Tag Archives: memoir writing

And the Winner is…

Helen Luxton has won a copy of Something Missing and Pickle to Pie. Her name was drawn after my workshop last week on Life/Memoir Writing at the Hastings Library.

Over twenty writers attended, all with fascinating projects. On a table, near the books for sale, was a list. It stated that if you subscribe to my website http://www.glenicewhitting.com you had a chance of winning a copy of my latest novel, Something Missing. I felt that a copy of Pickle to Pie would also be helpful to Helen.

Life Writing

Life writing is considered an all-encompassing term. This genre involves the recording of personal memories and experiences. Life writing includes not just biography and autobiography but also Memoir

Autobiography is ‘I’ writing (writing the self)_It is ‘mystory

Memoir (from the Latin, meaning memory) is a subclass of autobiography. It is an autobiographical account of someone’s life. However, the focus is on the events a person remembers rather than the self. (The writer remembers passages of dialogue from the past)_it is ‘ourstory’

Biography is writing her/his story_it is ‘theirstory‘.

Below is an outline about what we managed to cover in a brief time. 

Life Writing/Memoir Workshop 31/7/2018

Hastings library

Every family has fascinating stories and even secrets. The stories of ordinary family life must be told. Finding the best way to tell these stories can be a fascinating journey and the chance to create a valuable resource for your descendants. However we all want to write an account that is memorable, engaging and not boring.

What about the family’s murky secrets? Don’t shy away from these stories. They can be healing to you  and helpful to the reader as they provide the opportunity of insights: such as a marriage taking its last breaths, the death of a child etc

How can we do justice to intriguing ancestors?

Should my story turn into fiction? How much dramatising is acceptable?

Who is my reader? What kind of publication is appropriate?

 Self publishing where I pay for everything myself?

Self publishing: using Busybird or Lou Lou.  (you still pay)

 Small press publisher. They pay, but what about Marketing?

 Traditional Big Publisher: such a Pan McMillan etc. Pitch it to them on Fridays and Mondays.

Do I need a professional editor? —Yes, Yes, Yes:

I had an American editor to check for any mistakes for the American section of Something Missing. She said a campervan was called a pullalong camper. An English editor provided by MadeGlobal Publishing asked What is a Doona? I changed it to continental quilt.

Structure: Make a W.A.I.N  (Where Am I Now?  —

Write the first draft without any thought. Knock that writing citic off your shoulder: lose control. Forget about grammar, spelling and being nice and polite.

Take Risks 

 Free writing:  Don’t stop writing for at least 15 mins. Write anything that comes into your head. Get messy, and leave it for the adult writer to clean up later when revising your book.

Join a Writer’s Group & the Victorian Writers in the Wheelers Centre in Melbourne

Read everything you can lay your hands on. Hazel Edward’s has written a very good book titled ‘Non Boring’ Family History’. This is a practical guide for those wanting to shape their family research into a readable family history.

Happy Writing and have FUN

Quotes to live by

To be your own person takes courage and determination
To be who you want to be takes dreams
To live life to the fullest takes love.

I don’t know who said this, but I often refer to this quote when feeling down or when life has taken an unexpected turn. It has the power to lift my soul: to inspire me to keep going, to take one step at a time until the emergency has passed and life is calmer. It reminds me of all the good things to aim for and to live life with love.

It also reminds me how powerful and inspiring words can be.

purole flowers      spells

Happy writing

on the wheel

Christmas: remembering fascinating family characters

Christmas is a time to remember the past and to dream for the future.


Tinsel is hung, solar lights flicker and laser lights dance on the water. Christmas has come to the Tidal Canals and we are celebrating another year of sun, sand, great neighbours and good cheer.

Beach bauble-

Today we drove past our old house in Edithvale and delighted in the changes that have taken place over the years. Opposite was Ma and Pop Whitting’s home and I couldn’t help smiling at my memories of Pop.

