Pondering Memoir Writing:

Antique rug taken on my i-phone

Antique rug taken on my i-phone

This morning in the shower, my mind reflected on Memoir writing. How can one be true to oneself and yet protect other people? There is a fine line between sharing one’s life and treading on others’ toes.

 In ‘Enduring Threads’ there are many things I excluded because of my own children’s feelings. For instance they wouldn’t want to know about all of my nocturnal and sometimes daytime liaisons/entanglements. In fact, many have seeped into the never never regions of my brain, never to resurface, which is probably a mercy. Phew!

 ‘Enduring Threads’ is about to be pawed over by an editor. I have feelings of relief and anxiety. I wonder how much more is necessary to get the m/s into a readable, interesting story. It is so hard to know what a stranger will make of it. When I read it, I see all of the characters in full colour. Have I made them alive to other people and are they of interest to others?

 Irene Walters shared a wonderful post about names. Should one use real or made up names to protect people? The general consensus seemed to be that most writers prefer to include real names in a memoir; firstly it makes it easier to write, and secondly it is acknowledging other people who have had influence or have been important to you. I liked Irene’s inclusion of part of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with their dilemma regarding names. If you’d like to read Irene’s post with the many following comments, it can be found on:

‘Call me anything but don’t call me late for dinner: I think not? Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

 Names are important. How many of you don’t like a name because of someone you didn’t like in early childhood, or a nasty adult? Naming children has become a creative exercise in itself. Having been a school- teacher, I found names do make a difference. If a child has to explain a name every time they meet someone new, it is a disadvantage; or names can nurture self- esteem. In story writing, it is a freedom we’re faced with. Making up names can be fun.

 I have used real names in this m/s, as I wish to acknowledge and respect the importance of individuals in my life. The symbolic threads they represent weave, or are stitched into the colourful tapestry of my life, creating ‘Enduring Threads.’

Antique rug taken on my i-phone

Antique rug taken on my i-phone

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Pondering Memoir Writing:

  1. auntyuta

    Thank you for this post, Barbara. I found your pondering on memoir writing most interesting. All your memories are going to make a most interesting book, I am sure, even if you choose to leave out a few things. My early childhood memories go back to the 1930s. All people who were adults when I was a child do not live any more. This means I feel I can write about them as I remember them. Still, writing a memoir does put some restrictions on you, doesn’t it? Sometimes I feel if I had it in me, to write a novel, it might be easier to write about certain subjects and create some controversial characters perhaps.
    What you say about enduring threads is very beautiful, Barbara. And I like your antique rug very much.
    Why am I always running out of time?
    Gerard and Helvi being back from Bali, expecting us to see them soon. I hope, it is going to be soon. But today we have to go to Sydney. Thursdays and Fridays are always taken up with prior engagements, and this coming weekend we are expecting some family visits.

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      Dear Uta, It does make it easier to write about people who have passed on, as they can no longer contradict what you have to say!
      Time seems to go faster for me too, as I’m getting older. It’s wonderful that you can still enjoy having the family. We have the grand children coming to stay next week, so I do understand how time can just disappear! I’m glad that you see Gerard and Helvi from time to time. I do enjoy Gerard’s posts. I love it when people can share their experiences and it is interesting how everyone puts a different slant on things.
      Have fun in Sydney! We may get up there if Chris’s painting is hung. 🙂

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      1. auntyuta

        Hi Barbara, we recently spent a lovely day with Gerard and Helvi. They picked us up last week on Wednesday. Peter and I visited the close by Nan Tien Temple with them. I was a great day for all of us. It was only the second time that we had met them. But it feels to us as though they are old friends. Here is a link to my blog about that day at the Nan Tien Temple:

        http://auntyuta.com/2015/08/19/our-day-at-nan-tien-temple-wednesday-19th-august-2015/#comments

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      2. bkpyett Post author

        So good to hear that you’ve met up with Gerard and Helvi and that you feel like old friends and so comfortable together. That is really special. Love Peter’s photos of your day at the Nan Tien Temple. ❤

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  2. Patricia Hobman

    Hi Barbara,
    What a wonderful read! I love your writing and can so envision your activities. I was also born at Meercroft but my family moved to Paloona when I was 5. My older brother fell in the Forth River near the Paloona bridge and started being washed downstream. One of our cousins saved him but he did lose one of his brand new gumboots!
    I have created a Facebook group called Devonport and Surrounds – A Pictorial History. I encourage the group members to share both photos and memories. It is a “closed” group so people can only see what is written there if they are members that I have approved. At the moment there are over 1000 members.
    I wonder if you would give me permission to put up a link to this page? There may even be people on the group who know you or your family.
    Thank you for an enjoyable read,
    Patricia

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      Dear Patricia, What a thrill to find someone who was also born at Meercroft and lived at Paloona. I am so pleased your brother was not drowned and only lost a gumboot! I visited Paloona last month and went down memory lane with my 90 year old aunt! Of course, I’d be delighted for you to share a link with your Facebook friends. Thank you for your positive feedback. ❤

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  3. hilarycustancegreen

    My mum-in-law was a teacher and when I was pregnant with our second child, whenever we discussed names she would say, ‘Oh no, I used to know a… and she was so rude/careless/dull…’ In the end we chose a name off a gravestone at a wedding!

