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.”
Well, I hope you saw my last TV performance (or maybe I hope you didn’t—I’ve got a lot to learn about TV appearances. I seem to look half-drunk, or as though I’m on the deck of a rolling ship).
Anyway, if you didn’t, both the interview and a nice 30-second spot they produced for me will be up soon.
Meanwhile, what I said, in a nutshell, was that if you want to begin a memoir, it is okay to use a tape recorder, notes, anecdotes and even a mind map, which I mentioned in my last post. The most important tip? As I’ve said before: Just begin. If you’re at sea as to how to do that, check out this blog periodically, and look at Joel Friedlander’s blog. He has excellent products that will help you write your memoir. His web address is on the sidebar for my blog page https://www.thebookdesigner.com/.
Still have difficulty beginning? Do ten-minute timed writings every morning when you get up. Write:
- anything, really
- silly ideas
- think-outside-the-box stuff
Just keep writing for the full ten minutes without stopping. Do this every morning for even just a short while, and you will be amazed at your productivity. Isn’t that great news?
Now here’s the bad news:
Much of that productivity (maybe even MOST of it) will be crap. But some of it won’t, and you may be surprised at where your timed writing leads you.
More good news: This exercise will help you get unstuck more easily than anything else I know, so go for it. Don’t judge any of it right away, just see where it leads you.
Let’s go for it! As my mother used to say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
That’s it for now. Back atcha with more resources and more ideas for writing your memoir, and I’ll share a few photos that didn’t make it into the book. (Old timey stuff, for those of you who remember WWII, and new info for those who don’t!)
So the watermelons are ripe in my garden, and with their development comes fall, and a turning inward.
Time to buckle down and write. But here’s an idea:
Why not share your production with the rest of the memoir clan? Give yourself permission to publish an excerpt or two of your work-in-progress. Like this:
- First lines are important. For instance, here are the first two lines of my new memoir:
Apprehensively, I knocked at the door of a San Francisco basement apartment.
“Come right on in and take off yer clothes, honey!” said a raspy voice from within.
- Out of context, this should pique the interest of most.
- Leave your readers hanging. Build up a bit of mystery. Give it your best shot. Don’t just settle for the first idea that comes to mind. Work it over until it sings!
- Offer more. Let them know what they’ll get as a reward for becoming a part of your online community.
- Here’s another “for instance”: CHECK OUT THIS DEAL! When you preorder my new memoir, Sir! I’m Not That Kind of Girl, or Goody Two-Shoes Goes to Town, by clicking the SEND button at the bottom of my homepage http://www.winecountrywriter.com , you will receive a complimentary e-copy of my three-time award-winning memoir, Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue! (see reviews on sidebar).
- Of course, your excerpt can be from any part of your book you choose, as long as it is enough to generate interest and encourage your readers to want to know more.
That’s about it for this time, but I’ll be back with more interesting ideas next week.
As the cheerleaders used to say…READY? OKAY!
(To start your memoir that is).
(Image: Edward Hopper painting on cover for latest Redwood Writers’ Anthology-available on Amazon)
Let’s Get Started:
- MIND MAPS. The easiest way for me to organize my thoughts is with a mind map. This is a free-form record of the thought processes for constructing your memoir that you can add to or subtract from easily.
- To begin, find yourself a large sheet of drawing paper and place your main thought in the center. For instance, let’s call it “My Memoir” for now.
- Draw a circle around your title/main thought.
- Next, draw lines that look like the spokes of a wheel, out from your main circle. Not too long. Leave room between them, because you are going to write down your thoughts about your memoir along these lines. Whatever comes to you.
- Then, see if you can think of a few other thoughts on each subject. Draw branches for these secondary thoughts, and then branch from them, just like the branches of a tree. Don’t overthink it at this point, just write down whatever comes to your mind. One thought or subject will lead organically to another.
- Pretty soon you’ll see something resembling a spider web or tree. Have fun with it. Add color and unique shapes. Play.
- Now on a separate piece of paper, make a few notes on each subject you’ve been able to identify. And so on.This technique works best for right-brain dominant folks (artists and flower children, perhaps). Now let’s look at how to begin your memoir if you’re a left-brain type (say a mathematician or an engineer):
2. OUTLINE (you remember how to do this from high school, don’t you?) It goes like this:
- Me-(during the period defined by the memoir—not your whole life, that’s an autobiography)
- My Family
- How they affected my life, etc.
a. strong memories about them
c. funny stories
…and so on. I guess you can sorta tell into which camp I fall.
The most important thing, remember, is to “just do it!”
No more excuses.
Until next time…
So now that the excitement is over and I can think again, let’s get back to business—the business of writing, that is.
Here are the three tips I promised you. I believe they will help you to do the hardest thing: get started:
- If you’re going to be interviewing sources, especially those in your own family, it’s best to be professional.