My dad was an engineer and pedantic about everything being correctly measured and assembled with care and attention to the finest detail. Pop Whitting used to drive him mad. Pop was a cockney lad  from England and near enough was good enough. I remember the day he decided that the refrigerator in the kitchen was taking up too much room so he grabbed a saw, and cut up the left side of the wall beside the refrigerator, across the top and down the other side. He then shoved the refrigerator back level with the kitchen wall. Brooms, pans and a mop went flying out of the broom cupboard in the laundry behind the refrigerator.

‘Where will I put my brooms?’ Ma cried.     ‘You’ll find somewhere,’ Pop replied. ‘At least you now have more room in the kitchen.’ I’ll never know how he managed to miss cutting the electrical wires inside the broom cupboard . Sheer good luck, I guess. To cover the jagged edges of the sawn kitchen plaster he simply tacked a wooden strapping edge around the fridge  and painted it the same colour as the walls. I’d love to go into the house one day just to see if the refrigerator is still recessed into the laundry cupboard.

Pop was an original, a one off character who lived off his wits. When he was eighty he decided one afternoon to climb a ladder and paint the guttering. No preparation, just slap on as much paint as possible to cover any dirt. He happily painted a section of the gutter before deciding it was time for a cup of tea. Balancing the nearly full open paint tin on top of the ladder he proceeded to climb down. On reaching the bottom rung he looked up in time to see the tin of paint spill all over him. Thank goodness he was wearing glasses because it covered him from his bald head to the tops of his shoes. Instead of standing still, he yelled ‘Ma’ and proceeded to slosh down the side way, around the back of the house and into the kitchen leaving a trail of white paint behind him. It was left to Ma to clean up and the rest of the guttering was never painted.

My dad, on hearing the news shook his head and said, ‘You mean he didn’t even sandpaper the guttering before he started?’

Family characters. How they fill our memories and our hearts with love. 

Australian Christmas

Part Two: To mesh or not to mesh

Many women suffer in silence when they have a vaginal prolapse . However, if they decide to do something about it there are many decisions that need to be made.
Gynaecology - Bayside Womens Health

It felt right for me to have my prolapse fixed now instead of putting my head in the sand hoping it would all go away. I did not want to wait until I had female urinary incontinence due to my prolapse, both common, though seldom discussed consequences of childbirth and ageing.

But who to see? My gynecologist retired years ago. I remember going to see Janet Duke when I was fifty-one and had debilitating period problems. I explained the drugs I was taking to alleviate the condition. She lent back in her chair, fixed me with a steely gaze and asked, ‘Is your husband still alive?’ ‘Yes’, I replied. ‘That’s a wonder’ she said smiling. ‘I thought you might have killed him by now.’ She went on to explain that the extreme levels of testosterone in my medication usually resulted in aggression. Alan was lucky. Instead of attacking anyone I hauled huge honeycomb rocks and placed them around the edge of a new garden. I look at them now and shake my head in wonder.  I was a much calmer person after the hysterectomy.

The main cause of vaginal prolapse is the weak muscles, tissues, and ligaments that support the vagina, surrounding tissues and organs. The factors that can cause vaginal prolapse include frequent lifting of heavy objects, chronic cough, severe constipation, menopause, childbirth and advanced age.

Surgery is done to restore the vagina and the pelvic organs back to their respective positions and provide symptomatic relief. It helps to prevent further damage of pelvic floor muscles. Vaginal prolapse surgery may be done through laparoscopy or other forms of surgery.

There has been no need for a gynecologist since 1994. I spoke to my GP who had been to a lecture on prolapse at the Royal Women’s Hospital only the night before my visit. Armed with a referral to a well recognized surgeon I went home and intensively researched anything I could find on a bladder prolapse. There is a lot of information on the web but you have to be careful it is not just an advertisement. I decided to go to the source and looked up articles in medical journals.

