Mary Lynn Archibald is a freelance copywriter, editor and author of two memoirs: Briarhopper, (a woman’s odyssey from Kentucky’s coal country to California in1945 at the end of World War II); and Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue, a cautionary tale about the rigors of country living and cattle ranching. “With one stroke of the pen, we became the proud owners of six cows, two cats and a flock of wild turkeys.”
First of All…
People are always asking me about my writing process.
Do I write every day? (I don’t). What does a typical day look like for me? (You don’t want to know). Getting down to it can be difficult, but ideally, I can be disciplined when I really need to make something happen.
I write business promotions, copy for anyone who needs it, but especially, copy in the fields of art, memoir, writing, self-publishing, and health, to name a few subjects I know well.
If you’re new to this blog, you know I am also the author of three memoirs. The first was an “as told to” book that was dictated to me. The second is about twelve years trying to raise cattle in the wilds of Trinity County, CA, with no prior experience. The third is a brand new personal memoir of my early life as a young girl to my clueless entry into local (San Francisco) show business, modeling and a few less glamorous professions, such as sales clerk and switchboard operator.
I met quite a few strange and interesting people in the process.
It made for some interesting encounters. But I digress. Let me talk about my writing process, such as it is.
Consistency in Writing
I’ll admit it. I am an inconsistent writer. Oh, don’t get me wrong; when I have an assignment, I’m never late with a deadline, but when the deadline is mine (that is, one that I impose on myself), I know it can be moved, and even doing laundry can look a lot more exciting than working on my book. So many things can easily catch my attention. Life intervenes.
Ideally, I go into my office and face the computer around ten in the morning, after a brisk, 20-minute workout with Miranda Esmonde-White on public television. http://www.classicalstretch.com/(She’s a former ballerina, too, so I can relate to her combo of stretching and strengthening exercises because although she mixes ballet with Pilates, yoga and tai chi, she looks graceful whatever she is doing, and that’s an inspiration).
Writing this book was done in stages, but it is by no means chronological, sometimes veering back and forth in time depending on the memories that bubbled to the surface. If that technique gives you whiplash, perhaps this book is not for you.
As I near the age of 80 later this year, much of the past is dim. That’s why I wrote this memoir: to illuminate the dim passages in my mind and to hope to capture a few of the more memorable and sometimes funny periods of my life.
I remained an innocent throughout most of my young life, and occasionally paid the price, but, hey, I made it through World War II’s disruptions and a few skirmishes in San Francisco much later, relatively intact, and still smiling.
I hope you enjoy this peek into the past. If so, please let me know, at winecountrywriter.com, or via an Amazon review.
So that’s my process. Each writer’s process is unique. I like the words of Richard Ford:
- “Beware of writers who tell you how hard they work. (Beware of anybody who tries to tell you that.) Writing is indeed often dark and lonely, but no one really has to do it.”
But the best advice, I think, comes from William Saroyan:
- “How do you write? You write, man, you write, that’s how, and you do it the way the old English walnut tree puts forth leaf and fruit every year by the thousands. … If you practice an art faithfully, it will make you wise, and most writers can use a little wising up.”
Wise words. Find more of them here: https://www.thoughtco.com/writers-on-writing-1692856
Until next time.
Shameless Plagiarism Department:
Before I open the floor for questions, I have something to share with you: I found this great quote by John Green, a best-selling Young Adult novelist and video blogger, in an article by Emily Harstone titled, 3 Ways To Promote Yourself As A Writer(Even When You Don’t Want To). She describes herself as “an introvert, a writer, and a very reluctant self-promoter”), and it speaks to a deep-seated fear in all of us strange swamp creatures who call ourselves writers, so I thought I’d share it here:
“Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” ― John Green
You can read Emily’s complete article at Authors Publish http://www.authorspublish.com/3-ways-promote-yourself-as-a-writer-even-when-you-dont-want-to/
So yes, I know that fear, uncertainty, and introversion are major writing blocks, especially when you are writing about yourself. (I once had a strange woman come up to me, brandishing my book, at a public meeting of the American Business Women’s Association and say, “I know more about you than you know about me!”). It does give one pause.
