serving customers, occasionally counting pills to help fill prescriptions, and eating lots of candy bars. Sometimes mom packed dinner, and sometimes I walked down to the Horn and Hardarts cafeteria at Broad and Erie and brought back a hot meal to eat at the store. By the end of the day, we were all ready to go home. Around 9:30 I mopped the floor, then descended rickety stairs to check the cellar door. Finally we positioned bars across the windows, set the alarm, and went outside.

One Saturday, we drove south on 17th Street, turned left on to Ontario, and started east towards Broad Street, when a large man ran out between two cars and flagged us down. He knocked on the window, yelling at us to open up, gesturing down the street towards some unseen quarry. It was a cop, fiddling with his holster, preparing to draw his gun. As my mother reached over her shoulder to unlock the door, the strangest thing happened. Her hands grabbed wildly at the latch as if she was pulling up, but time after time her fingers missed and the door remained locked. I watched in growing horror as precious time slipped away.

This is exactly what always bothered me about my mother, and here was yet another proof. She was a klutz, and just in the most urgent moment, she failed to come through. I cursed the luck that gave me such an incompetent mother. Losing patience, the cop ran to a taxi that pulled up behind us. The driver of that vehicle knew how to open his door. The cop jumped in and they pulled around us and drove off in pursuit. Meanwhile, I was filled with wonder at how my mother who had been opening car doors her whole life could have failed at such a simple task, and fumed the whole way home.

At first glance, such intense moments appear to be excellent material for a memoir. Jeanette Walls’ wildly successful memoir, “Glass Castle,” seems like a collection of such experiences. But taken as a whole, her book is more than a compilation of zany moments. Each episode contributes to an intimate, compassionate portrayal of real human beings. Memories are simply the raw material for memoirs, like pigments for a painter or clay for a sculptor, and shaping them into the story is not an exhaustive collection but an artistic synthesis. So no matter how many high powered incidents come to mind, I still don’t necessarily end up with a readable book that authentically portrays my life. To turn anecdotes into a life story, there is much creative work to do.

For one thing, I must place the experience in context. We didn’t just appear on that street. We arrived there through the natural course of our daily lives. So I back up and explain what we were doing there in the first place. That episode with the cop makes the whole night come to life — the drugstore, the neighborhood, and my relationship with my parents. As this anecdote falls onto paper, I begin to see the world of that teenage boy, broadening my insight into the night and also expanding my understanding of how it fit into my whole life.

For example, I’m not very well coordinated myself, and during my teenage years I was especially disappointed by my lack of agility. Feeling my frustration with my mom that night awakens the recognition that neither of my parents nor any of us three kids were athletic. I have recently been reading about hereditary factors that cluster together the characteristics of nerdiness and lack of physical coordination. (see my Asperger’s article). The incident with the car lock suggests that this might help explain the Waxler family. I file that observation for future consideration.

The incident stirs up an observation about my relationship with my dad. He was a loving man, and always treated me with kindness and respect, but we never talked much. I don’t remember having had a single conversation with him, which made him seem distant. Now that I am reading about us as two characters in a story, a fact jumps out. Working in the drugstore with my father, gave me an opportunity to spend large swaths of time shoulder to shoulder with him, helping him in the store that supported the family. Now I realize we were partners, in a manly sort of way. I’ve envied other boys who worked with their dad on the farm or the family business, and now I realized until I was 18, I was one of those boys.

The fact that we had to put bars on the window and set the alarm, and that a cop was running around chasing criminals, foreshadows the fact that a few years later, corner drugstores would become targets for violent crime. When I went away to college, dad’s good friend, Sam Dreidink, who owned a drugstore a few miles away, was held up at gunpoint. On the way out, the robbery completed, his assailant shot Sam in the stomach. He lived, but in terrific pain for the rest of his life. A few months later, my dad was held up. During the robbery, he was forced to his knees with a shotgun pointed at his head. They stole his money and whatever narcotics he had in stock. When they left, he was still whole in body, but that incident ended his years in the drugstore.

