Saturday, December 10, 2011

Writing a Memoir: Not for the Faint of Heart -- by special guest Linda Hoye



          
           Today's special guest is Linda Hoye.   Linda's  A Slice of Life Writing blog visits many topics including writing memoir.  One primary area of focus that Linda writes about is the subject of adoption.  Today she tells us a bit about her personal story and the process involved in bringing that story to the pages of her soon to be published Two Hearts: An Adoption Memoir.



Writing a Memoir: Not for the Faint of Heart

I’ve written off and on for most of my life and about four years ago I decided to get serious about it. My husband and I were empty-nesters and had recently relocated to Washington State from Canada.  Since all of our family and friends were back in Canada I found myself with extra time on my hands. I took a few online writing classes, joined the Story Circle Network and the National Association of Memoir Writers (Both organizations excellent resources for writers.), started a blog, and began writing about my life growing up in Saskatchewan.

I didn’t originally start out to write a memoir. At first I thought I would just write some vignettes about my childhood and document family history for the benefit of my children and grandchildren. It was my husband who encouraged me to write about my adoption experience, and convinced me I had a story that others might be interested in.

I had no way of knowing at the time just what I was getting in to!

I refer to the first few drafts as “Dragnet Drafts” because they contained “just the facts” and no emotion. Even though I had already done some grief work related to having been adopted, I was still very stoic and shut down, but I realized that in order to write about emotion I would have to feel the emotion, and that was not easy for me.
Family photo

I used photographs a lot during the process. I pored over pictures from my childhood, trying to remember how little girl Linda had felt back then. I had tiny photographs of my birth mom that I scanned into my computer so I could enlarge them and see her face more clearly. I had a lot of suppressed anger toward the woman who gave birth to me and seeing her face on a regular basis forced me to come to terms with it. I put pictures of all of my eight siblings up on the wall next to my writing desk, at one point I put a large sheet of paper up on the wall in my office and taped photographs of key people on it so I could see everyone all the time.
Mother and child

I read journals and poems I had written during dark times in my life and I compiled reams of documentation from my search and reunion. It was during the process of pulling those documents together when I realized there was something missing. I won’t go into the details (I hope you’ll read my book when it comes out to find out the whole story!) suffice to say I took a step that ultimately and unexpectedly led to finding peace about my adoption experience. If I hadn’t been writing a memoir it’s possible I would never have gotten to that place.

Aside from that, perhaps the greatest benefit I gained during the writing process was the opportunity to step back and objectively look at people, places, and events and see them in terms of a bigger picture. Much like the individual threads of a tapestry are woven together to make a design much more beautiful than any of the threads are by themselves, threads of situations and people are woven together to make up the unique picture of our lives. Oftentimes we aren’t able to see the beauty without stepping back, and it is in this stepping back and impartially considering the experiences of our lives that we find truth. We are able to let go of our preconceived biases toward people who have done things that hurt us and see them in a different light—a light of understanding, acceptance, and perhaps even forgiveness. We are able to see ourselves in a new way too, and understand reasons for choices we’ve made, and see how our choices changed our life.

Three sisters
       Today, four years after embarking on my memoir writing journey, I’m considering publication options for Two Hearts: An Adoption Memoir and my husband jokes that he has his wife back—without his support and understanding I could not have written this book
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I hope my story will help other adoptees understand that if we are willing to acknowledge our issues and do the work we can find our way to the other side of the silent grief many of us deal with. Maya Angelou says: “You did then when you knew how to do. When you knew better, you did better.” I pray that Two Hearts will be a resource to help us know better so we do better regarding adoption in the future.



               Find Linda's blog at http://lindahoye.com/.   Thank you, Linda,  for this touching and informative post.

                Next week we will be visited by Journaling Woman who also writes wonderful memoir vignettes on her blog The Ruralhood.  




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22 comments:

  1. Lovely post, Linda . . . I touch on adoption and abandonment issues in my fiction, and maybe it is because I wanted to distance myself that I wrote it, and other "mother-daughter issues" into my fiction!

    I hope you find the perfect publishers for your work!

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  2. Linda, Even though I'm not adopted, I can't wait to read your memoir. Memoirs are important to others in that we will not feel alone. Sometimes when I am feeling emotions about certain life experiences, I feel alone--until I read another's experience about the same thing. It is very freeing to know we aren't alone.

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  3. Thank you for having me, Lee.

    Kat, I know you understand. And you bring these threads into your stories beautifully.

    Journaling Woman, I think that may be part of the reason for the popularity of the genre-that we can learn from the experiences of another and also that we are not alone in our own circumstance.

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  4. Great job, Linda! There are a lot of memoir writers, and would-be writers, out there who need to hear these words and get encouragement.

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  5. Great guest post and hope you find the perfect publisher for your work. Sounds great and sure many will find inspiration.

