Friday, January 28, 2011

Mother's Emotional Agenda - A Writing Prompt

My mother, Gertrude, holding her new baby daughter, Susan Gertrude.
What was your mother's "emotional agenda"?  This is the prompt for our next read-around. Hopefully, this exercise produces a valuable piece of writing for a memoir, novel or short story project.

Psychologists have long noted that the struggling family is usually dominated by its least conscious parent.  The reasons women are often less "conscious"  or self-actualized than men have been the subject of numerous novels, memoirs and feminist treatises.  

I have spent time thinking about my mother and how she imposed her will on our family.  Whatever happened to the glamorous brunette whose life by the time she was 40 was reduced to bargain hunting at supermarkets and flirting with pharmacists who filled her antidepressant prescriptions?  What became of Gertrude who once must have had dreams and aspirations of her own? 

As Carl Jung once claimed, "The greatest burden the child must bear is the unlived life of the parents." 

An emotional agenda could be the need to be taken care of, a demand to be the center of attention, passivity as a way of making a husband or child feel guilty for life's shortcomings, vicarious living through you, fear of risk-taking.

As always, if this prompt does not  interest you or pertain to your experience, please bring whatever you want to the Circle.  We are a supportive and caring group. All kinds of work are welcome and appreciated. See you on February 12 at Wellington Square.

All the best,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Help! I Wish I Had Journaled More!

"Help!  Why didn't I journal more? There are all these gaps!  I can't remember everything that happened! How can I write a memoir?"
I hear this from women time and time again.

This is the voice of panic.  This is the old schoolteacher from second grade rapping your knuckles for not paying better attention.

Relax.  You are not a reporter required to take notes.

You are a seeker of meaning.  You are about to embark on a journey.

While journals are excellent tools for reflection, they are not memoir.  Rather, memoir captures a meaningful time in your life.  And that may have nothing to do with the blow-by-blow account of  May 5, 1997 you jotted down in a journal, long ago stuffed away in a carton at the back of the closet.

My guess is that you know what it is you want  - NEED  - to write. You have known it for a long time.

Points to consider when writing or beginning to write memoir:
  • Select the event or series of events that seem most important to you. 
  • Try to recall names, dates and places where events occurred as best you can, but don't obsess on accuracy.
  • Let go of your "inner critic."  Tell it the way you feel. Tell it from the heart.
  • Take a little license with "the truth." Get creative! Make the scene come alive to bring home the point. 
  • If you don't know what the point is or why you are going there, stop, toss, discard.
  • Don't be afraid.  This is your story, not your mother's, your husband's or your children's. If they don't like it, let them write their own memoir.
  • Join a writing group.  Get feedback on your work.  If someone is too harsh or critical, don't use them again.  If someone sugarcoats you, thank them but look for someone both kind and discerning.
  • Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing . . . .and it doesn't have to mean journaling!

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Again in a Heartbeat is Editor's Pick at Story Circle Network

    My memoir, Again in a Heartbeat, a memoir of love, loss and dating again has been selected as pick of the month by Story Circle Network.  I am thrilled that it has been so favorably reviewed.
    See the review here:

    My book is for sale through the How to Order under Favorite Places on this site. 

    Thank you SCN!

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Allowing Ourselves a Voice

    One of the most amazing aspects of coming together in the Circle are the voices of women sharing their words and empowering each other through writing.

    As women, we are often "silenced" by society.  A pattern emerges. A woman silences herself because she knows there is reprisal when she speaks plainly and openly.  Then comes the shaming message -  It is self-centered to talk about your pain, anger, grief. Others have it worse so how dare you complain?  

    Although it is 2011, society continues to try and silence the feminine voice.  Many of the most outspoken women making headlines in the news - whether or not we agree with what they say - are roundly and contemptuously labeled by both sexes as shrews, haridans, witches.
    Baby Boomers - my generation - are accused of being the most self-centered and narcissistic of generations. Yet there was a certain logic to our mantra, "let it all hang out."  Letting it all hang out was a way to escape our self-imposed prisons and embrace change.

    Today's read-around was small and cozy. Harsh winter weather kept some away. Pat, Diane, Trish, Ellen and I settled in, lit the candle and started the read-around.

    Susan on her deck in Chester Springs
    From the work sprang conversation. We talked about whether or not to publish and how to pace our voice and speech patterns for public readings of our work.

    We talked about writing as a way of healing.  We observe, we learn, we incorporate and process all of this in our own time  Then comes joy in accepting - finally! - our story is important. We have the right to tell it.

    For in the end, all of us are chasing our demons, delving into the great mysteries of life, searching for the light and the fresh air.  We long for a community of souls to share our journey . . . we long to be heard.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    My Thoughts Turn to Tucson

    As some of you may or may not know, I lived in Tucson, Arizona in 2008-2009 working for AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America).  Tucson was modern-day Shangri-La for me, that's how drawn I was to its beauty and magic.

    I knew that I had to write about Tucson after the horror of what happened there. So, I called the local newspaper.  Would they be interested?

    I began exploring in this piece my love for this city and all I had seen and observed, its people, its culture, the essence of its aura, if you will.  As I wrote, I was transported back to the warm, desert air, the rainbows over the Catalina Mountains, the sunsets of indescribable beauty,

    Writing about my "dream city" helped me come to terms with leaving it behind.  Like all dreams, they die hard. When we write about what we know or have experienced - and we write from the heart - we can't go wrong.  This is the power of writing as a way of healing. 

    I also believe that writing from the heart imparts to others the experience of the human journey. The piece then belongs to the reader.  Here is the article, "A Shocking Scene in a City of Dreams" that I wrote for the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pennsylvania,  published on January 11.  I hope you enjoy.   Susan

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Winter Read-Around

    Our second Saturday of the month read-around is scheduled for Saturday, March 12  at Wellington Square Bookshop at the usual time - 9 a..m.

    As I mentioned in my radio interview on the Avid Reader (link provided on this website), all writing is autobiographical in some way. Whether your intent is to write memoir, fiction or creative non-fiction, the very exercise of writing your story and then gaining feedback is invaluable when you prepare to publish or as a way to heal.

    A link with directions to Wellington is listed under "Favorite Places" on this site.  We are going to have fun, share and meet new people, make connections and network.  Hope you will join us.