A to Z Theme 2016

For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.

In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Sense of Remembering

senses (Photo credit: joaoloureiro)

       If you're gathering with family during the holidays or even if you're just out and about where the celebration of the season is evident, your senses may be in heightened arousal mode as you are assaulted with the sounds, smells, sights, and other stimulants that cry out "Christmas!".

       This is a time when our senses might be tapping into our past.  Wherever you may be during this holiday time it's good to stay on special sensory alert.   Make connections with your memory as the senses are bombarded.  Hopefully the memories are happy ones, though undoubtedly some may be wistful or even sad.  Take them in.   They're all part of the story of life.

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas: A Time for Memoir Research

Family Christmas Eve 1958
Family Christmas Eve 1958 (Photo credit: catchesthelight)

       The Christmas holiday season is here which means it's a good time to do research for that memoir you've been thinking about writing.  I'm not talking about libraries or hunkering over the computer--though if you have vacation time that needs filling, this type of research can also be a good thing.   The kind of research that suits this season best is time with family and friends, talking, sharing, and remembering.    This is some of the best memoir research we can do--and usually the most fun.

      Like many of us, you'll probably be spending time with loved ones who have played a role in your life.  Especially if you're with parents, siblings, and other family members, you can share memories and ask them to fill in the blanks.  Listen for new stories and information.

      Here are some tips:

  • Conduct interviews--Try to capture it on video if you can.  For those who aren't hams or comfortable with being on camera get them used to talking on camera before delving into the serious topics.
  • Take pictures -- Not just of people and events, but of things around the house that evoke memories.
  • Break out the photo albums-- This doesn't have to be boring.  It's fun to peruse the old albums to talk about old times and people from the past.
  • Make a game out of remembering-- Start an outline or timeline and get everyone to fill in what they remember.
  • Take a drive--Visit places from your past or places with stories behind them.
  • Have a family video chat--Everyone gather around the computer and have a video visit with another relative who can't be with you.  
  • Get plenty of one on one time--The group gatherings are great fun, but richer detail with less inhibition can be garnered with individual conversations.
  • Let the kids get involved--Sometimes younger people don't care what older folks did in their day, but if they show interest tell them what they want to hear about and let them ask questions.  They may provide a different way of looking at things.
  • Write it down!--Have a journal or notebook handy for recording thoughts, quotes, and observations.  In quiet times alone write down what you've done, what people have said, and your reflections about your visits.
        Whether you're writing you memoir or just in case one day you might, if you do the things I've listed here, you'll have a good resource for remembering.  What you do in this time might be something you won't have an opportunity to do later.  Take some time to remember and record those memories for posterity.

          Will you be visiting with relatives and close family during the holidays?   Do you have any genealogy buffs or family historians among your relatives?    What are some ideas that you would suggest for doing memoir research during the holidays?

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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Partnering in Memoir Writing: The experience of artist Mimi Boothby

       Memoir often addresses times of pain and struggle. Writing about difficult times of life can bring back memories that cause us to relive the stress and pain, but it can also be a cathartic experience.   Readers of this type of memoir are given a window into a life that includes the good and the bad.  Memoirs of this sort should be instructional as well as uplifting.

        Mimi Boothby has written about the life that she shared with her late husband.  Before his passing he contributed his side of the story which offered a unique perspective to the relationship.  I'll let my guest, Mimi Boothby tell you about their experience:

"Arboretum" by Mim Boothby

I can remember when my sons were in high school, one of them told me that he was the only one of his friends who had a sit down dinner with his whole family almost every night of the week. It was about that time that we realized that had something special. It honestly surprised me, because we had been through so much already, we had had a really rocky marriage.

When I married my husband in 1978, if my parents had actually been present, they probably would have strongly advised against our tying the knot. As it turned out, 3 months after we started dating, we got married and neither of my parents were present for the ceremony. His parents came, and honestly, if I had known them prior to that day, I am not sure that I would have married him!

