A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Memories

          Halloween is a time that evokes so many memories for me.  Since I mostly tend to associate it with children's activities I think of events in my own childhood and the Halloweens when my kids were young.

          My primary trick-or-treating memories come between 1959 and 1963 when my family lived in San Diego.  This would have been the time from the third to the seventh grade for me.  We had moved into a large sprawling neighborhood of recently built houses--an ideal setting for epic trick-or-treat excursions.

           When it fell on a school day, Halloween was an all day affair.  We would go to school dressed in our costumes.  The morning would begin with a grand parade of young revelers marching before parents and fellow students in their costumes.

             Early on, the store bought costumes appealed to me the most until I saw the creative inventiveness of the home-made costumes.  Those costumes fueled my imagination and after that first year I chose to come up with more uniquely assembled costumes.

            Schoolwork was given more of a Halloween bent since the anticipation of the evening to come totally distracted the students from any serious efforts of regular study.  We eagerly watched the clock, waiting for the school day to end and the fun to begin.

            While we returned home for our dinners, parents and teachers busily transformed the school into a festive Halloween funland.   Returning to the school with my mother and father, my sister and I would join in the games and entertainment, and visit the classroom that had been made into a "haunted house".    All of this was merely a ritualistic activity that consumed the hours that were still daylight until the more serious activity of trick-or-treating would begin as darkness set in.

            After returning home, my sister and I would set out with a friend or two to conquer as much of the neighborhood as we possibly could in the next couple of hours.  My parents apparently felt comfortable with letting us out on our own.   Things seemed safer for kids back then and the adults of the neighborhood were good about watching out for each other's children.

            We set out at a rapid house to house pace in order to cover as much ground and gather as much confectionary loot as we could.   We carried big brown grocery bags or pillow cases to assure that we would be able to amass a goodly supply of candy.  Each kid scrutinized the others we passed to see who we knew behind the disguises.  Whenever we saw another we recognized we would acknowledge the fact with gleeful cries.  Or sometimes we might cautiously peer at someone we thought we maybe knew and perhaps venture a  "Who are you?'

           There was little time for socializing.  We were all on a mission and candy was our main objective.  Sometimes we suffered through obligatory pleasantries with the adults who wanted to admire our costumes and tell us how cute we looked, but that was part of the job.  Collecting candy was our obsession and desperation grew as the evening waned.

            Then as more houses darkened and the streets became emptier, our weary band trudged home with bags bulging from our treasures.  When my sister and I got to our house we went inside to examine our take for the evening.   We sorted and traded candies.  We weeded out the apples, popcorn balls, or homemade goods that didn't look quite as enticing to us as the wrapped candies.  Occasionally, there would be anomalies like coins.  I had no problem with getting money except the coins were usually pennies.

           Sorting and trading would usually go on into the next day after school.  All the while we were eating the candy, but we could only eat so fast and with so much candy we had a long way of eating to go.  In fact, despite eating some of the candy every day, the goodies would usually last until Thanksgiving.  That's when the last pieces were consumed and Halloween was officially over.

            Of all the events in a year, when I was a kid Halloween ranked high as a favorite.  Back then it came suddenly.  There were no pop-up Halloween stores months in advance and you didn't really notice Halloween merchandise in regular stores until shortly before the day.  For that matter, you didn't see Christmas merchandise until after Halloween and really there was not much thought about Christmas until after Thanksgiving.

            In 1992 I went back to that old neighborhood in San Diego after having been gone for thirty years.  It was similar, just older.  The houses were much smaller than I had remembered them but the neighborhood still sprawled.  The school hadn't changed much more than showing age.  I've been to San Diego many times since that first return visit and each time I've been drawn to that old neighborhood.  When I'm there I think many childhood memories, but Halloween stands out among them.

           Do you have fond memories of Halloween?   In your opinion, has the celebration of Halloween changed for the better?


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Saturday, October 22, 2011

This Blogger's Intent

        What makes me qualified to establish a blog focused on the subject of memoir writing?  I have not written my own memoir so it would seem to some that I don't have the experience of writing memoir.  Those of you who have been reading my main blog for some time are aware that I often write stories about events in my life.  I have shown an interest in writing about events in my past and telling stories about me and my family.  That's a start in being a memoirist.   I do have that qualification.

         Am I a memoirist?   Well, I write and I have a life.   And I write about that life.  That's where memoir starts, but is there more?   It might be as simple as that.   Anyone who keeps a diary, a journal, or in some way chronicles any aspects of their time living is writing a memoir of a sort.  A memoir could be as basic as a daily detailed record of meals eaten or as complex as the deepest philosophical musings one might have of their daily meals.  The memoir can be merely a dry compendium of facts, figures, dates, and names recorded for the sake of historical record.  It can also be very interesting and entertaining reading.

         My primary intent with this blog is to explore this latter type of memoir.   What makes a memoir compelling reading and suitable for publication?   In entries to come on Wrote By Rote, I plan to examine the nature of content, style, and presentation of memoir writing.   We will look at topics such as writing about our own lives and the lives of others, peoples'  lives as seen in historical context, and fictionalized memoir.

          When I was searching for a name for this blog it seemed like everything was taken already.  I wanted the title to have some form of the word "write" and something related to the word "life" since memoir deals with writing about someone's life.  As I considered variations on "write", I came to "wrote" and realized that this was the ideal tense to use since it was past tense and memoir deals with that which has passed.

          Almost immediately it hit me that the word "rote" was also highly appropriate.  Aside from the fact that I am a fan of alliteration and rhyme and I prefer short catchy titles, Wrote By Rote describes what a memoir is.  Rote is habitual routine, something repetitive, and it is a process by which things are often learned.  Such is memoir--the memories that we have usually worked over and over until they have become etched into our minds.   We often remember our past by rote thinking, mulling our memories over and telling the stories to others until that day when they are set down on paper.  The memoir is wrote by rote. Grammatically awkward perhaps, but we'll call it poetic license.

         In any case, this should give you a general overview of my intent and philosophy regarding Wrote By Rote.  It's my desire that this will become a sharing blog where the published memoirists can tell us what they do in the memoir writing process and others can add their own thoughts about what memoir can be.

          Would you like to do a guest post?  Let me know and I'll set up a spot for you.  I've got plenty to say on this topic, but some of you can probably say it better.   If you've written a memoir this will be a place where you can tell us about it and do a bit of promoting.  Or maybe you just want to tell a story--we want to hear those too.   This blogger's intent is to make Wrote By Rote educational, informational, and fun.

          What is your concept about what memoir is?    Have any of your relatives or ancestors left memoirs behind?    Have you written a memoir or plan to one day?



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Saturday, October 15, 2011

An Introduction

            This blog concerns the topic of memoir writing.   Wrote By Rote is another in a series of niche blogs that I have set up to accompany my main blog Tossing It Out.  This blog is not intended to take the place of that blog.  Memoir writing is a topic that interests me as well as being of interest to many of you.  I hope that this blog will add something to that discussion.

             I welcome and encourage anyone who wants to be a guest on this blog to contact me and let me know what you would like to write about and I will schedule a spot for you.  For now this blog will post only on Saturdays.  I will be discussing my views on how to write good memoir as well as telling some of my own stories.

           My next post will go into more detail about the intent of this blog and some of my own background.   For now I just want to open this blog up and get it on line to let people know it's here.  I welcome any suggestions you may have.  Thanks for reading, commenting, and becoming a follower.


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