You don’t want to get stuck in an emotional morass before you even know what hit you.
By this, I mean it’s best to have a checklist or interview questions in front of you when you begin. That way you don’t get sidetracked, and you get the information you need.
Ask questions like, “How much do you remember about our childhood, say when you were about two to the age of five?” if you’re dealing with brothers or sisters.
Or perhaps, “Mom, remember that funny story you always told us about uncle Jake at the Thanksgiving feast? Would you tell me that story again so that I get it straight? I have trouble remembering all the details.”
That way, you can sort of ease into your memoir without letting on just yet what you’re doing. Sometimes, when you tell people you’re writing a memoir, they may tend to freeze up. You don’t want that.
2. Give them a choice.
Once you’re well launched on writing your memoir, it’s safer to let them in on what you’re doing.
Tell them you need to refresh your memory, and you’d like some help in writing about yourself and the family.
Ask them if they’d rather you talked to them in person, or if they would rather write some things down and give them to you; or would they rather you use a tape recorder to get the gist of their memories. That way, if you have a reluctant subject, he or she has a way out of a direct confrontation. Depending on the matter you are writing about, that may be a good thing.
3. Always be courteous and nonconfrontational.
You don’t want to get into an argument with someone about a remembered event. Just say, Oh thanks for that. It’s funny I remember it differently. I guess I’ll have to research it a little more. Thanks for the feedback.” And gracefully exit, stage left.
Because in the end, it’s your memories that count. It’s your memoir, after all, but you might mention somewhere in your manuscript or introduction or preface, that your sister or mother or father, say, remembers it differently.
In your writing, you must always know that individual memories are not infallible. Not even yours.
And there you have it. I hope this helps you to get started and best of all do you keep going, as discussed in a previous post, it’s hard to begin again once you’ve lost your momentum. Take it for me I’m a great procrastinator.
I hope you were able to watch my interview with Ray Lucia yesterday on the Ray Lucia Show, and can take advantage of the free offers on this website. I haven’t seen it myself yet, so I’m not sure if it’s worth a look. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ll let you know.
Until next time, when we will discuss how to organize the actual writing of your memoir, ciao!
Mary Lynn Archibald will be appearing on the Ray Lucia Show, July 31, 2017 10:50 , Tune in to listen to the interview live. Click Here. You can also find the podcast on iHeart Radio or iTunes.
Listeners: Email me at <email@example.com> for a free excerpt from my upcoming book, Sir! I’m Not That Kind of Girl, Or, Goody Two-Shoes Goes To Town. I will also send a free copy of my latest ebook, Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue, to the first ten folks to email me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. And thanks for listenin’.
To Pre-Order the new book, Sir!, etc., and the free ebook, Accidental Cowgirl, please fill out the form below.
CATCH ME ON TV MONDAY, JULY 31ST: (I’m Talking Memoir, etc.)
Meet me in person at 10:50 a.m. on the Ray Lucia Show (BizTalkTV/BizTalkRadio) or stream it live on your computer or smartphone. I’ll be covering some points of interest to memoir writers, friends and just the curious, when I will have a short interview with Ray Lucia, on The Ray Lucia Show. It’s on the Biz Television Network. In addition to his own show, Lucia has appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News Channel‘s Your World With Neil Cavuto and The Cost of Freedom, and CNBC‘s On The Money. Tune in tomorrow, or stream it live!
Truth In Memoir
I’m pretty stoked! But enough about me (thought I’d never say that, didn’t you?) On to memoir issues. I know one of the major stumbling blocks for all of us writers of memoir and family history is telling the truth, how much truth to tell and how to tell it. On that subject, I subscribe to memoirist Haven Kimmel’s (A Girl Named Zippy https://www.amazon.com) school of thought:
If it’s revelation I’m worried about, I wait and wait until the energy compelling me is not impulsive but sure; when it’s failing the book or my readers stopping me, I remind myself that I can always throw it all away and begin again; and when it’s an ego-corruption of the sentences themselves, I simply slip my ego a roofie and write while it’s unconscious.
I’m never afraid of what will be revealed…As Thoreau said, “The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths the mind travels. Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.”
…And Truer Words Were Never Spoken
Haven Kimmel has written much about her life, and if you don’t know her work, the memoir cited above is a great place to start. And she tells the truth. Here’s the bad news: You must tell your truth. Nobody else’s truth will do. But rest assured, there are ways to soften the blow, which I will discuss in future posts. Stand by.
(I love that word, “issues,” don’t you? It covers multitudes). Anyway, some housekeeping. For the moment, my <marylynn@winecountrywriter> email is not working (quelle surprise). So please if you wish to contact me, try my iCloud account, which seems to be okay, at least for now. That email address is <email@example.com>. That works on my iPhone as well. Good luck, and wish me luck, too.
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