We were married for almost 35 years, and after a really chaotic first ten years, our relationship started to get better. We learned how to live together and work together. After the kids left home, we started focusing on each other, and by and by, we noticed that we had become a role model for other couples. We really did have something special. We used to talk about maybe we ought to write a book on relationships. My husband, who was in a twelve step program, and sponsored many men through recovery, gave them a lot of advice about relationships. Of course his advice was based on what we had done ourselves. At this point, he wrote "Advice from Donald on Relationships." I loved it and saved it carefully (it is in our book).

In 2011, my husband was diagnosed with a really nasty form of cancer. Suddenly, those dreams we had of growing old together vaporized like so many soap bubbles. And we lived each day together with even more realization of how precious each one was.

One day while my husband was in the hospital fighting for his life, we decided that we needed to write this book. I wrote the first chapter and showed it to him. He loved it and wrote the second, it was his response what I wrote. We did it in a "he says she says" format. Armed with his laptop, he composed and printed out rough drafts for my sons to proof read. Starting from our youth, and finishing with our mature relationship the book quickly fleshed out, we added photos and put it in a blog format just to keep it safe. As his fight for life got more intense, the book was put aside. After he died I forgot the book for a while, caught up in grief. But then one sunny day I remembered, and finished my part of it.

What we wrote is a testimony to our love, an autobiography and memoir of our marriage. I believe that someone reading it can learn from it and maybe improve their own relationships. I changed almost nothing that he wrote, because I wanted to preserve his style. I used Lulu as my publisher and even got an ISBN number. If I wanted to jump through a certain number of hoops, I could sell it on Amazon, but I have not done that yet. I know this book will never make the best seller list, but my children and close friends have this memento, a little piece of history. I know that if I ever have grandchildren, this will be required reading, because it will be a way to acquaint them with the wonderful grandfather they never met. All in all, it was a good experience and I recommend it.

The Other Side of LoveLinks to Mimi Boothby's work:

Our book - The other side of love

my blog Mimi Torchia Boothby Watercolors (Be sure to see Mimi's wonderful artwork)

Donald's Blog The Boothby Chronicles

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Lessons From An Ordinary Life

        I've been enjoying Susan Cooper's blog for quite some time now.  Since she usually deals with matters of life stories, I thought she'd be a good guest on Wrote By Rote.   In the post that follows, Susan talks about some of the challenges she has faced in her life and the lessons she has learned from them.  She also has a book that you might enjoy reading or buying as a Christmas gift for someone on your list.  I'm happy to present Susan P. Cooper. 

“Lessons From An Ordinary Life”: A Dyslexic’s Miracle

In many ways my new book “Lessons From An Ordinary Life" is a miracle to me.  Why do I think that?

I’ve been asked on more occasions than I can count, why in the world would I choose to write anything, much less produce a book, knowing I’m dyslexic?  That is an excellent question.

So what is this thing called Dyslexia (DRD)?  Please bear with me as I explain.

"It is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but does not affect general intelligence.  It shows up in reading, writing and speech. It is a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols.

Dyslexia or DRD occurs when there is a problem in areas of the brain that help interpret language. It is not caused by vision problems. The disorder is a specific information-processing problem that does not interfere with one's ability to think or to understand complex ideas. Most people with DRD have normal intelligence, and many have above-average intelligence and it runs in families.”

As a young child, I was active and imaginative with large coke bottle bottom glasses that struggled at school. I was unaware of my disability at the time. When struggling with an unknown problem as a young child, it results in developing coping mechanisms.

I was terribly shy around my peers and teachers, not willing to speak, often because my speech would get all twisted up and make me appear "stupid or silly".  Regardless, I was determined not to let my issues prevent me from achieving any desired success.

To cope with my dyslexia, I became an acute observer of all that was going on around me.  Though my observations, I was able to grow into an auditory storyteller.  It was a skill I honed and used for the sole purpose of helping someone see a circumstance in a different light or to teach a lesson.

