Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The memoir lives and breathes and keeps me up nights

One month gone already, of 2012. Are we closer to the end of the world? If so, why am I writing? Maybe I should write an excerpt here, ya think? Still working well in Sheila Bender's essay class and submitted Buckaroo, a less than 1000 words about the cowboy playtime of my brother and I. Two kids out from under the regimented management of play in an orphanage suddenly had the run if the whole town, and somehow cowboys and Indians must be in our DNA universally.

I'm at the Place where all writers know, finally, that they are nearly finished, and now polish, slash and burn, cutting, cutting, cutting, tightening, chopping, throwing away perfectly good words for the sake of the piece, hoping not to toss the good parts instead of the bad parts and by this point, how do we know?

Writing mother without making it her memoir but knowing she is the true maker of all my foibles....oh yeah, always blame the mommy...NOT....but we can't pretend otherwise about her, and so she is a giant in my book. And not in a good way. I spend much time on my iPad pages dropping my thoughts about her there, so as not to Lose them. She was, baldly, a piece of work.but I'm on vacay from her. I'm strongly into story arc, framing, ordering chapters and on my way to piecing together the pieces parts for flow. For readability, for pace.

I must say here that while I know I have one helluva story, I was not prepared for the quality I have to tell it. It still surprises me that from somewhere deep inside me, some part of me is telling this story. it's not even asking permission.

Actually that part of me is telling me my own story, a fascinating and stirring mechanism I find surprising and rather engaging. While it is very hard to describe negation, but not my feelings about it, getting the reality
on the page would not happen if the thing were not writing itself.The erasure of a child's presence is a subtle thing, a cumulative message, beginning as a suspicion, something a suspecting child has difficulty defining. She knows it is happening but isn't sure how,has trouble naming it and can hardly admit to herself her mother hates the very sight of her just because she exists.

Looking inward is currently a full time job, but temporary, and not permanent. Thank goodness. I hear that even when finished, a book takes two years to get into print. Unbelievable. Truly.just getting a response to a short submission can take a half year, though not always. What else moves this slowly?

The salvation of this potentially depressing story are the many chapters of pure entertainment about living daily life with my little brother, with whom I was joined at the hip. Mother's delight whose perpetual safety was my permanent assignment. We were a pair in our love for this funny, creative little boy. Yes, I had/have other siblings, but my dailyness was lived with just this one, through thick and thin, after orphanage time.

Jerry, older brother, spent ten years in institutions. I spent nearly five. My little brother did a year and a half away from mother. So our stories are necessarily dissimilar. Told together, the emerging picture of a mother who put her kids away is a challenge. The difficulties and disillusions of this woman combined to bring a world of negation on our heads.

Given freedom at last, two kids made a life outside our home, away from the toxins of highly dysfunctional and unhappy parents cheated by the world War and their losses because of it.

Mama was a boom boom, not about the boom boom room, a cheap and tawdry description of call girls and, what, the halls of Congress, did I hear? No. Mama made explosive munitions for the Navy in time of war. Boom-boom. The plants blew up several times. She nearly died more than once. The whole war story about the neglect of women and their role in the war effort has been sadly ignored, but not in my memoir. Staying with her in the barracks at Triumph explosives allows me to describe this part of her life. And to tell the story of this nation at war and after, from her point of view.


  1. Barbarann, this is really powerful. I'm in awe of you, being able to write all this. I've been "writing" my memoir for way too many years....mostly in my head. It's hard work, isn't it? Even when writing about happy times...getting the memories from our minds down onto paper, or laptop, etc. Congrats to you! BTW....both of your comments did show up on my blog. Thank you so much for stopping and taking the time, especially when you thought the first comment didn't "take!" I'm so happy to know my blog makes you happy! If you'd like, we could correspond by e-mail, too. Mine is listed under my complete profile.

  2. Barbarann,
    Hi! It's wonderful to read your blog and to see how close you are to getting your book out there--yes, I have faith it'll happen before long! I enjoyed being in the Personal Essay writing class with you at WDU a while ago. I was a total beginner and your critiques helped me so much. I'm presently in another with Sheila at WIT. She's fantastic. Her method of the 3-step response is moving me forward dramatically in my memoir writing. I live within driving distance, so am fortunate to be able to attend her writing workshop this summer--can't wait!
    Your blog is so enjoyable. I know the social networking is critical for authors today--I dread "going there" myself but will have to buck up, as they say!
    Mandy Smith

  3. Nice work, Barbarann. Home sick today--but still reading your blog!

  4. Ohhhh darn, Mandy! I'm in Tucson with Sheila end of the month! Wish you were going to be there! I LOVED writing with you! Sheila is such a treasure. Thank you for your response here and I hope you will continue to visit. I'm in a class with Rita Robinson re marketing submissions to magazines, and it, too, brings clarity to how to find the right ones to target. And of course I am writing the current essay class with Sheila. I am hopelessly addicted, it's such a great way to Hone my memoir. Better, Mom is ever more revealed to me, and this weekend I cracked the mystery.