My mom lived 70 more years, during which I discovered her apparent lapses in “common sense” often moved conversations in unexpected directions, offering the people in her life zest and interest, cleverness and fun. Her lack of predictability turned out to be one of her endearing traits, and instead of feeling manipulated or confused by her approach, I became one of her many admirers. Forty years after that night in the car, I knew that behind a thin facade of silliness, she was an authentic, fascinating person. Which makes me wonder as I read my story if she knew exactly what she was doing, and in her own klutzy way she was protecting her family from a man with a gun.

Writing Prompt: Write an anecdote from your life that has dramatic intensity. Using that anecdote as a core, backtrack and describe what lead up to it. Also, go forward and see what happens afterward. Try it a few times, or with a few anecdotes, to see if you can find a beginning, middle, and end. Could this be a chapter in your memoir? Could it become a standalone short story?

To listen to the podcast version click the player control below: [display_podcast]

Writing Prompt
Take one of your written dramatic anecdotes. You now have three different points of view about the same event. One is the memory of what it felt to be back there. Another is a reader, reading a written story about characters in the incident. The third is an adult, with a much broader understanding not only of the incident but who the people are, where they’ve been, and where they are going. Dance amidst these three points of view find new thoughts and connections that help put it in place. Consider what the people wanted. What were they thinking when they performed this particular action? What other episode does this story remind you of? How did your or their flaws influence the course of events? How have you or they changed since then?

Celebrity interviewer turns the camera on herself

By Jerry Waxler

(You can also listen to the podcast. Click the player control at the bottom of this post or download it from iTunes.)

Jancee Dunn was an ordinary girl from the suburbs of north New Jersey who dropped out of college, became a cub reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, and stayed there for 18 years. At her zenith she told the world about celebrities on MTV and Good Morning America. In the memoir “Enough About Me, How a Small-town Girl Went from Shag Carpet to the Red Carpet” she became the object of her own reporting. Thanks to her reporting skills, I empathized with her as she started her career, a nobody waiting at the doors of some of the most famous people in the world. “Oh my God, what must it feel like meeting a famous girl band, or rock and roll star?” Naturally her knees turned weak, but she went in anyway, and I kept turning pages.

For example, she interviewed singer Barry White, who gave her a big wet kiss at the door and treated her to a romantic dinner for two. Then she closed the door behind her. When she emerged a couple of hours later I don’t know what happened, in a virtuoso example of informing without revealing. Her discretion could provide a good model for other aspiring memoir writers who wonder how to explain awkward situations without getting into trouble.

During an interview with an unnamed celebrity who recently completed a month at rehab, he suggested that drugs were only a phone call away and asked if she would like to get high. She politely declined, and then went to the bathroom where she called her sister to explain the situation. Her sister said, “Are you crazy? Get out of there.” Jancee said, “But he’s so persuasive.” When she arrived home later, feeling shaken, she phoned her father, who talked to her about the routine details of his afternoon plans. His patter about gardening and errands soothed her and reminded her of all that was stable in her life.

Turned to the reader and offered interviewing tips
Walking with Jancee into interviews made me curious about how she worked her magic, getting the stars to say things they hadn’t said a thousand times. How did she work her way into their confidence? Occasionally she turned towards me and offered an insider tip. For example, in one of her more elaborate strategies, she started a celebrity interview by sharing a tidbit of gossip she heard about the star on the radio that very morning. Excited by this news, the star called over her publicity manager and they had a good laugh. By then, everyone was loose, and treated Jancee as a fine, generous person.

The anecdote showed me Jancee was smart, and gave me some insights into the mind of a celebrity. But I kept thinking about her interviewing tips long after I closed the book. In retrospect I see she was doing the same thing with me that she was doing with her stars. She was taking me into her confidence, making me feel like an insider. I felt her generosity and opened up to her. By turning towards the reader, she connected with me. I’m going to file this strategy away. Perhaps I can offer my own readers insider insights that will make them feel open with me.

