By the Wind Grieved

By the Wind Grieved
“O lost, And by the wind grieved, Ghost, Come back again.” Thomas Wolfe

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Memoir and the Open Heart

In a post from May of 2013, just a few months after beginning to chronicle my experience as a memoir writer for hire, I likened my role to that of therapist. Both endeavors involve asking questions to guide the subject to deeper recollection, which will then enable him to assign meaning to memories.

I was reminded of this analogy when reading a profile a couple of months ago in The New York Times on David Ritz, credited memoir ghostwriter to such musical stars as Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Etta James, among others. (Author of the article, Nate Chinen, dubs Ritz "confessional bard of rhythm and blues.") Reading how Ritz found his calling is fascinating in itself, as are his colorful tales of working with such luminaries and his reflections on an amazingly prolific career. (This year alone he has five new books.)  But what really hit home for me were his comments on a critical (THE critical) aspect of memoir writing: the willingness of the subjects to open their hearts.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Switchbacks (and New Horizons) on the Publication Trail

Photo by

If not the cruelest month, December was a real doozy on the personal and professional fronts. The result is that I am again about to be reported for neglect to the Blog Oversight Agency. But not to despair. Though I managed not one word in this space, my writing goals creep apace with the new year. A quick recap:

In early December the plans for publication of my client's book came to a screeching halt. While he and I were both grateful to Martin Sisters Publishing for the chance to publish there, at the very last moment my client decided to heed the advice from his new publicist and turn the book over to a professional editor/agent. The good news for me is that I will have the opportunity to get my writing before yet another seasoned professional, and to learn from her the process by which a personal story becomes a more commercial product. Once her edits come back to me, I will share the insights I glean from her expertise.

At the same time, I delved into preparation to upgrade my blogging. I had already been exploring WordPress, the favored platform of many writers I follow. Then, in November a blog post about free WordPress templates by publishing guru Jane Friedman caught my eye. I went on to take her webinar on the topic, offered through Writer's Digest (well worth the $89.00!). I look forward to unveiling the new site in the spring.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Expansion of the Memoir Universe

Where else could you find Audre Lorde rubbing elbows with John McCain?

Everywhere I turn memoirs are falling out of the sky. Not that this is exactly a new phenomenon. In 1998, in his book Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir, William Zinsser observed that the last decade of the twentieth century--a decade graced by the publication of Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes, Pete Hamill's A Drinking Life, Mary Kerr's The Liar's Club and Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life--was "the age of the memoir."

If Zinsser could claim then that "Never have personal narratives gushed so profusely from American soil as in the closing decade of the twentieth century," how much greater is that geyser of narrative now, facilitated as it is by the word processor, desktop publishing, CreateSpace, etc., etc., etc.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Publication or Bust: On Contracts, Publicists, and Other Loose Ends

Setting out on the last stretch toward the land of milk and honey (i.e., the book in hand!)

What happened to October? They must have skipped it this year. At any rate, despite my galloping rate of jotting here once a moon, I got in nary a post the whole month.

So, what's the jig scribbler?

Naturally I assign blame to the nearest culprit, the BOOK. Though I shouldn't malign it so; it has been the source of my continuing enlightenment in the field of publishing.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Flash Memoir: Ties

With the creative work on my client's project all wrapped up, I am moving towards using this blog in a new way. I must admit that my own longer memoir projects (The Bitter Carmelita; Outskirts of Love; The Good Twin) have taken a back seat lately; just can't get excited about stirring those pots that have simmered so long on the back burner.

Still, while rolling around an idea for something completely different, I revisited two of my favorite bloggers: Lisa Reiter at Sharing the Story and Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch. Both of them have some great flash fiction challenges this week, so to get my engines rolling, I am taking them on. I invite you to try your hand at one or both of them as well, and to join me as I delve more deeply into the genre I call "flash memoir."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Memoir Writer as a Boring Drunk

I started this post sometime back and kept it as a draft, but even though the book I set out to write for my client is about to be submitted to a publisher, (more on this in my next post where I reveal his identity!) I love the point, so here it comes, late to the party.

A quote I came across by Annie Dillard has sat on my shoulder these last months, whispering admonitions into my ear as I veered from the comforting path of "editing" onto the fearsome trail of the re-write. It was a journey I had balked at undertaking.

Ms. Dillard says this about the memoir: "You have to take pains in a memoir not to hang on the reader's arm, like a drunk, and say 'and then I did this and it was so interesting.'"

Now, even though it was not my story I have told this time around, I took her advice to heart. I asked myself, in trying to glean from my client his entire story, was I including passages of no real import? Was I boring the reader?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Writing a Novel Line by Line or Scene by Scene

A year and a half ago, I primed myself for my memoir project by reading a number of books on writing. Now, with the way opening up for my own writing project, I find myself reflecting on the process.

While having gained some useful insights from those books, in hindsight, I think I still approached the writing of my client's story the way I had approached other kinds of writing, such as the thesis for my Masters degree or the annual reports required in my position as a academic program director. I did my research, took copious notes, and then outlined the whole shebang, adding to it as I gathered more details and color-coding sections to align with characters or places or time periods.