The thought, or glimmer of an idea for my first book, started many years ago. I often would share a story as an allegory to help someone with a current challenge. Many of my friends and colleagues suggested that I put my stories/allegories in written form or maybe even publish them in a collection. My first thought was doing so was impossible given my disability.

As time passed, the suggestion to publish my stories with my illustrations grew more persistent.  I knew if I genuinely wanted my voice to be heard I needed to find a way to communicate what I had to share.  Be it through what I would write, the drawings I created or my photography. Despite the fact that, it was and is a challenge for me to write well, I knew if I put my mind to it and with the help of all the available tools I have amassed, it could be done.

So here, with the help of an editor, I now have my first solo-published book.  It is my miracle.  My new book is a compilation of some of the short stories/allegories I would share with others. The greatest surprise for me is other books are in the works.

I never dreamed of being a writer or publishing anything. What I did dream about was helping others by teaching everyday lessons in a unique way.

What I’ve learned from this is one never knows where something will take us. Never limit what we can achieve because of our own prejudices about what we can or cannot do.  For me, it was to share a story in the hope that it would help another in some small way.

So, in a way I never expected, I am achieving my dream through my book "Lessons Form An Ordinary Life" now available on Amazon. I would love it if you would take a look.

In closing, if you have a dream, then go for it.  You just never know where it will take you.

Susan is a former Marketing & Sales Executive, now the Publisher and Executive Director for Finding Our Way Now LLC.  
Susan is by nature a storyteller & teacher who makes her home in Northern California with her husband, her greatest cheerleader, and her cat Samuel who watches over everything she does.
Susan’s work now allows her the opportunity to share the many stories she used to teach and the lessons she's learned in life and in the workplace. It has rekindled her passion for drawing, which she now uses to illustrate her stories and podcasts.

What makes this all the more interesting is she dyslexic. So the act of writing for Susan is a serious challenge. It often takes her four times longer to create a story then it does for others without this disability. She will tell you she has never been one to shy away from a challenge and works hard to overcome her dyslectic eye to deliver a quality & entertaining product. As a testament to her efforts, she is now a published author with more books on the way.

For more, check out her new book, “Lessons From An Ordinary Life" and her blog, Finding Our Way Now

The Book:

Finding our way through life involves an equal share of joy and woe. The stories we often tell each other throughout the journey help us make sense of it all. The childhood memories collected here act as self-discovery guideposts for author and reader alike. The deceptively simple lessons shed light on the power stories have to shape and connect us. This collection and the accompanying artwork are a must for those who seek comfort in wondering about life’s seemingly random treasure box of experiences.

Find the book on Amazon

What obstacles have you had to overcome in your life?   Have written a memoir about this or have you considered doing so?    Do you have any questions for Susan about dyslexia or her book?  

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

An Open Invitation

English: Mary Pickford writing at a desk
English: Mary Pickford writing at a desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
           Since I'm away from the computer this week I'm going to keep this post brief.      

         Once again I'm calling on readers to sign up for guest posts.  If you have something memoir related that you would like to share on this space, let me know in the comments or email me at jacksonlee51 @ aol (dot) com.   I'll work with you in setting up a date.

         If you have a published memoir that you'd like to promote, I'd be happy to give you the space here to do that.   Or if you would just like to tell us about something that has happened in your life, relate a story about someone else, or offer ideas about writing memoir, I'm offering you an opportunity to do so on this blog.

         Guest posting is a great way to draw attention to your blog or something else that you are doing.  Everyone is invited to make a suggestion.   I love having guests over at Wrote By Rote.

         I hope to hear from you!

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving on the Road

Thanksgiving Day Greetings
Thanksgiving Day Greetings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         In all the years before I became an adult I don't think I ever spent a Thanksgiving away from home.  Every year my mother would fix essentially the same delicious traditional dinner.  Over the years she may have added a new side dish, but I don't think there were any she stopped serving.  Thanksgiving was one of my favorite days of the year and other than a couple of exceptions, the table was almost always set for just my parents and us kids.  Since we were far from relatives most of my time growing up we didn't have any other family to join us.