Memoir of an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances
While I enjoyed learning about her interviews, this is a memoir, and I wanted to know more about her as a person. Rather than trying to be a star herself, she explored her life as an ordinary person. Her refusal to claim stardom for herself became a story element, providing a dramatic contrast between her own life and the lives of her interviewees. Her father was a manager at J.C. Penney’s, so loyal he named his daughter “Jancee” as a tribute to his employer’s initials. As children, when she and her sisters visited the department store, they were treated like royalty by the other employees. It was like being the fairy princess of suburbia.

In other memoirs, the exotic tastes and smells of food demonstrate the author’s ethnic life. Jancee uses food to show her background, too. Her family ate only beige and tasteless food. Think macaroni and cheese and Velveeta on white bread. These unremarkable food choices set a tone for her life.

What about inner struggles? Without the dark, there’s no way to emphasize the light. In Jancee’s memoir, the darkness came through her relationships with men. Her two disastrous boyfriends provided insight into her struggle to grow. The first guy was a sort of innocent sleaze, who left most of her self-respect intact. The second one was more self-involved, and his neediness and lack of care for her inner process pulled her into a darker place. When she started lying to her family, I wanted to cry out, “You’re going the wrong way! Turn back!” Eventually she realized that her strength came not from this self-involved guy but from within herself and her roots. As she pulled away from him, I felt dramatic relief, the sign of a good story.

Jancee found a compelling central arc to tie her book together
While she was paid to inform us about the world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, Jancee really celebrated the world of normal people, returning to her unglamorous roots as her safe haven. This contrast between her ordinary life and the lives she reported created dramatic tension. As the subtitle says, it wasn’t just about the famous nor just about suburbia but about how a suburban girl interviewed famous people. By the end of the book, she made it clear she was a regular person, with ordinary feelings, family, and circumstances.

So how did her simple life relate to the life of the stars? In one scene, she joins singer Loretta Lynn making fudge. They were talking so much, the fudge didn’t turn out right, and the next day, a courier delivered a better batch to Jancee’s door. It was a gesture that reached across the divide, a star saying “look, I’m ordinary too.” While the masses of celebrity watchers long for the stratospheric heights of stardom, Jancee raises the possibility that at least some of the stars aspire to normalcy.

I love her comfortable, trendy approach, not only to her stars, but to her readers. Through years of experience as a reporter and interviewer, she has apparently gained the knack of turning to the reader or viewer. I too am looking for a comfortable open voice, and her example inspires me. I look for other opportunities in my life when I have been forced to open my voice, such as in public speaking at Toastmasters, or doing interviews, or writing letters. It turns out that blogs are an excellent tool for finding a voice. Blogging creates a conversational atmosphere that leads to a more intimate connection with readers.

Many themes run through Jancee Dunn’s memoir. Her suburban roots, her meteoric rise as a reporter, her relationships with family and men. And yet, in thinking about the book, my mind returns to the central theme. Her ordinariness pulls the whole thing together. And while the subtitle of the book claims she made it to the Red Carpet, I’m not so sure. I find Jancee’s real intention is right there in her dedication, in which quotes Emily Dickenson. “Who am I? I am nobody. Who are you? Are you nobody too?” Thanks, Jancee for grounding me in ordinary life, while you share your story, your insights, and your tips for interviewing the stars.

Podcast version click the player control below: [display_podcast]

Writing Prompt: If you can’t find dramatic tension in just one theme of your life, look for two themes and explore the contrasts and conflicts between them.

Note: Memoir writers sometimes think the only way to get published is to be famous. If you’re looking for a counter-example, check out A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel, a popular memoir by a very ordinary person. It’s her writing and observation that makes it so interesting.

Visit Amazon’s listing of Jancee’s book by clicking this link.

Check out Jancee’s website to see what she’s up to these days.

Three writing prompts to flesh in memories

by Jerry Waxler, author of Memoir Revolution: Write Your Story, Change the World

When I explore my memories of adolescence, one of two things happens. Either I draw a blank or I land on a random bit of my past that contributes little to my memoir. Darn that mind. Why can’t I just sit down and develop the story of me? To move past this impasse and extract relevant information from the confusing cloud of memories, I rely on a series of writing prompts.

