It’s about that writing thing I do. I have cooked a memoir, plated it and want very much to serve it up to any and all who want a taste, who will request the whole enchilada.
Like most new, unknown, unbranded, writers, I thought it was all about the writing. I thought, piece of cake. Just write it!. Well. That’s only the first move. I was going to need a lot of help, but where was it?
While searching the net for a good recipe I somehow keyed in Sheila Bender’s Writing It Real. Huh? Still thinking recipe, I quickly found that the food here was all about how to write. Clueless, I simply emailed her my work. Audacity reigned while she reviewed it, and called me. Thus began a six year relationship that is still in place. In that time she taught me how to shape my story, to write in first person past tense, to strike any word that contributed nothing to move the story forward. To marshal the material, she led me carefully through the mastering of essay writing, to get my head around my story.
I spent my days, for years, here in my loft, writing and submitting essays everywhere I could think to. It took me a while to recognize that, while I was writing about meals in the orphanage, that didn’t qualify for cookbook submissions. Yes, Virginia, I was that much out of my experience level. Patient, kind, but still direct, Sheila pointed out “duh” stuff like that until I got it.
Because I tend to be clipped, and sometimes curt in my speech, and know it, I developed a rambling style and purple flowery prose to make up for that. To describe the color of a car, the sky, my dress, name it, I overwrote everything. Then to correct that, I wrote leaving out detail you’d want as a reader. I fell in love with the process and with the glory of the written word. By the fourth year, though, I still wrote flowery. Nobody talks like that. Finally, led by gentle nudges, I found my stride. Sheila knows when I free write with no thought to structure, just dumping my mind, and she, genteel woman, tugs on my chain gently and centers me again. Guiding, coaxing, pointing with purpose, she developed what is my natural style, that of lyrical writing. I had no idea what that meant. I learned to manage my best tool effectively. So finally, I have a complete, professionally edited manuscript that flows, tells its story without shouting, and invites you, reader, into my young life. Ultimately you will care about this little girl and her grit, her determination, and her small triumphs on her way to growing up.
Memoir is often painful. Life for a four old in an orphanage is daunting. But it was where God wanted me and His purpose was visible immediately. Mama was off earning money to keep us, a widow thirty years old, in war time. What else was she to do? Four year olds don’t know anything about that. They just want Mama.
Here, in this confinement, was my Matron, who told me oh yes I did and do have a Father Who lives in Heaven and put me where I would learn all about Him, that He loved me because He made me, that I belonged to Him, the One I could not see. but Who would never ever leave me. She showed me how to talk to Him, folding my hands together, bowing my head, speaking aloud from my heart so she could guide and teach me how to pray. I feel her arms around me as I type. She was laying the foundation for my faith.
In all this time I was shaping, shaping, shaping. The part I love is not spelling out some scene or idea or thought, but to write it without treating you, the reader, like you are a dummy. I can get you there without beating you up. Getting the thought on the page with the fewest words is very satisfying. Think I’ll begin a sequel!
Marketing escapes me. I don’t know where the doors are, who to approach, how to stay out of the slush pile. But that small, determined woman who is my teacher, my editor, my mentor, does. And she is willing to help. What can be better than that?