Monday, December 12, 2011


Having completed the last of the planned classes across two years, I have looked back at my sources for progress. I began with a very long series of essay classes across that whole time without a break and continuing as I took other classes. I used essay form to frame my memoir as a method to marshal the material of excerpts from my memoir. I did that for several reasons. It gave me access to a reading audience providing response to the writing, a very helpful tool showing me my own voice, how to maintain it and how to deliver the story. Was it interesting, did it hold attention, pull the reader in, tell the story real, keep them wanting more? Every month my classmates changed as people did or didn't re-up. Class participation was such a bonus. My mentor, editor and class director was Sheila Bender at Writing it Real, a thoughtful, helpful writer whose insight and skillsets led me through the maize as I developed the memoir as a tool for understanding my own purpose for writing it and then writing it well.adding feedback from dozens of other writers as we read each other's work and then finishing with Sheila's response was affirming guidance asi developed what I needed:a sense of the thing and how to tell it.

For some of that time I attended class at Writers Digest, taking two of their doused, both with Rita Robinson as my instructor. By the second class she told me there was not much more to teach me in this effort. She gave me a gift, saint I need to stop thinking of myself as a student and start thinking of myself as a writer. She further said to write a synopsis,attach a couple of chapters and send it out there to see if there was any interest. I was not prepared for that and while lovely to hear, I was so far from that kind of confidence that while it intrigued me, I still doubted my own ability but not my story. So I anted up ever more money and took a six week course with BArncat Publishing taught by Jami Shapiro.

I learned all about things like story arc, using the film Wizard of Oz as the tool for learning how to identify and present the protagonist, how to line up the story and let the characters tell it. This time it was a webinar which included four to five other students in various stages of progression in their writing, all of us with a book in progress. Classes lasted an hour and a half, pretty crowded time for five. While I learned general and specific ways to build my story, personal time in that course was necessarily short. Nevertheless,I then elected her advanced course with the same format but with the subject of structure, learning the fine details of flow, arrangement of chapters, and the building blocks to get the book out the door and off to a publisher. In the last class of this course, on the list of goals for the hour and a half was the subject of agents and how to acquire one. We learned from the instructor that we didn't have time for that. Too bad. Getting to a publisher and an agent were listed goals to be accomplished in this course.

There is a conclusion worth placing here. There is lots of outstanding help to be found online, including a number of fabulous blogs by folks in the business who give their knowledge and guidance away for free. With simple dumb luck I stumbled across the courses I took and every one of them elevated my understanding where before I had only my story, not much about how best to tell it. I am much better equipped now.

I understand fully that all three of these people offer their skills for profit. I learned something different from each of them. So I didn't pay for duplication. In the end, I intend to stay with the most encouraging person who thinks I can get there, will show me the way and help me to get there. Each of these contributed heavily to my understanding. Each has a different personality. What is really important is the fit. I have been really fortunate to have fallen into the arms of really gifted teachers who taught me so much. What is left is to choose the person whose methodology embraces the subject, fosters the best of my skills and who shines a bright light on what works and what needs work. While sugarcoating is not needed or wanted, neither is resistance without reinforcement. So here i'm talking only about personal style.

Would I recommend online study? You bet. It can't all be about dumb luck, or some mystery of discernment. I think it indicates there is so much help available that luck is the least of it. Adding up the dollars spent in this pursuit makes an ugly number, but in the end I didn't regret a dime because I learned so much from generous people with lots to teach me.

After the first write of my memoir, all over the place, wildly overwritten, poorly focused, Sheila Bender applied her skills as a developmental editor, showing me what works, what is in the way, how to self edit and how to focus and tighten the story for readability. She pointed out my strengths and how to make them shine, showed me I had a voice and how to use it, and set nome free to exercise the innate skills and to apply the lessons of use.

What is prime is to believe in the story, to believe in my own ability, and to believe one person to follow to the finish line building on the positives, minimizing and then eliminating the negatives. I think I have made my choice.

There is flexibility in the rules of memoir writing. Creativity in the telling of a major subject is permissible. What matters beyond the telling is the mind and heart of the reader. Abuse and abandonment has many facets. Comes in many forms. The psychological erasing of a disliked child affects a whole life. Overcoming parental behavior is a tall order for a child, but is achievable. The story is an encouraging one about triumph in spite of attempts to defeat her. In a chaotic time in history, when virtually every household is challenged by war and it's wounding, wounds which by themselves inflict more wounds, broken people stitch up their lives and by hook or crook run or stumble or fall across the finish line of their lives, leaving a blood trail of emotion in their wake.

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