Writing Prompt 1: To learn about a scene, pick a detail and stretch

I want to remember high school which is hard for me because that whole period is foggy. I’ve found that if I have one fact, I can start from there and extend my memory from one fact to the next. So I stir the pot and a single image floats by – home room, where a teacher took attendance, made announcements, and then sent us on our way. I remember nothing. Then I see one person. I sat next to a guy named Wanenchak. But I don’t remember anything about him. Well, I do remember a little. He was trim, had light hair, and was a nice guy. Bit by bit, one fact leads to another, putting words and descriptions on hazy times. Wanenchak was Greek Orthodox. I didn’t know what that meant so I asked him. That’s one more fact about him, and it also divulges an interesting fact about me. I was terribly withdrawn, so the fact that I remember his religion tells me that despite my lack of attention to fellow classmates, I was interested in this dimension. While the exercise has not yet burst open the doors to an unforgettable scene, it did yield some raw material I didn’t have when I started.

Writing prompt 2: List key events, transitions, and influences
Even though high school feels vague, if I step back and scan those four years, highlights emerge from the haze. These noteworthy facts don’t in themselves tell a story, but they add to my understanding and perhaps will provide valuable raw material. Here’s a list I developed by looking for major events.

  • Influential teachers: Mr. Warshaw, my ninth grade math teacher started me on a path of love for math, and Mr. Hofkin, the science teacher in my senior year, established my curiosity about physics.
  • Sports: I never played any ball sports, but since I was an incessant walker, I hoped I could survive the rigors of track. I was wrong. A few weeks of waking up before dawn to train for track and field I had to drop out with excruciating shin splints.
  • My failure to stick with the English honors program: Despite my passion for reading, I never really understood what English teachers were trying to get me to do, so while I remained in the math and science honors class I was excluded from English. This always made me feel like an outsider.
  • Crash! I went on two dates in four years. One of my two dates ended in a car crash when I was so distracted I ran a red light.

Writing Prompt 3: To find the framework, look for desire
To create a story worth reading, I’m going to need emotions. I can’t write about romance. I didn’t have any. It was an all-boys high school and I worked every weekend at my dad’s drugstore. Where else can I look for drama? I ask myself, “What did I want?” and in answer, I see my two friends, Joe and Ed. I desperately wanted to be accepted by these guys. So I try to find scenes that represent my desire.

Joe was a strikingly handsome soccer player, and second in our all academic school. His dad was a steelworker, and the large family lived in a small row home, three kids to a room. One day in the lunch room, without provocation or warning, Joe threw a glass of chocolate milk on my clean white shirt. Standing there feeling defiled, with the brown liquid soaking into my chest, I searched his face for some clue that might explain why he had done it. Instead of apologizing, he seemed amused and curious, as if he was studying my response.

In another scene, I was in my kitchen at home talking to my friend Ed on the phone. We all lived pretty far away from each other because Central High in Philadelphia was a citywide school, and kids commuted there from all over the city. Ed was a Jewish intellectual who was becoming increasingly committed to his religion. He had asked me what I believed in, and I didn’t offer a clear enough answer. He told me I was worthless because I don’t believe in something enough to die for it. I started to cry.

These scenes are more than interesting moments. They build the framework of a story about three 16 year old boys trying to use their developing intellect to understand the morality of life. I’m ahead of Joe. At least I don’t need to experiment to find out what it feels like to hurt a friend. But I’m not yet up to Ed. Even though his delivery is cruel, he’s right. I haven’t yet figured out what I believe.

***

Out my hazy memories of high school I unearth more and more raw material, and begin to see a structure. This is the power of writing prompts. They stimulate thoughts along a particular line, and shake loose a variety of memories and ideas I didn’t even realize were in there. I brainstorm at the detail level to describe characters and settings. I brainstorm highlights, the main events that provide substance. And to find the emotion that propels me through those events I look for desire. Gradually I begin to gather the pieces of a compelling story.