Now I know that everyone who writes is not an introvert, but I suspect the good ones are (after all, you can’t find time to write while you’re attending all those parties and get-togethers). Still, there are enough of us writers out there who fall into the swamp creature category to make this article relevant, so get back to your hidey-hole and start writing!
Where are you in your struggles with memoir? I’d like to know. Maybe I can help. Send me a question and I’ll try to answer it for you. What’s bugging you about your writing? Is it just too hard to get started? I’ve been there. Let’s share our agonies. You don’t have to do this alone.
If you want to score your very own Free e-book copy of Sir, I’m Not That Kind of Girl: Goody Two-Shoes Goes to Town (and you know you do—who wouldn’t?), there isn’t much time left, so hustle on over to Amazon and enter my name (Mary Lynn Archibald, in case you’ve forgotten) in the search box. Then click on the title, then click the box on the right-hand side, titled “Read for Free.” (That’s if you want to know more about me than I know about you!) After reading the book, you should definitely have some questions for me!
This ebook will only be available free until May 15th, so GET ON IT!
…and if you’re really my friend, please leave me an Amazon review. I’ll be eternally grateful. PROMISE.
More on Staying Healthy When You Type
Repetitive stress injury (or RSI) is way more easy to prevent than to cure. So what do you do to prevent it? Here’s a list:
- Sit up straight with both feet flat on the floor.
- Give yourself a break. If your hands start tingling or go numb, STOP! Go get a glass of water, walk around the block (or at least go outside) for fifteen minutes.
- Do a few hand exercises. You can find them online, or tune in to Miranda Esmonde-White’s Classical Stretch program on television, or better yet, check out the DVD offerings she has available on her website: http://www.classicalstretch.com/
- Apply ice to your hands for ten or so minutes at a time, and then go back to your typing with renewed vigor. It works.
- Repeat as necessary so as not to ruin your hands for life. You’ll need them!
Now That You’re Healthy, Join a Club!
I’ve been a member of the Redwood Writers’ Club for nearly twenty years, and that is where I found my critique group. If you can find a good bunch of people who are willing to give you honest opinions on what works and what doesn’t in your writing, it’s a lot more valuable than the opinion of, say, your spouse or significant other, or perhaps, your mother. Theirs might not be the most unbiased of statements.
My club has volunteers whose primary task is to match a writer with a few like-minded others in the group, and watch them steam ahead with confidence born of interactions with contemporaries they admire. It’s inspiring, and even if the first group is not a great fit, the volunteer can find another that is more compatible. It’s great to have a place to share your work.
Below is one of many collections our club has published over the last few years. Applicants for inclusion in our (now yearly) anthology are selected in a blind judging by professional, published authors, so it is a privilege to be included. (See them here, under “BOOKS,” or on Amazon.)
Favorite Books Department
Just finished reading Wally Lamb’s latest: I’ll Take You There. He is one of my favorite authors, ever since I read his book, She’s Come Undone, several years ago.
He handles family relationships and problems with such tact and compassion that his characters are very real to me.
The other reason I enjoyed reading that particular book was that he used so many slang words from the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s that it really took me back. I only wish I’d remembered more of them for my own latest book!
Right now we’re in the Southern California desert, enjoying another lovely, sunny day, so I must get back to it!
One Can Always Hope!
Well, it’s been a while. Gotta shift gears a little. A new book and a bit of an injury kept me from my blog duties.Perhaps this will explain:
2017: Where Did It Go?
The year just past was a blur. I do remember I that I now have in hand a new book (see next paragraph).I used to try to keep a journal to help me remember the years, but it seems I spent too many years throwing pots on a potter’s wheel and writing by hand, that my best option now is to use my voice to write, or not to write at all (not really an option for me).