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      Love this! What are the names of your children, Hilary? When we were naming our children, we chose Francesca, as she was born in Italy, Rebecca was born in England and Simon was born in Australia. He was only going to get that name if he looked 100 percent, so he didn’t get ‘Simple Simon’. We didn’t use names already in the family.

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      As the saying goes, ‘you can’t put an old head on young shoulders’! I hope they’ll appreciate it when the time is right. Thanks Helen. 🙂

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  4. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I love the name Enduring Threads, Barbara. Those things that bind it all together. And your antique rug really captures the enduring thread theme. It is a terrifying time when you release your manuscript to the world. I can remember when I first sent my manuscript off to some publishers and gave it to a few people to read. It was such a hollow feeling and I grieved my manuscripts loss. It was no longer solely mine. I’m glad the conversation goes on and thanks for mentioning my post. I loved the discussion. Somehow talking about these things makes your own position become more clear. Leaving out liasons which possibly don’t add to the story for your children can be looked at in this instance as the threads which frayed and as such do not belong in a story of Enduring Threads.

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      What a wise response Irene. I like your idea of the frayed threads not being a necessary part of the story. Thank you! 🙂
      Thank you for sharing how you felt about your own M/s. It’s like giving birth, I think. Seeing it leave home to stand on its own feet is scary.
      Naming is an important part too. I’m glad you like E.T., I think it fits.

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  5. Silver in the Barn

    The memoirs I have from my grandmother are practically devoid of human emotion. She was a wonderful woman but of a generation that didn’t overshare. So we get the facts, nothing but the facts, and the warm and loving woman she was lives on only in memory.

    And I love your observations about names! So true! I wrote a post about this very subject several months ago and I firmly believe that names can evoke negative or positive emotions. I am predisposed to liking all Dorothys!

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      I wonder if you have known and liked people of this name? By the way, Barbara meaning stranger/ foreigner always put me off. Then a friend showed me another meaning: ‘bringer of joy’, so much more satisfactory!
      You are lucky to have your grandmother’s memoir, even if it hasn’t her full emotional side, at least you have the bones to dress with your own memory of her. ❤

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  6. Aussie Emjay

    Before my father died he recorded quite a bit of his history and my sister typed it up. At his funeral 3 of his grandsons used some of it for “readings”. I am so glad that he made the effort to do that; it did not have a lot of personal stuff in it though – those details have come from my mother. Each generation has had such a different upbringing – from my father living under occupation in WW2, to my life in middle of no-where farm in Australia to my children growing up in Sydney surrounded by life & culture (and hating the countryside! LOL). I don’t think we fully appreciate stories of our forebears though until we’re a little older and we start thinking about mortality.

    There used to be an elderly man living across the street from me and I loved coming home from work and finding him sitting out on his porch ready to shoot the breeze with whoever stopped by. He told wonderful stories about growing up in Georgia (the American state) during the Depression and his journey to Washington. I wonder if his children realized how wonderful his story telling was and how much joy he got from sharing his tales.

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      Thanks Emjay for your glimpse into your family background. Such a lot to draw from!!
      I agree, the young are often not ready to hear about the past, and a written account will most likely be appreciated when they are approaching old age. I know I had many questions, after my mother died. It was good that his grandsons were able to read some of your father’s history that he’d written, at his funeral.
      The elderly man across the street sounds like a treasure chest for ideas for short stories, if you had the time to take notes! 🙂

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  7. Aussie Emjay

    It’s only as I’ve aged that I’ve even considered writing some sort of memoir; something that documents my childhood and journey through every stage to date. Something my children might read to see how/why I became the person I am. But, then I think of the things that I might not want to include and that sort of takes away the point of the exercise. A revisionist, selective memoir is not really a memoir…. I guess i’m not ready to write it yet! 🙂

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    1. bkpyett Post author

      A memoir can have many slants. I’ve found it a worthwhile exercise, even though there are omissions.I have written it for my children, with some disclosures they might understand later in life! I didn’t want to appear ‘perfect’, (as one is tempted to place one’s parents in that category). I hope you do write your story Aussie Emjay, it’s a therapeutic exercise! So much can be lost. At least this will prompt my children to ask relevant questions, before I depart this world.

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