For brief descriptions and links to other posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.

Your character evolves through time – a memoir prompt

By Jerry Waxler

Read how our collective interest in turning life into story is changing the world, one story at a time.

Look at the sky. Then look again. Nothing changed, and yet everything changed. Ticks of the clock add up and after enough of them, the earth turns again. Day by day, you brush your teeth, wash dishes, watch the news. As the days gather into years, kids grow, you learn skills, achieve goals, and your character evolves. To discover the richness of detail within these moments, look back at the landscape as the years rolled by. To bring the features into focus, ask questions.

For example, I ask myself, “How did creativity enter my life?” On my computer file, I list the decades and then peer into my life journey by answering this question for each decade.

Age: 0-19
I sewed costumes in cub scouts for a dress up performance. Sometimes we dressed up as Indians but this time we were Robin Hood’s Merry Men. I still can sew the saddle stitch.

In junior high, I assembled models of warships. In the fifties, the armaments of World War II were an important part of my fantasy life. I wished I had the knack to paint the trim more realistically, but didn’t feel confident about my color sense. (Ah-ha! An old regret lurking in an innocent childhood activity.)

In high school biology, our teacher showed us how to embed objects in clear, solid acrylic. I ordered the kit and went to work like an aspiring chemist, pouring half the concoction into a mold, and letting it harden. Then I placed a shiny penny on top and poured in the rest of the goo. My bedroom reeked but I didn’t mind. I was creating!

Age: 20-29
In college I loved to dance. I practiced moves in my room in front of the mirror, and then showed them off at parties. It felt like magic. As the music flowed through my body I converted it into motion. I also loved to sit and listen. I felt lifted by The Beatles, Joan Baez, John Coltrane. Classical music sent me to the stars, from Beethoven’s symphonies, to Bach’s choirs. I drank in operas, quartets, and soloists. Many of my friends in college were jazz musicians. I know spectating is different than creating, but my appreciation for other people’s music touches such a deep chord I consider it to be part of my own relationship with creativity.

Age: 30-39
Two decades after I wanted to paint those model battleship, I finally tried my hand at painting, in oils and acrylics on canvas. I had never learned to artistically represent objects, so I stuck with abstractions. My passion was exploring the colors on the palette and on the canvas. That encounter with painting amplified my understanding of color by a hundred fold. I still have the paintings, and I love them.

My computer programming jobs involved graphics and images. I instructed the computer to create and analyze pictures one pixel at a time. I wasn’t an artist, but my work brought me inside the technology of images. And the actual coding was a creative challenge in its own right.

I took singing lessons, first in a little neighborhood music school, and then at my voice teacher’s home. I knew from her compulsive yawning how bored she was with me. She was a frustrated opera singer, and my puny attempts must have seemed so insignificant in comparison. But she gave me enough confidence and skill to join my first choir, where I’ve been singing ever since.

Age: 50 and beyond
Many music teachers thought if you didn’t know a musical instrument by the time you were five years old, it was too late. Fortunately in the 1990’s scientists discovered that neurons can grow at any age. So I started taking piano lessons. Unlike my singing teacher, my piano teacher was interested in my adult learning. I could see in her eyes an admiration for my growing neurons.

I started to write a memoir, a process which is teaching me how writing can organize life. And the best teaching tools I can find are the stories everyone else tells. Using the lessons I learn from all other writers, I create my own story. Culture begets culture. I joined writing classes, and gathered together decades of miscellaneous writing experience into a form that will let me share my life with strangers.

Writing Prompt
On a sheet of paper or computer file list the decades of your life. Then write notes about how creativity entered your life during that period. Brainstorm connections with the arts, crafts, music, hobbies, activities with kids, or the creativity you expressed in your career.