The surgeon I was going to see practiced the latest techniques. He did keyhole surgery called Sacral colpopexy.  In this procedure, one end of a strap of mesh is attached to the top of the vagina and the other end is attached to the upper part of sacrum situated at the base of the spine. When I saw him he discussed the procedure at length and took time to explain in detail what he recommended. It was a positive experience and I came out feeling that this may well have been the answer to many women’s problems.

However, I’m allergy prone, even to not using Elastoplast and also have an arthritic spine. I had seen reports in some of the journals that mentioned possible problems with the mesh. At a social gathering I met a friend who had this procedure done, had developed complications and was part of a class action against the mesh manufacturers. This led to more research. The details of the class action papers were very disturbing .  Everyone is an individual and I seriously began to question if this procedure was right for me. Then the out of pocket expenses information arrived. The doctor’s fee was $2, 500 above medicare and my private health fund. I knew he was worth it but that’s a lot to find. One comment was, ‘You could go on a cruise around the islands for that’.

I threw myself onto the mercy of a nursing friend and begged for her assistance. I wanted the name of a caring gynecologist who gave you a choice of not having mesh. She recommended Dr Mark Lawrence at Bayside Women’s Health 622 Centre Rd Bentleigh.

My GP, who knows Dr Lawrence,  reassured me that he is an excellent gynecologist who for many years has been treating women’s problems and is constantly doing vaginal repairs. I immediately checked out the website and was suitably impressed, not only by the range of services offered but the obvious long term connection with well known hospitals. And he looked kind with just a hint of a quirky sense of humour.

Bayside Womens Health

The waiting room is full of women of all ages. Two young women are heavily pregnant and sit in comfy chairs. Hanging on the walls are cloth covered boards filled with pinned pictures of smiling parents and newborns. Many are cradled in Dr Lawrence’s arms. Thank you letters abound. ‘Thank you for our family bliss’ etc. Beside me sits and eighty-five year old woman . We flick through magazines, watch fish  lazily swim around their aquarium and wait our turn.

After checking me out, Dr Lawrence talks about a procedure that he has done successfully for many years. No mesh, no external cuts, push the bladder, and anything else, back into position, and use self dissolving stitches to strengthen and repair the vaginal wall. He is positive, friendly and willing to discuss everything on my now long list of questions. He made it sound run of the mill, simple, an in and out job. Two nights in Cabrini and then home to rest and recuperate. Would I need pain relief, like morphine? Unlikely. Would I be able to take my Memoir Writing Class, for two hours, only a week after leaving hospital? Definitely. He was confident that the problem would be fixed and I believed him. But could it be so easy? It sounded too good to be true.

However, I decided to book in that day with Dr Lawrence at Cabrini Malvern  for the tried and true method of repair.

No mesh for me.

I just wanted to get in, get done and get over it 


I’ve just received notice that if anyone is interested, there is an Amazon promotion of the book by Ian Richardson, God’s Triangle . For the next 24 hours. it is being offered for free. This is an amazing opportunity to get your hands on a great book covering the true and touching story of why the marriage of Australian Baptist missionaries, Frank E. Paice and Florence M. “Florrie” Cox, fell apart in mysterious circumstances in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) during the First World War. An investigation into why the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne considered the divorce so sensitive that the file was ordered to be “closed for all time”. It is well researched and a thought provoking story.


Happy reading.

Mairi Neil and Kingston Our City

It is Saturday afternoon in sunny Melbourne. The Allan McLean Hall is packed with people attending the launch of the ninth anthology by the Mordialloc Writers’ Group.  Kingston Our City is also the celebration of twenty years of fortnightly workshopping stories.

KingstonmycityFinalCover copy,



The founder and organiser of the group is Mairi Neil and with the help of her two girls, Anne and Mary Jane (who designed the cover art) she has compiled, edited, formatted and published not only past anthologies but especially this latest one.  This year Mordialloc Writers also dives into the digital age. Mairi has produced an ebook of Kingston Our City.

tamsin Mairi and Bill 2

Every writer knows how important it is to belong to a like minded community where they receive constructive comments about their work. Many become firm friends, not just writing colleagues. They laugh, swap pre-loved books, discuss the writing and publishing industry, politics, the human condition and are working on the meaning of life.


