Since before I could read and write, I've been presenting stories. I'm grateful to parents, teachers, and friends who encouraged me. Editors, too, helped guide my process, as I contributed to their projects in collaborative ways. Especially I appreciate my husband, who exhorted me to work toward publication, and who has listened to many rough drafts involving himself as a character. He's quite a guy.
While I love print publications, writing online gives me good ways to practice and experiment. Five years ago I started blogging, and I keep up fairly well at my main site, which you can sample here. Lately I also blog, here, about my conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy. I've spent valuable time in a nonfiction group at The Internet Writing Workshop, a helpful space for those willing to receive feedback from various other writers.
Meandering with Memoir
I first wrote about a friend, another young mother, who died when we were both in our thirties. My initial story sold to a national Christian magazine. The friend's death, my reaction to it, and the reaction of the Christian community I was then part of affected my life, my faith, and my writing. Years later I completely rewrote the story, revealing questions that, in my forties, I felt freer to ask. This piece, "An Overture's Turn," received an editor's choice award from Relief: A Christian Literary Expression and was my launch into creative nonfiction (CNF).
Next I worked on a book-length memoir about my marriage of 32 years. Like most couples, Tim and I've had our ups and downs. Unlike many wife-writers, I feel compelled to relate through essays our failures. The reasons for this, perhaps a psychologist could fully untangle; I only know they involve God's gift of compassion toward me, and how our marriage journey has made me grateful for this mercy.
With Tim's blessing, then, I wrote. As it turned out, the first third of my marriage-book manuscript became another essay for Relief, titled "Memorial Day." Later I resold the essay to Mike O'Mary at Dream of Things. Mike's people regularly put out calls for CNF submissions. I was fortunate to be part of the Dream of Things' anthology, Saying Goodbye. My marriage's turn-around story fit their theme of "Saying goodbye to the people, places, and things in our lives." The book has received good reviews and is available here and here.
People craft narratives from their lives in different ways. The diversity is great. I loved Frank McCourt's three memoirs, even though I wouldn't write the same way regarding most anything -- religion, sex, etc. He found a poetic voice for what meant most to him. Like music, his prose remained in my mind and drew me back to his pages. Other favorite memoirists of mine include Philip Lopate, Abigail Thomas, Gary Presley, Tim Elhajj, and a fellow Oregonian, Lisa Ohlen Harris. Very different authors, but each captivated by real grit and beauty from their life stories.
I want to thank Deanna for providing us this wonderful look into her writing life and her tips on life writing. Please be sure to visit Deanna at her memoir blog and see what else she has to say about the topic.