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, May 18, 2013

Thelma Zirkelbach on Writing Memoir

        In this installment of Wrote By Rote I'm pleased to welcome visiting memoir author Thelma Zirkelbach. You may have met Thelma during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge in which she participated with her blog Windowsphere: A Circle of Hope.  She's here today to talk about her memoir that was released earlier this year.

      Stumbling Through the Dark is my memoir of my husband’s and my final year together.  In October 2004 he complained of a sore throat.  A month later he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia and our world was never the same.

     This disease was not supposed to happen.  I was a romance writer then, and I expected to live happily ever after.  Women usually outlive their spouses, but I had good reason to believe I would be the first to go.  I was five years older than Ralph so I was certain he, who was much better at coping, would outlive me.  But that was not to be.

      Because I’m a writer, soon after his diagnosis, I decided to write a how-to book:  How to help your partner survive cancer.  It would be upbeat and optimistic and I would call it Leukemia Wife.  As he got sicker and medical mishaps began occurring, I ditched that idea and planned an angry expose of the medical system.  But writing about anger isn’t productive, and by the time he died, I knew I wanted to write a memoir about our final year and my early widowhood.

      How do you write a memoir when your heart is breaking?  The answer is, you write a memoir because your heart is breaking.  Trouble was, I had no idea how to write one.  So I went online and by great good luck found Gotham Writers Workshop.  I enrolled in an on-line class in memoir writing, then another and another.  Stumbling Through the Dark is the result.

Here are some things I learned about writing memoir:
1.      The cardinal rule for fiction applies:  Show, don’t tell.
2.      Write in scenes with dialogue and description.  Again, just like fiction.
3.      In your story, reflect on what’s happening and on your feelings.
4.      Add back story.  How did you get to this place in your life?  Don’t tell the back story all at once; let readers learn about you and the others in your story gradually.
5.      Be honest.  Don’t be afraid to let readers see your fear or guilt or pain but don’t forget to add lighter moments as well.

      Writing this book has been both heartbreaking and joyful.  I hope you’ll look it up on Amazon at Stumbling Through the Dark: A Husband and Wife's Final Year of Life Together or at Barnes and Noble.  It’s available in both paperback and e-format.  And if you read it, please leave a review.  I love knowing what readers think.  

         Have you had a painful life experience that you've written a memoir about?  Have you considered writing a memoir of this nature?    Have you read Thelma's book yet?

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  1. This was sad to read as it brought back memories of my own husband's death so soon after my mother,
    Thelma has got the right attitude in putting her experience into writing as it wasn't until my own bereavements that my poetry writing began.
    I wish Thelma all the good luck and may God Bless her,


  2. Awe...my hubby just finished chemo. But there are no guarantees that the cancer won't return as I've been told.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  3. Coping with illness in those we love is very hard. Writing has always helped me get the pain out of me and onto the page.

  4. Hi Lee and Thelma - it must be so difficult to realise and adapt to the diagnosis ... then of course you have to deal with your own anger and challenges that arise with the health care along the way - all the while forgetting that the love for your husband is the overriding factor and supersedes everything else.

    I'm so pleased you embarked on the memoir writing course, and that you've published your memoir .. it will I am sure help many .. including you and your family ..

    With many thoughts - Hilary

  5. I have been following Thelma and am impressed by her rolling expressions. Mourning takes many turns, and Thelma is documenting them so beautifully.

  6. Great advice Thelma, the absolute musts of memoir writing. The hardest thing for me was to reflect on my experiences as I went along instead of just recounting them.

  7. Thanks to all of you for your comments and especially to Arlee for inviting me to post.

  8. Thelma -- Thank you for your helpful post. You are welcome here anytime. I wish you well with future book sales.


  9. What an uplifting and inspired post. Thank you ever so much for sharing the painful details of how you came to create a memoir. Most informative and beautifully rendered.

  10. Thank you for the lovely post Arlee.


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