Our community writing group has been meeting at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House for twenty years and for our anniversary anthology we reflect on our relationship with the City of Kingston.    We have reminisced about wartime precautions on Parkdale beach and the transformation of suburban streets by developers. We have reflected on the City of Kingston’s creation by negotiation and amalgamation, Patterson Lakes created by feats of engineering.    There are snapshots of dances at Moorabbin Town Hall, surf lifesaving carnivals, Edithvale billycart shenanigans and cycling to school, the demise of horses and the rise of hoons, joyous beach weddings and sad farewells. Stories woven around everyday life and observations to trigger your own memories.   Perhaps you’ll remember when the pace of life seemed slower and be grateful for improved services. As you enjoy this collection I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion as the writers – Kingston in Victoria Australia is indeed a great place to live.

In recognition of Mairi’s inspirational contribution two orchids in a pale green ceramic pot were presented by Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers and ‘Ambassador’ for Australian Literature.

       5 mairi

We added two bunches of Singapore orchids to the two potted orchids, plus cellophane and purple ribbon. The result was a joy to behold.

Lisa Hill’s words below managed to convey what everyone in the hall wanted to say.

Lisa Hill: ANZlitlovers award winning blog

It’s lovely to be here today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Mordialloc Writers’ Group and the publication of the 2015 Anthology. As a passionate advocate for Australian books and writing, I am always excited to be in the presence of authors and as I look about me I know that whether published or not, the writers here today are using their gifts to bring the Australian experience to life using the magic of words, and I salute them all.
But all of us here today know that the real magic behind the words on the page is a great lady, our mentor and friend, Mairi Neil. It was Mairi who started this group 20 years ago, and who has nourished it with her wisdom and skill for what is, for some of our younger writers, a lifetime. It is Mairi who does all the behind-the-scenes organising, from the complexity of applications for council funding, to bringing the tea and biscuits. It is Mairi who listens most acutely as we workshop our pieces of work, praising and encouraging, gently suggesting improvements, using her professional writing and editing skills to nurture each piece to fruition. It is Mairi who has supported some of us to professional publication and paid opportunities. It is her unfailing presence each week which is the stimulus for us to write more instead of giving up. It is Mairi who manages the anthologies from selection of the theme to the finished product, spending long hours editing our work so that it emerges triumphantly as a polished piece of writing for others to read and enjoy.
All those of us who know Mairi well know that these decades of voluntary work have all been accomplished at the expense of her own writing career and despite personal tragedy and confronting health problems that would have overwhelmed an ordinary person. Mairi’s courage and indefatigable spirit is an inspiration to all of us, and for once, I have to admit, that words fail me when I try to thank her for all that she means to us as individuals and to the community that she has enriched with all these years of patient, unsung and heroic work on our behalf.
Congratulations, Mairi, and thank you.





 457 Main Mordialloc Victoria AustMordialloc Writers' group anthologies copy


FEBRUARY 2nd  16th

MARCH 1st, 15th and 29th

APRIL 12th &  29th

MAY 10th & 24th

JUNE 14th & 28th

JULY 12th & 26th

AUGUST 9th & 23rd

SEPTEMBER 6th & 20th

OCTOBER 4th & 18th

NOVEMBER 1st & 15th

DECEMBER 13th 2016–Break for summer holidays


Writing Friends

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

    3 friends

Despite a chill wind straight for Antarctica and a train strike I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with two special writing friends, Mairi Neil and Jillian Bailey. We listen to each other, share our hopes and dreams, keep each other’s secrets, workshop our stories and make time to catch up, drink wine, eat cheese and chocolate in ridiculous amounts. Most of all we laugh until our cheeks hurt and our sides are splitting.