This writing prompt reveals a broad overview. After you’ve gone through the list a few times, you may find entry points into specific scenes. For example, I could write the scene of standing at the piano next to my voice teacher, then another one in my car singing scales along with my audio taped lesson on my way to work. The scenes of creativity could be sprinkled throughout other events in my life to offer readers a connection with my inner world. Just as important as looking back, I see the tenacious place creativity has held in my life and look forward to decades of satisfaction ahead.

Notes
For brief descriptions and links to all the posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order Memoir Revolution about the powerful trend to create, connect, and learn, see the Amazon page for eBook or Paperback.

To order my how-to-get-started guide to write your memoir, click here.

To order my short, step-by-step how-to guide to write your memoir, click here.

5 Memoir Starters for Beginners

by Jerry Waxler

To learn more about the cultural passion for memoirs, and reasons you should write your own, read my book Memoir Revolution: A Social Shift that Uses Your Story to Heal, Connect, and Inspire, available on Amazon. Click here for the eBook or paperback.

When you face a daunting task, the only way to start is to take the first step. But what if even the first step seems daunting? Like the Gumption Trap in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, you can’t start your journey until you make peace with that first step. Memoir classes are one excellent way to coach you onto the road. And in fact there may be even gentler ways to start. Use techniques for self-reporting that you can find within ordinary life. If you’re already doing some of these, use them as the starting point from which to extend your writing and turn it into a more complete story of your life.

Letters and newsletters
For at least two thousand years, letters were an important way for people to keep in touch at a distance. The telephone made it so much easier to connect that it looked like personal letter writing was fading into oblivion. Now, with the development of blogs, email, and online family newsletters, writing is making a comeback. By writing letters to your relatives and friends, or articles for your family or group newsletter you can keep in touch while you develop parts of your memoir.

Job and school applications
A more structured method of organizing your past comes when you apply for a job or school. On the application you list previous employment, education, and related achievements. While it doesn’t include much narrative, it’s an ordered sequence of major events in your life, and as such demonstrates a fundamental technique of memoir writing. Expand the list by adding more events, including births and deaths, relationships, moves, and other critical changes in your life. Your list will help you frame out your memoir.

Online profiles
LinkedIn and Facebook want me to explain to strangers who I am. Online dating services want even more information. These profiles convey a glimpse of who we are through tiny fragments like favorite books, pets, and sports. At first I hated trying to tell about myself this way. When I approached it more playfully, I realized it’s not a bad exercise for creating the persona of the protagonist of my memoir.

Twelve Steps Moral Inventory
The fourth step of the Twelve Steps program is designed to help people climb out of the traps of the past by conducting a “fearless moral inventory.” If you have ever been through this process, you have already engaged in a courageous detailed self-examination. If you have never been through this process, look around for books about facing difficult memories, such as, John Bradshaw’s books, “Homecoming” and “Healing the shame that binds you.” While originally intended for addicts, these resources offer advice for anyone who wants to face regrets, embarrassment, and shame. By unraveling the knots of the past, you can set yourself free from backward pulls. And as you develop your story, you’ll find the strength, hope, and other emotions to help you move forward.

Keep a journal or diary
Journaling is a fantastic habit that can help you deal with emotions, get you in touch with your writing voice, and gather your memories. Journaling means writing just for you with no concern about a potential audience. By setting aside readers, you soothe the inner critic, allowing you to put words on paper, without worrying about what anyone thinks. (Stephen King in On Writing says to write your first draft with the door closed.) The goal is simply to find a safe place to transfer words from mind to paper. As you write in your journal, you sort out emotions of the day, as well as sorting out events that took place decades ago. Experiment. Brainstorm. Sketch. For example, snoop around your high school homeroom for a few journal sessions. Who sat next to you? What did you have for lunch? What set the class tittering? Get creative about asking yourself questions. You’ll be amazed at what turns up on paper, and with practice, you’ll develop an easier relationship with converting mental images into a written narrative.

Notes

For brief descriptions and links to all the posts on Memory Writers Network, click here.

To order Memoir Revolution about the powerful trend to create, connect, and learn, see the Amazon page for eBook or Paperback.

To order my how-to-get-started guide to write your memoir, click here.