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  6. How very true! I've just published my memoir, It's an Ill Wind, Indeed..., at Createspace. It wasn't easy reaching that emotional truth, especially knowing that these were only my truths, my perceptions, as I recalled them and might not be remembered in the same way by family members and friends who would read the book, nor might they have been by those who, sadly, are no longer around to comment or contradict.

    For anyone just starting a memoir, "all beginnings are difficult" - these words from the Talmud - such simple words of wisdom - certainly apply to the dredging up of my story of learning to live again, to love again after the sudden death of my husband and young son as a result of a fire in our home.

    Even after forty years, I had some things to work through. The book is my thank you to all those who helped me through my darkest days. If, in addition, the words can make even one person's journey through grief a little easier, it will have been more than worth the effort.Already, the rewards have been immense.

    Good luck with getting your book published.

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  7. What a wonderful story. I'm amazed at how the journey changed how you saw things. It can be so healing to share our stories.

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  8. Denise, I've found most writers of memoir to be encouraging to others on the path. Isn't it great to be part of such a community?!

    Pat, thank you!

    Bird by Bird, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm going to check out your memoir also. I'm glad that the writing and publication have been such a positive experience for you and I'm sure your story will inspire others. That's a part of the power of memoir, isn't it!

    Tanya, you're so right! Healing to the writer and, hopefully to the reader as well.

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  9. Yay for Canadians, and for memoirs from the heart. My brother is adopted, and this sounds like a very powerful read.

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  10. Hi Lee and Linda .. another excellent post - brilliant idea Lee for us all to see where each author and potential author has come from.

    Linda - you sure have a story to tell and I look forward to reading your book ...

    Fascinating read - and something we all need to understand .. I like Maya Angelou's words you quote ..'you do what you do - but in time you do better and understand better' ...

    Many thanks - cheers Linda and Lee .. Hilary

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  11. Linda,
    I am looking forward to reading your memoir.

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Doris

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  12. What an awesome post. I write memoir too. It's amazing how much harder it is than I originally thought it would be.

    My first book is about the death of my son; that took a lot out of me to read and revise it, almost as if reliving his death over and over.

    It is worth it in the end though :0)

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  13. Dear Linda,
    I'm grateful that Arlee hosted your posting today. The journey to a completed book was long for you and must have had you crying often. I hope those were tears not just of sorrow, but of joy as well.

    I so liked your analogy of the tapestry and the individual thread and stepping back to view the parts as a whole.

    I so look forward to being able to purchase your memoir. Please keep us informed on your blog os its progress through the publishing process.

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  14. Hi, Lee and Linda.

    I've been following Linda, and looking forward to this book! Esp. since as you both know, memoir is my favorite genre.

    I love the Mary Angelou quote you shared with us, Linda. It is SO true!

    To both of you, Lee & Linda: Have a wonderful holiday season!!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror & Other Memoirs

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  15. Like Dee, I loved the analogy of the tapestry--to step back and look objectively at people, places, and event...seeing them in terms of the bigger picture. Good writing, Linda!

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  16. Interesting to hear about all the background work that goes into writing a book. Through a writing assignment I had during my college years, I too was able to look on someone who hurt me with compassion.

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  17. Talli - Yay for Canada, indeed! I hope your brother is able to glean something from my book when it comes out. It seems many who are adopted share the same issues.

    Hilary - Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope to see you often and to get to know you better.

    Hold my hand - Thank you.

    Elisabeth - I can only imagine how difficult that book must have been for you to write. I hope it was also somewhat healing for you too.

    Dee and Susan - I'm glad you liked the tapestry analogy!

    Ann - My very best wishes to you, and everyone, during this blessed holiday season as well.

    Wanda - There is power in writing and observing objectively. I'm glad you found it too.

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  18. Congrats Linda on your finished memoir. You're right about memoir writing not being for the faint of heart. It's a huge job and requires being honest with yourself and your emotions.

    Thank you Arlee for sharing the stage. :)

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  19. What a courageous approach you took - and it does feel that many of the things troubling us could do with a stand back to see the whole picture.

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  20. Linda, thank you for sharing your story. It's been a great week and I look forward to your return on Wrote By Rote when you are ready to give Two Hearts some promotion after it gets published.

    Thanks to all who participated in this week's conversation.

    Lee

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  21. Linda, It is so wonderful to follow your progress toward the publication of your memoir; to know that all your hard work and perseverance have come to fruition. It gives me hope on my own journey. I can't wait to read "Two Hearts." Thank you for your honest sharing. Memoir writing is definitely not for sissies,! :-)

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  22. Hi Linda,

    Your story sounds extraordinary. I am not adopted but sometimes I think I might be! I am writing my own memoir at the moment about travelling Canada. This is my 2nd book in the series of travelling overseas.

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