1st selfie

This is my first ‘selfie’ picture. Not great, but with practice I will improve. A bit like writing a story. The first draft is always full of mistakes and can only improve with the input of others and a rewrite. To belong to a writing group means having writing friends willing to give you constructive comments about your work that can greatly improve the finished story.

We live our lives through texts. They may be read, or chanted, or experienced electronically, or come to us, like the murmurings of our mothers, telling us what conventions demand. Whatever their form or medium, these stories have formed us all; they are what we must use to make new fictions, new narratives. (Heilbrun, 1995)

Mairi Neil has her own amazing blog here at wordpress. She formed the Mordialloc Writers’ Group twenty years ago. Over those years she has edited and published eight professionally printed and bound anthologies showcasing the short stories and poems produced and work-shopped throughout the year. Every anthology has a theme such as Off the Rails about the Frankston train-line or Carnival Caper featuring the Mordialloc Carnival, once a regular feature near the mouth of the Mordialloc Creek.

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When asked to write a short story with a carnival theme the only thing that came to mind was my unexpected meeting with an elderly  woman in Queensland. You know how sometimes you are waiting for a bus and start chatting with the person next to you. Before long you are swapping life stories even though you know, and maybe because, you will never see each other again. Soon a bus arrives and you have to leave but her story stayed in my heart. I decided to weave it with fiction for this anthology.

Roses for Robbo

red roses

I can hear it, smell it, long before I see it. My skin prickles. Horses whinny. The bittersweet smell of nuzzled hay and sugar laden fairy floss saturates the early morning air. Years ago the Merry go round churned out an off key rendition of Roll out the Barrel and local boys were the clowns. Molting camels spat at unwary visitors, and…I quickly drag my mind back from the past and concentrate on the footpath, lengthen my stride, quicken my pace. I pump my arms to try to tighten years of flab, but it never goes away. Use it or lose it. Got to keep fit. Got to keep going. Concentrate on tomorrow.

Sleepy shops, blinds half raised, doors partially open and not quite ready to welcome visitors, line the shopping strip. My nostrils quiver at the smell of hot baked bread. A couple of whole grain bread rolls from Bakers Delight and a banana will see me through the day. The Shorehaven Motel is cheap and clean, but I don’t order breakfast. I can look after myself. After rearing five girls and a boy on my own I know how to manage. They’ve all gone their separate ways. I’ve got twelve grandchildren. Imagine that. Twelve, and soon I’ll have a baker’s dozen. But that’s not what I’m here for. This trip is about Rob. It’s always about Rob.

I moved to Queensland ten years ago after my operations. I nearly died five times. Intestinal infections and a stuffed up repair job meant I had to be near my kids. I’m closest to Jenny, my youngest. She built a granny flat on their property in Gympie and I help with the garden and take care of the boys.
‘Do you have to go again this year, Mum? You know how I worry about you,’ she says.
‘I must’
‘But you’re seventy-five now. Surely it’s time to give it away’
‘While there’s breath in my body, I’m going.’

Twenty-seven years ago Rob was nineteen, six foot five tall and bulletproof. For years, I’d rented a rundown house in Ozone Avenue and the kids grew up on the beach. Mark lived next door and often fled from raised voices and smashed crockery.
‘Would you like to stay for a sandwich, Mark?’
‘Sure would Mrs B’
‘You can stay the night if you like’
‘Thanks Mrs B.’ That night became every night. He shared Rob’s bedroom in a covered in section of the bull nose veranda. Mark relished sleeping on a blow up camp bed on the floor next to Rob’s bed. They talked and laughed long after they should have been asleep. I didn’t have the heart to chastise them. Every day, Mark and Rob helped me suck sand out of the roof between the rafters with a vacuum cleaner so the ceiling wouldn’t cave in. Sand seeped into everything. We became used to the grit of it in our teeth and missed it when we moved. Food just doesn’t taste the same without a bit of sand. On stormy days, I’d look at two eager faces. ‘Get going then,’ I’d sigh.
‘Surf’s up,’ they’d shout, grabbing their boards and racing out the door.

