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.”
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!
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…
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