Oct 28, 2015. We each have a story to tell. After keeping an online journal for ten years, in October 2009 I looked at my favorite themes and zeroed in on "grand exits." I generally enjoy seeing things through, diving deep, finishing what I start, whether it's a sewing project, a job, or a marriage. And yet my life seemed punctuated by those momentous announcements of "I'm outta here!"
At the same time, I was researching family history. Being a career woman with no children, I had never seen much common ground with grandmothers and great-grandmothers, who occupied themselves raising large famillies. But the more I looked into their lives, I discovered a crew of very strong-willed women who each had their own "I'm outta here" moments.
Our stories began to intertwine.
Then a funny thing happened. Facebook and other social media put me back in touch with many of the people and situations I had made those grand exits from. Who they were in the 1960s and 1970s (or how I remembered them) had little to do with who they were now, with their own achievements and life stories to tell. They would surely take issue with my flawed reporting. I froze.
My breakthrough came in the form of a decision to tell my tales in the third person, to let "Mary" take over. I would call it a novel. It would be a roman à clef, "a novel about real life, overlaid with a façade of fiction" [Wikipedia]. Then the project became fun again. I started adding cartoonish line drawings to each chapter to give it the added dash of whimsy. I worked on keeping it short and snappy, so that it wouldn't get weighed down by self-importance.
The gift I received along the way was the creative attention of a friend. Pat read every draft, reacted to every drawing, and joined long conversations about what the project was really saying about me, about "Mary," and about our relationship to the women who influenced us (whether we realized it or not).
I planned on the project taking a year. It took two.
In compiling my own hard-earned wisdom along with the wisdom of my foremothers, I understood that the book would be less about money-making than about gift-giving. And I was proud to give out my petite masterpiece to the many women in my extended family and to all my friends.
Memoir is a popular form of writing. Some do it for therapy, exorcising the demons of their youth. Some do it as a spiritual exercise, reviewing their blessings and taking ownership of their transgressions. Some do it to pass along history to their children and grandchildren. Some people just have a whopping good story to tell. But a lot of people get stuck and never finish. So my advice to them is to pause, back up, and take another approach. Give yourself time. And find a writing partner or group to cheer you on.
THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.
TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.
PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.
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