‘Morning, Mark’ I call. He is arranging several boogie boards beside the entrance of his surf shop.
‘Back again Mrs B,’ he says wrapping his arms around me. ‘Give me a kiss you sexy beast.’ I punch his paunchy belly
‘You’ve put on weight, you big log. Time you joined Jenny Craig.’ He kisses my cheek.
‘Thought you’d be by sometime today.’ He points inside. ‘Let’s have a cup of tea.’ The walls of the tiny lunchroom at the back of the shop are covered with pictures of Mark, his wife and their three girls.
‘No boys yet?’
‘We’re working on it,’ he says with a smile. Childish kindergarten scrawlings of bright yellow suns, and lopsided houses cover the refrigerator.
‘Strong tea, milk and one sugar,’ he pours boiling water into mugs. I stare at my mug. ‘To the best dad in the world,’ I read.

Mark leans forward and holds my hand. ‘He would have made the best dad,’ He lowers his head. ‘Rob a dad?’ I notice a few grey strands among Mark’s brown curls. ‘Weren’t you both going to remain single and surf forever?’ It’s good to see Mark smile.
‘Like some toast and vegemite for old time’s sake?’ he says. I shake my head.
The shop door clangs open.
‘Sorry, Mrs B. Got to go. Must keep a roof over our heads.’ He hurries to greet his first customer for the day. I follow him. ‘See you tomorrow?’
‘Same time, same place.’

Lisa’s bridal shop window displays a gown of frothy tulle and seed pearls on the forever-smiling virginal model. I push open the heavy door. Gwen takes pins out of her mouth and sticks them into a pad strapped to her wrist.
‘Good to see you again, Marg,’ she says, giving me a bear hug. ‘Seen Mark yet?’
‘Just a couple of minutes ago.’ She looks deep into my eyes. ‘How have you been?’
‘I’ve been better.’
‘Take care of yourself.’ She reaches under the counter. Gwen hands me a familiar square packet. I fumble in my purse.
‘They’re free this year,’ she says with a smile. I tuck the packet of dried petals into my bag.

Twenty-seven years ago the circus was just a well worn tent surrounded by a few mangy camels and two Shetland ponies munching on hay. Rob would live, eat and breathe the circus. He would do anything over the summer, muck out the horses boxes, groom the camels, cart water and help with the rigging. He painted his face in a big clown grin and he seemed to grow even taller when the children shrieked with delight. He was so proud of the pennies he earned and the eight of us could go to the circus as many times as we liked. We ate chips, donuts oozing raspberry jam, hamburgers, sausages, dripping fat and smothered in onions on a slice of squishy white bread. Silly when I think about it.

I walk back to the motel to rest, but my memories won’t leave me alone. Was it really twenty-seven years ago that Rob put on his red clown nose, long shoes and baggy pants and ran out into the ring with the other clowns? He and Marko honked the horn of the comedy car, pulled floppy ears and the more the kids laughed the sillier Robbo got. He did somersaults; back flips, and pretended to throw a bucket of water over the kids ducking in the front row. The bucket was filled with red rose petals. He hid behind Marko, moved when Marko moved and then curled up on the sawdust and rested his head on prayer like hands. I heard his pretended loud snores. The girls and I waited for him to jump up, to laugh and clap his hands. It was such a good trick. But he didn’t move. He lay there like a baby taking a nap. Other clowns ran over. They poked and prodded and laughed and honked horns right by his ear, but he didn’t move. I clutched my cardigan across my chest, not daring to breathe. When Marko gathered Robbo’s limp body up in his arms, I jumped the barrier…

The light of a dying moon relieves the pre-dawn darkness. Mark and I walk in silence down the bush-lined track until we reach the wide expanse of white sand. Tiny wrens sleepily call to each other, sand scrunches between our toes. We finally come to the place where day after day I would sit and watch Rob and Mark paddle out to sea. Rob was so happy then. So big and strong. Brimming over with life.
‘Scatter my ashes here when I die,’ he said jokingly one day as seagulls wheeled and cried overhead.
‘Sure, mate,’ Mark replied and splashed him as they raced each other into the sea. Did Rob have a premonition? Did his enlarged heart; so big it could encompass the world, warn him that time was short? For the twenty-seventh year, Mark places a half circle of candles in the sand. Their flames flutter in the early morning breeze. We sit together cross-legged at the edge of the water.

