"...everything in life is writable...if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."..... Sylvia Plath

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Repost: Fledging: The birth of a memoir

March 10, 2010: "I have started formulating in my mind an approach to writing a memoir, but haven’t come up with anything concrete yet. I’ve been running a bed and breakfast for 16 years and want the memoir to be about my life there. I do not want it to be focused on  my family, but rather on the interactions between me and my guests, employees, and colleagues. At this point, I don't know the  best way to go..."

I wrote the above almost a year ago, when I made the decision to put all my stories and blogs posts about my years as an Innkeeper into memoir form. I had never written a memoir before and had no idea where how to start. But, like most of my new experiences in life, I just jumped right in. I started gathering information and talking to every writer I knew about memoir and what they thought it was. There was a lot of controversy and many were not able to give me a definitive answer. So I went to the dictionaries, online and off. I started formulating definitions and writing about them on my blogs, my writers sites, and all my social networking sites. I got a lot of feedback.

On one of my writer's sites, I posted regularly about what it was like being an Innkeeper, the challenges, the interaction with guests,and  the running of a small business. I began getting lots of comments and interest in what I was writing. Many of my virtual friends suggested that I collect my posts into some kind of book form. at first, I laughed off the idea. Up to that time my thoughts about writing books were that they were too time consuming and required too much from me in the way of commitment and dedication. Never did I think that I couldn't do it. I just never thought about it at all....until one day, out of the clear blue.

I went to a place on line called Fast Pencil. I registered and started posting my stories as chapters into the program. It was free unless you wanted to self publish. I came up with a bland, working title and starting spending more and more time there. I still wasn't thinking about publishing; I just wanted to see what all of my stories and events looked like as an organized unit. My writing strategy was to organize the stories and information about the Inn I had already posted into chapters, then write a preface and afterward,  I decided that, if I didn't have enough stories to produce 70,000-90,000 words, I'd dig down into my memories of the past 16 years and add some more. I just wrote whatever came to my mind planning to re-write later. I wrote five to six hours a day...everyday for months.

I changed the title three times, and may not stop there. The first one was: Tales From An Innkeeper's Crypt. I used this one to post my stories when I first started writing about my inn keeping experiences. After studying the memoir market a while, I discovered there were too many "Innkeeper Tales..." out there and I needed to come up with something more original. Eventually, I adopted A Memorable Time of My life as a working title. The third and present working title came from a line out of the book: Operatic Divas and Naked Irishmen, a little off beat and more interesting.

Where am I now in the process?...and it has been a process, from which I've learned a lot. I'm over halfway finished with the first writing (approx 60,000. words), I'm working on a query letter for agents, and a proposal. I've had several readers look at it, have posted my query and excepts from the manuscript on several writer's sites for feedback, and have self-edited and re-written parts of it many times. It is now stewing on line, waiting for me to get back to it with fresh eyes,  to rewrite again, finish the chapters, have an editor friend look at it then re-read it through for clarity, flow, voice, etc.etc.

The process is complicated, many layered, and at times intensive...but for me, it's more comfortable than writing fiction. I actually discovered I am truly a non-fiction writer through this process. Few writers cross over very well and I guess I'm one of the one's who prefers not to. Non-fiction is the category of writing I've been drawn to all my life. I prefer reading biography and memoir to fiction as well, and enjoy satire. I don't like Sci-Fi or Fantasy. I like reality shows and prefer real life stories to made up ones. Since "voice" is an important part of any piece of writing, I have infused my book with humor and good-natured sarcasm, which is characteristic of my particular voice and style.

To anyone who wants to write a memoir, make it honest, authentic, and reflect the real you. You can make it creative, by using techniques from fiction writing, but get to the truth and flush it out. And remember this, it's not as easy as it seems.


Description: OPERATIC DIVAS AND NAKED IRISHMEN is a humorous and poignant account of how an admittedly asocial retired school teacher with no business sense reinvents herself as an Innkeeper. The reader is taken on a  sixteen year journey as the author deftly wields her way around cantankerous contractors, harrowing housekeepers and no shortage of strange and interesting guests.  Through her collected stories, the author gives the reader a personal, in-depth, and honest look at what it's like to be an Innkeeper and not lose one's sense of humor.

Excerpt from Chapter eight: ...I opened the door to a barrage of people., having no idea who they might be. The only person scheduled to check in that night was a single, elderly lady.

"I am Madame Rosalina Capriani!, " the woman announced, "and these are my suitcases".

I scanned the four men accompanying her and, sure enough, each one was carrying a suitcase...

She extended a long, well rounded arm covered in silky, red, purple and green, part of a flowing cape encircled heavily in dancing Majenta fringe. I stood there in awe, as she flamboyantly glided through the doorway, motioning to her walking suitcases to follow her...

if you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a comment


  1. I admire how persistent you have been in working at your memoirs. I think the best advice that you give and follow is to be yourself (to be in your own voice). Though it's kind of risky to think that you and your experiences could be 'out there', the risk is well worth the benefits that ensue. By the way, I enjoyed the story that I read much earlier, which your little 'passage' at the end hints at. I wish you much success in your venture :)

  2. "Though it's kind of risky to think that you and your experiences could be 'out there"

    Why do you say that? If you write a book no matter what it's about it'll be "out there" if it published. So are you saying don't write. or are you saying only write fiction???

    I have nothing to be ashamed of. and if running a bed and breakfast for 16 years isn't being out there, I don't know what is. So how much more out there would publishing a book about those 16 years be?

  3. I have an exotic family but I am missing some facts. I tell their stories, but I think of these stories as 'spanglish' it's a blend of fact and fiction. I can't be sure what I heard from my mother, her sisters, and the older ones, was true because each time they told the story it was slightly different. This many be the closest I come to writing a memoir. I don't want to be caught out when Oprah is interviewing. :-)

  4. Thank you Nancy for stopping by to visit. I am glad you enjoyed Rebecca's Interview; I adore her also and her novel was fabulous.
    I was told to always remember as I was writing my memoir, that a memoir is a look in the window at a certain time of your life. A life changing event. Anything more then that becomes autobiography. Anyway; my book will be released soon and as it is the story of the murder of my younger brother; I was a bit nervous and did much research on what not to say as far as murderers are concerned. [broke my heart because I would have liked to say a lot more.] So while I was worried about murderers my very own relatives, 2 of them have decided after knowing for 5 years of the book, they do not like the idea now. I do not think there is anything they can do but still I'm crushed. I want to write fiction!

  5. I love the new title, and I for one can't wait to read your book! I love that you knew you could do it and dove right in. I don't write fiction AT ALL and have no stories in my head or anything like that. I think that is a gift all unto itself. I enjoyed reading how you decided to do this!

  6. Nancy: What a sincere post! I loved every bit of it..your fears, your journey, your changing titles..such a motivation for a newbie writer! Plz keep coming up with such amazing posts! Best of luck for your memoir!:)

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  8. Sorry, Michael Ann, I really don't understand your comments. What new title? I don't write fiction either, This is a memoir.

  9. @Komz: Thank you so much for the wonderful comment. Since I've decided to become a memoir writer it's really important to me that my writer's voice is authentic and sincere. I'm really happy you found it so.

  10. @Michael Ann Sorry about my confusion over your comment. I totally get it now :=)