"...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, November 25, 2012

My Next Big Thing

I had the pleasure of being selected to participate in a blog hop called My Next Big Thing. I was tagged by professor, blogger,  and creativity expert Michele Tracy Berger and asked to respond to the following ten questions concerning my most recent project.

1.  What is the working title of your book?
I’m working on my second memoir, Roxie, Alfred, and Me. I just started it and have only completed a few chapters, but have come up against some issues I didn't have to deal with in my first memoir. It's an interesting challenge.

2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?
If you've ever had wonderful grandparents, grandparents you were very close to and loved more than anyone in the world, then watched as they withered away with age and died, you will understand my story. I knew no more caring and generous people in my life. They loved me, they listened to me, and they understood me like no one else did. They were creative, intelligent, and lived life to the fullest. My grandfather, Alfred, was my pal and wanted me by his side to share his love of the sea. My grandmother, Roxie, watched out for me. She was sensitive to my feelings and respected me as a individual. The pain of losing them has never really dissipated. I write this in memory of the two of them and in hopes of finally facing and dealing with the loss of them.

They are both in my heart  and will always be. And, even though it has been years since they passed away, within six months of each other, my emotional feelings remain close to the surface. I don’t know if it’s possible but I’m hoping, by writing about them, I will be able to talk about them openly without tears flooding my eyes and falling down my cheeks.

3.  What genre does your book fall under?
I am a non-fiction writer who frequently writes journal articles and essays. But I have a penchant for memoir. This will be my second one in book form, and I’m sure there will be more after this one.

4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Max von Sydow, now 82 years old, would be the perfect actor to play my grandfather. In fact, my grandfather looked a lot like him, especially after his hair turned snow white. There’s a shyness and a creative intelligence about von Sydow that my grandfather also possessed. Despite being Swedish, I’m sure von Sydow could capture my grandfather’s voice and stature.  Both men were thin and tall, close to 6 ft. 4 inches. “I'm a family person” wrote von Sydow. ”… rather private and enjoy my work. I like nature and being outdoors. I'm a gardener at my summer home and like to travel.  I really don't know myself too well.” This quote by von Sydow could have been my grandfather talking. It sounds so much like him. (They are both from middle class families.)

Although a little shorter than my grandmother, there is a striking resemblance between Rosemary Harris, the actress and Roxie.  My grandmother had the same beautiful smile and bright, intelligent eyes. Again as with von Sydow, Harris is not an American but, being an actress, I’m sure she could portray Roxie in speech, stature, and mannerism with no problem.

5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript?
A story about family and significant relationships and events that leave an indelible mark on one young girl’s entire life.

6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have recently decided to self publish my first memoir and, since I think this one will be much better than the first, I will be looking for an agent in hopes of getting it published traditionally.

7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I am not finished with the first draft yet. I usually write pretty fast. I love the feeling of just letting the story flow out onto the pages without monitoring, then seeing what emerges. When it has some shape to it, I let a couple of alpha readers take a look at it before going on to the re-write process. After a few re-writes, I send it to my Beta readers for more feedback and then I’m on to the final crafting. My first memoir took six weeks for the first draft, then almost two years of re-writes and crafting. However, before I self publish it, I’m going to do even more re-writing. It never really stops until you put the kibosh on it and just let it go.

This memoir is going much more slowly than the first. What's different is the increased amount of research I'm having to do. Besides trying to remember what happened over fifty years ago, to whom it happened and where, I'm having to research information on World War II, Cherokee Herb Doctors, moon-shining in North Carolina, and much more. Another issue that’s slowing me down is the time line. There were no documents, diaries or journals to refer to when I started this memoir, only vague memories. Family members were long gone, except for my sister, who doesn’t remember very much. So getting the time line straight is really difficult.

8.  What other books would you compare this story to within the genre?
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls, and Tender At The Bone by Ruth Reichl.

9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My grandparents and my family are my inspiration. I have two daughters and two grandchildren whom I’d like to share my early life with. I would also like to share, with my sister, a different perspective of our parents and grandparents than she had when we were growing up. Finally, I hope readers can either connect with my stories or marvel at the wonderful relationships I was afforded in my crazy family.

10.  What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? I come from an extraordinary family of writers, artists, moonshiners, plumbers, carpenters, professional musicians, chefs and so on. I am in hopes the mixture of divergent personalities, talents, and interests will make for some pretty entertaining reading. My grandmother was extremely funny and at times had us rolling on the floor in laughter. Despite being crippled, my beautiful mother dated a gangster (a member of the Purple Gang in Detroit during the 20s) ‘til my grandmother found out and told him to get lost. My grandfather and his three brothers spent a lot of their early lives in North Carolina moon shining and outwitting the revenue officers. My father was a professional musician who met my mother in her beauty salon (after she broke up with the gangster) when he came in to get a manicure. There were so many real characters in my family, I don’t have to make anything up.

The following writers and authors will be discussing their latest projects on their blogs or websites. Visit their blogs and comment. Keep the circle moving.

Nov. 26: Julia Hanna http://mystories.sweetbeariesart.com/2012/11/26/my-next-big-thing-a-writing-blog-hop/ "I am working on a novel which I can best describe as contemporary fiction that re-envisions the traditional romance novel. It is about how a woman can be happy for the rest of her life even if she does not get married. Being an old maid is not some reprehensible thing."