I look through a rainbow of tears at Mark’s manly features and the red clown nose. Marko and me. Fifteen minutes is all we need. Fifteen minutes once a year. The first tentative fingers of sun turn the clouds rose pink and I quietly talk to Rob, tell my son what has happened during the past year. Births, deaths, joys and sorrows. As the sun rises, I stand and throw my arms wide to embrace all that he was, all that he is. Mark wraps a comforting arm around my shoulders. Rose petals float out on the waves as I say goodbye to my boy for another year.


I used to worry about taking small incidents in my life and writing about them until I discovered this quote by Helen Garner

What I know about is domesticity; about marriage and families and children, so that’s what I write about and therefore a lot of my events take place in people’s houses. Anyway, I was feeling particularly bad about this one day I was walking along the street thinking, “My God, my scope is so small, it’s so small.’ And I looked in the window of a print shop and they had that Van Gogh picture of the inside of his bedroom. I stood there and looked at it and I thought, ‘that’s a wonderful painting and everyone knows it’s a wonderful painting and what is it? It’s only a chair and a bed. It’s a painting of someone’s bedroom, their own bedroom.” I found that very encouraging. There’s no way you can know if your own work’s important, you do it because you like it and it’s the only thing that makes you happy.

These days I happily write anything and everything and don’t care a toss about whether it is literary or not. There is incredible freedom in writing what comes from the heart

Writing a Memoir?

How to make your story come alive

Writing a memoir might seem easy because you already know the story-after all, its your own. But to write a fascinating account of your life, you not only have to tell your tale compellingly, you also have to master plot, character dialogue, theme, and the other essential elements of great writing.          (Victoria Costello)

I’ve always found that belonging to a writer’s group or attending and even running a class where you workshop your story helps me as a writer. It inspires me to keep on writing. The prompts, exercises and inspirational examples help get the story out of  my head and onto the page.

You may simply want to record your story for your family, or may want to write it for a larger audience. But whatever your aim, it helps to know how to craft your story into a gripping yarn.

Don’t hesitate to stand on the shoulders of others. Learn from those who have gone before you. I read everything I can lay my hands on relating to the story I’m writing. Dishes are left in the sink, beds remain unmade but reading helps me to understand how other writers have overcome some of the problems I may be facing.

Here is a list of some of the books and authors who have helped me on my writing journey.

The Artist’s Way: A spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

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Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

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On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

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Naked, Drunk and Writing, Shed your Inhibitions and Write a Compelling Personal Essay or Memoir by Adair Lara.

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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

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Experience has taught me that if I’m going to write anything beyond the mundane I must accept the need for crappy first drafts. Anne Dillard, in The Writing Life says,

‘When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. soon you will find yourself deep in a new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year’

Friends often ask when the book will be finished. My reply is ‘How long is a piece of string.’ Some people can write a complete memoir in half the time it takes me. Everyone is different. A book may take from one to ten years to complete, but who cares as long as it is a labour of love? The passion carries you through until you complete the journey. When writing the story based on my father’s life I pinned a quote from Bryce Courtney onto my wall.

‘There is no greater tribute than to lovingly record a life’.

Maya Angelou, author of the acclaimed memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings says,

‘What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’ you know. And it might be the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced I’m serious and says, Okay, okay, I’ll come.’

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Fellow blogger and close friend, Mari Neil has a blog titled Up The Creek with a Pen. In her blog  A little moderation Goes a Long Way she believes writing classes are here to stay. I certainly hope so.


May the words flow freely. Happy writing everyone