        Then when I went on the road with a touring theatrical company in my mid-twenties, I started missing those meals that had meant so much in my early years.  During the 80's our tradition became eating at some buffet restaurant in Hendersonville, Tennessee since every year we were booked for a Thanksgiving evening show in nearby Gallatin.  

         I would take the cast members and treat them to dinner.  The food was decent and nicely priced.  And it was all-you-could-eat which was appreciated by a young troupe of low paid actors.  It wasn't my mother's Thanksgiving dinner, but at least it was a notch up from the typical road food we usually ate.

         Over the past several years I've fixed a meal very similar to the one my mother used to fix since now I live in Los Angeles and she's in East Tennessee.  In recent years their meals have been mostly potluck affairs since my mother doesn't do the big cooking events that she used to.  As our kids have moved away far across the country from us, our Thanksgiving dinners have become smaller.

        This year we won't be having a dinner at our house.  Instead we'll be traveling to visit one of our daughters who lives closest to us, though still over a thousand miles away.  Not sure what will happen for dinner, but I'm sure we'll think of something.

         It's been a while since I've had Thanksgiving away from home.   I'm looking forward to the road trip though.  There's something about a long driving trip that stimulates my mind.

         Do you have Thanksgiving at home or away?   Will you fix dinner or does someone else do it?   Have you ever had your Thanksgiving feast at a restaurant instead of someone's house?

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Hidden Treasures: A Pocket Full of Memories and More

English: A picture illustrating a flap pocket ...
English: A picture illustrating a flap pocket on a grey lounge suit jacket (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         Over the past couple of months we've looked at all sorts of storage places where items that jog memories can be found.  That's been the purpose of this series.  Where do we find the inspirations and documentation that can help us to reconstruct the parts of our lives that we want to put into memoir form?  Rummaging through those places where we store the artifacts of our lives can be like a treasure hunt sometimes.  And sometimes the treasures can be found in odd and unexpected places.

          More than once I've heard the story of someone who buys an old coat at the thrift store and discovers money or something valuable in a pocket.   I'm sure you've heard those kinds of stories as well.  I've never found a true cache of value in the pockets of clothes hanging in my closet, but sometimes I wonder.

          I can recall times when I've had considerable amounts of cash that I've hidden in places where I figured no one would find it.  Paranoia can set in sometimes and I've done irrational things especially when money was  somewhat abundant.  I can be absent minded at times.  Sometimes I wonder if maybe I've hidden a wad of cash somewhere and have forgotten where I put it.  I get these strange feelings sometimes.

         Occasionally I'll find some change or maybe a dollar bill in a pocket.  No great find there, but these finds fuel my suspicions.  I've never gone through all of the clothes in my closets to undertake a grand search for lost treasure, but I'm pretty good about checking pockets if I'm putting my clothes in the laundry basket or giving them away to Goodwill.  It's unlikely that anyone would find money stashed in anything I donate.

        Now and then I'll find old receipts or something on paper that will bring back a memory of someplace I'd been the last time I wore an article of clothing--typically a coat or jacket.   If one has a lot of clothing this is not especially an unusual occurrence.   I have a lot more clothing than I ever wear or probably really need so finding things in coat pockets can happen.  Maybe I need to check a bunch of pockets and cart a load off to Goodwill?

         It's possible that one day I'll find something more interesting than an old receipt in a pocket.  In these days when money has been tighter I wouldn't mind finding a roll of bills absent-mindedly stashed in a pocket, a shoe, or some other long unworn wearable.  It could happen.  I just hope I'm the one who finds the treasure.

          Have you ever hidden money or other valuables in pockets of clothes hanging in your closet?   Have you ever found valuables in a pocket?   Have you used shoes as hiding places?   

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