I spent much of the year finishing my latest memoir, about my early years (BC: Before Carl). The title: Sir, I’m Not That Kind of Girl! Or Goody Two-Shoes Goes to Town. Copies will be available from me by advance order, and you may pay through PayPal. I’ll let you know as soon as I’m all set up. (The first ten people who write a review of the book will get a free ebook copy of Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue, a hilarious account of the twelve years Carl and I spent trying to raise cattle in remote Trinity County.
My new book is a romp through my Ozzie and Harriet childhood and adolescence, culminating in the glamour years before my first marriage, when I had the opportunity to hold a number of diverse jobs in San Francisco, such as switchboard operator for Greyhound Bus Lines, fashion model, sales clerk at Gump’s in and also Capwell’s department store (now gone) and dancer in a San Francisco-based chorus line.
Funny, how as you get older, you remember the distant past better than the more recent one. Except for dramatic recent ones: My most recent dramatic memory is of falling onto the dining room floor and breaking my hip on the day before Thanksgiving. (I have osteoporosis, so it’s not hard to do. I’m considering designing a bubble wrap pantsuit for myself).
Anyway, thank God Carl’s daughter Amyre was here from Yucaipa. She made Thanksgiving dinner, and I managed to spend the next seven days gimping around until I reached the point where I couldn’t move (thought if anything was broken I’d know—turns out I was wrong), and I got a nice ambulance ride to the emergency room, and partial hip replacement surgery that night—the 30th.
By the end of December, I was still recuperating, and my son Miles flew down from Portland and helped Carl nurse me (and my daughter, Jamie, who had foot surgery on November 21st). Miles’ wife, Holly, drove down with their new, large Doberman puppy, arriving on December 23rd, just in time to cook Christmas dinner. (It was nice not to have to cook either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but I don’t recommend my method of achieving that.)
My new book has kept me busy, supervising cover and interior design and printing. BookBaby was very patient with my pickiness (is there such a word?) Let me know what you think of the cover:
I’ve graduated to a walker, then a cane, and now I’m on my own, and I’m back to daily exercises again, after a three-month recovery and one month of sheer sloth. Still, we’re all glad to be here, and we still have our sweet doggie, Fizzbo, though she is looking a little long in the tooth, as are we all.
Hope all is well with you and yours. Back to memoir-writing advice next week. Promise!
Happy New Year! 2018 has gotta be better, right?
Photo Courtesy of Ksenia Makagonova
Let’s Face It, It’s Winter!
You are writing away, working on your memoir (of course you are—it’s warmer inside than outside now, after all, so no excuses).
Great. But right now, I have some cautionary advice for you: tips excerpted from an article I wrote for a Mac magazine years ago, but now more relevant than ever, so before you write another word, read this:
What To Do When Your Computer Bites the Hand That Feeds It
Photo Courtesy of Kevin Bhagat
So there you are, happily processing words on your computer, when suddenly you feel a shooting pain in (pick one) your fingers; your thumb; your wrist; your elbow; your entire hand or all of the above.
“Ow!” you say, aggrieved.
And (here is the bad news), this is only the beginning. Why, you ask? Because, my friend, you are very likely now afflicted with RSI (repetitive strain injury), a malady that is increasingly common among desk jockeys, slippery to diagnose, and a whole lot easier to avoid than cure.
It happens to the best of us, but if it hasn’t yet, don’t let it happen to you.
If it does, you will in short order find yourself shopping for painkillers, anti-inflammatories, splints, ice packs, and a good physical therapist. Or worse, a great surgeon, a competent attorney, and perhaps even voice-recognition software; that is if you plan to keep your job after lengthy recovery. If you’re a self-employed writer like me, you’ve got different problems: no sick leave, no income, etcetera.
RSI includes, but is not limited to, the better known carpal tunnel syndrome, or CTS. RSI is a more inclusive term, which covers such old favorites as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, and anything else that hurts (or goes numb) between your neck and the tips of your fingers.
What to do? Glad you asked. You can do any or all of a staggering number of things, some unique combination of which may help you. The first and most important, of course, is the one your mother was always harping on: sit up straight!