Nov. 29: Thelma Zerkelbach http://www.widowsphere.blogspot.com/
Thelma will talk about her new memoir Stumbling Through The Dark, a story of an interfaith couple facing the greatest spiritual challenge and of a woman who lost her husband but eventually found herself

Nov 30:    Marcia Meier www.marciameier.com/
" I plan to talk about my completed memoir, Sweeping Down the Sky"

Dec. 3rd: Carol Clouse:  http://www.carolclouse.com/
"My project focuses on Native American philosophy in conjunction with sustainability in Architecture."

Dec. 4th: Susan Bearman:  http://2kop.blogspot.com/
"I wrote and self-published a picture book called the Animal Store Alphabet Book 
(http://alphabetanimal.com) based on my husband's pet shop. My illustrator and I 
launched a successful $10,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing and 
distribution of the book and companion products (coloring book, poster, canvas 
prints and book bag)."

Dec. 5th: Valerie Neiman http://valerienieman.blogspot.com/
Valerie will talk about her  new book, Backwater, a taut crime novel and coming-of-age story, as a teenage girl struggles for her identity – and her life – against the backdrop of her cousin’s murder.

Dec. 7th:  June OHara www.juneohara.com
"I'm finishing up a humorous memoir about being a psychotherapist and having my own breakdowns, neuroses and humorous life circumstances."

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


  1. I love letting the story flow as well. Fast drafting is great for that.

    1. I think part of that has to do with the writer's personality and part has to do with trust. I remember when I first starting writing seriously, I was afraid it wasn't going to be right or good and would labor over each paragraph or page. My writing improved when I let go of that. Thanks, Kelly, for commenting.

  2. I think it is impressive you are writing a memoir from memories so long ago, and I can see why it takes a lot of research to verify events from that time period. I think we take it for granted now that people today can use Google earth to find a particular street, or a particular news article talking about an event just four years ago. I posted my blog hop stating you had tagged me. I hope you got my message on Facebook.

    1. Julia, Thanks for the kudos. That's one thing about memoir, it does rely heavily on what you can come up with, out of your own internal resources especially if there are no diaries or journals to refer to....and no living people who can pique your memory. Love to have you join us on the Blog Hop.

    2. After reading some really out there fiction, I always like to return to history texts, or memoirs. I think your description of real moonshiners and gangsters from back in the day will have quite a bit of interest with people who are fascinated by those type of character. A lot of young people only know what they glean from overly dramatized fiction.

    3. Wow, I didn't think of it that way. I was actually afraid it might turn some people off. My sister is always saying to me: "Nancy don't write all that negative stuff about the family; it's embarrassing..." But with memoir you just have to lay it all out on the line and not be afraid. I'm finally learning that and it is making a huge difference in the way I write...a positive difference. Thanks, Julia

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  4. You have an intriguing cast of characters for your memoir-in-progress. Looking forward to reading more about it.

    1. I do hope readers will think so. Memoir is not like fiction, where you can make your characters what you want them to be. As a memoirist, I feel I must stay within the truth; however, I can bring out certain character qualities and quirks that will it more compelling. Thanks so much for commenting, Deborah

  5. Nancy, it sounds wonderful. I too find inspiration in my functionally insane family, only I prefer fiction (as you know). I would read your stories.

    1. Brenda thanks for the support I always get from you. It means a lot. And it means a lot to hear you say you'd read my stories. I think we have a mutual admiration club started here...cause I would definitely read yours. I love your posts; they're so well written.

  6. Sounds like an interesting story, Nancy. Love the moonshiners! Memoirists can only write the stories they know; your truth may be different from someone else's, hence the different memories among family members. It's what makes reading life stories so interesting.

    1. Well everyone seems to like the moonshiners, so I guess that'll definitely be in. I have always preferred reading real life stories to fiction, guess that's why I ended up writing memoir. Thanks, Marcia, for commenting.

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  8. Hey Nancy,
    Great post. I, too, had grandparents that I was very close to and miss very much. Your parents and grandparents sound so interesting--I think writing it from the heart is more important than chronology. Let me recommend a fabulous memoir by one of my writing teachers--Family Bible by Melissa Delbridge. It's exquisite.
    Can't wait to hear more about this project develops.

    1. Thank, Michelle, for the book recommendation. I will definitely check it out. And thanks for the comment.

  9. I heard a therapist say once that have lousy grandparents was not really that big of a deal (unless you live with them), but have wonderful grandparents is a true gift. I was lucky to have wonderful grandparents, too. Best of luck with your memoir. Reading your post reminded me, once again, that life is all about connecting the dots.

    1. Hi Susan. I love your comment. Guess we were both lucky to have the gift of wonderful grandparents. You are so right about the "dots." Thanks for the good luck wishes. I'm looking forward to your Blog Hop post.

  10. Hi Nancy, it's funny, because I was just talking about my Gran with the boiler engineer (that's another story); how she was wise but also so open to new ideas, much more likely to embrace new technology and the 'world we live in' than I am, fifty years her junior! I can imagine that a memoir with her at the helm would make a great story. Yours sounds really interesting and the character sound like they could grace any fiction! Best of luck with it and keep us posted. Thanks for the tag Nancy, I hope I'm not too late to post my response?

    1. Hi Jackie, it's been a long time since we've connected. Loved hearing about your grandma...another kindred spirit. I'm very excited about this book. I know it's going to take a long time, because of all the research and piecing together of things that happened so so long ago, but honestly, I love the process. That's why I write memoir. When I hit on something that jogs my memory, it's very exciting.

      Thanks again for stopping by, and no it's never too late. I love to hear from you.