Proper posture at the keyboard requires and ergonomically correct chair, adjusted to the proper height so that your thighs are horizontal, keyboard placed so that you can keep your hands in as close to neutral position as possible, i.e., forearms and hands at right angles to your body, with your elbows neither rotated out nor in—though there is controversy about this.
Please do not hyper-extend your fingers. Keep your monitor at eye level and dead ahead, and perhaps treat yourself to a nice adjustable footrest. Otherwise, feet should both be flat on the floor. Do NOT cross your legs when you type (no need to, unless that hunk from Marketing happens by).
Like any athletic pursuit, using a keyboard requires warm-up exercises such as neck and shoulder rolls and hand and arm stretches to promote flexibility. Once you have injured yourself however, you may need to have a set of more injury-specific exercises prescribed for you by a physical therapist.
It’s not generally recommended to type while wearing wrist splints. In fact, if your injury is acute, you may not even be able to go near your keyboard for anywhere from three weeks to three months.
Some people manage to injure themselves so badly they can never type again, period. Both the severity and type of injury will determine this. Often, the “cure”—if you can call it that—is to stop using your hands altogether.
If you are like me, you settle for long periods away from what you love most (in my case, writing and gardening), followed by faithful exercise, icing of the affected parts, and frequent rest breaks. And of course, a certain amount of chronic pain.
I consider myself fortunate. In the acute stage, I suffered agony and difficulty in my struggle to do the things most of us take for granted: buttoning buttons; brushing teeth or hair; reaching; opening doors, pushing or pulling heavy objects.
Now at least, I can type for five or ten minutes at a time. And button buttons! So there’s hope, if you catch your problem soon. Don’t take it for granted. This is serious stuff, folks.
And me? I just finished my third memoir. And you should see my garden!
…to be continued.
So You Want To Write A Memoir?
Do you remember rag curls? If you do, you’re probably giving away your age. Never mind my age. You can sort of guess by the picture and the time frame. Tell me about yours, won’t you?
You’ve come to the right place. Each week I give you tips and resources to explore so you can do just that! Sip and savor the clues along the way in this virtual Wine Country blog.
Check out previous posts on how to begin your memoir or family history, and let me know how you are coming along, and also please leave suggestions about how I can help you with your project. I’m on my third memoir now, and I always believe that one can not only learn by doing, but also from one’s own mistakes and the suggestions of others, so let’s collaborate!
And Speaking of Collaborating…
Once you take the plunge and have a few chapters to your name, why not get wet all the way and join a critique group? There’s nothing like one to keep you writing.
- by word-of-mouth
- locally (sometimes in newspaper ads)
- through your writers’ group (you DO belong to a writers’ group, don’t you?)
Good Excuse Department:
By the way, sorry about being tardy with this one blog post, but I was very involved with packing to evacuate. We were on standby to do just that! You see, we were in an area between two major Northern California fires last week: the Tubbs fire (Santa Rosa) and the Pocket fire (Geyserville). That kept us pretty busy, checking Cal Fire and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department to see if we were next to have to leave.
Can you say nerve-racking? It was, for sure, but we were some of the lucky ones and did not lose our house. So now it falls to us to find things to give to those who lost everything, and that will be our focus for the next several weeks.
It was terrifying that’s for sure, and we’ve never been quite so close to having to leave our home. It will take a long time for Sonoma County to heal from the terrific nightmare of the wildfires, but it will. Please pray for those who were not so fortunate as we were.
Talk next week. I look forward to it!
Praise and Reviews
“Rarely do I find a book so enjoyable that I savor it in small nibbles, like fine chocolate. Accidental Cowgirl is such a book.”
Alice Berger-Berger’s Book Reviews
“Mary Lynn Archibald has written a wonderfully whimsical story that will make you laugh. What a great little gem of a book.”
…“I think you will enjoy visiting Twin Creeks Ranch and getting to know the people, cows, cats, dogs, wild turkeys, deer, coyotes, bluebirds, and snakes that call the place home.”Gil Mansergh, Film Critic, Book Doctor, Author